This last Sunday our family went up to my home church to say good-bye to our pastor. The year I graduated high school, Pastor Mark came to serve our church. He was the first pastor I had that really equipped me to follow a call into ministry that I had been trying to be faithful to since junior high. I remember when he showed up to the 4-h fair, and I asked him what he was doing there. He said he was there to see us. I remember how much that meant. No one had ever come out of the church to see me before. Now that is a practice I try to keep every place I serve.
When I approached him in college about starting a small group for single 20-somethings, he didn’t just listen to my crazy idea. He opened his home to our group, and built relationships with us even though we represented many different church affiliations and congregations. Through his support, I began to understand what it meant practically to be “kingdom” people, more concerned with God’s whole world rather than just our little corner in the world.
He and his wife would sit through interviews as I learned in college what ministry would be all about. His wife would give me the advice, “Only go into ministry if you can’t do anything else.” It was one of the most powerful statements and has driven me forward through hard times. And it was something that I saw this couple live out. Mark had left a career in chemistry to serve. That was a much bigger sacrifice than any back-up I could imagine for myself.
Later, Mark would provide marriage counseling for my husband and I. He would perform our marriage ceremony, and in all the nervous weight of those vows, he would say, “I think you two will be all right.” When we moved back from what felt like a failed attempt of ministry in Mississippi, he was there. He came to our home to welcome our first born into the world and helped us to introduce her to the church. I saw him welcome MOPS moms who would never attend his church into his office for pastoral care. Again, a kingdom-person. Under his leadership, I would see my parents become more active in using their gifts. I would hear about them teaching teenagers, picking up elementary boys for worship, being greeters, teaching the children’s message, and becoming a trustee. I am confident that much of their growth was because of Pastor Mark’s influence, especially when he nor they knew it was happening.
I don’t know what is next for Pastor Mark and his wife, but I believe that whatever God calls them to, they will be faithful. God’s timing is often not our own, and I wish He would hurry up and let them know. But in the meantime, I am praying for them, and thanking God that they were a part of my life at such a critical time. I pray that I can be as faithful to my calling as Mark has been to his. It has not always been easy for him, and sometimes it is easy to get lost in the negative voices. So I hope this will be a voice to counter those voices. Well done, Mark. And most of all, thank you.