Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Life by Ministry

I titled the last post, "Death by Ministry." I knew that may come across as harsh, cold and arrogant. So, I wanted to assure you that, although much pain and heartache is associated with "career" ministry, there is much life as well. This life cannot be experienced any other way than by serving people.

And that is what engergizes, motivates and encourages the pastoral heart.

When you are in ministry you see and experience things that no one else does. You sit bedside with the dying and the next moment craddle a newborn baby. You give pre-marital counseling and accept the divorced. You support weddings, attend countless graduations and do funerals. You comfort the grieving, rejoice with the celebrating, cry with the discouraged, smile with the newly engaged, facilitate programs, host parties, attend parties, go to countless conferences, retreats and concerts, travel the world and meet a ton of people!

Growing up in the home of a minister was normal for me and ministering to people was life. As a family we absolutely love serving people. I remember many times when we would get phone calls in the middle of the night with prayer requests, hospital runs and "It's a boy!" news. The week of "Vaction Bible School" was a nightmare for all church staff, though, for a staff member and their family might as well move into the church that week! Hahaha... good times. :-)

Now that my dad is not an official "pastor," it feels a tad strange. Yet, the more we are outside of the "job" of pastor, we see how much more freedom there is to do ministry! I can tell you, when your paycheck is attached to ministry, everyone feels the freedom to boss you around. Since my dad has been a property manager, he is free to serve without political church restraints. And serve he has been able to do! After two months at the new job he has had numberous employee hospital visits, financial counseling and went to a funeral.

A pastor like my dad and D. can choose to turn their back on ministry or they can realize that ministry is life- whether you are "employed" by the "local" church or not. When you have been called by God to minister to people the calling does not vanish when the church asks you to leave. No matter what humans, who are imperfect, say about a person's calling, God has a plan that cannot be avoided so easily.

The situation in the "local" church can be discouraging if you look at the politics. God has been gracious to me by allowing me to step outside the church for a while to watch THE Church. Now that I work at a para-church mission organization I am able to watch first hand how God is moving among the people's of the world and His global Church.

And She (the Bride of Christ) is beautiful. She is generous, loving, compassionate and kind. She cares for the poor, feeds the hungry, attends the sick, comforts the orphan and weeps with the widow. She is putting her life on the line to take the gospel where it is not allowed to go. She is translating the Bible into hundreds of new tongues. Many times she is unknown for her acts of bravery and kindness.

There is a silence betwen Hebrews 11 and 12 where the writer skips from his, as many call it, "Hall of Faith" to a general "cloud of witnesses." You and I are in that break until our death when we join the "cloud." The gap includes amazing people like Count Zinzendorf of the Moravians (if you don't know who that is, do some research), William Tyndale, Martin Luther, Amy Carmichael, Hudson Taylor, Jim Elliot and many more.

Several weeks ago I learned of a woman who died last March. My job for OMF International is to process the specialty donations we receive like estates, trusts and stocks. A week before Christmas I pulled a normal looking letter out of an estate envelope. The letter read as usual until I saw, "the percentage of this estate desiganted to you is: 100%." That was odd, since usually we are only allocated as 1% or 10%.

I read on and suddenly stopped, gawking. Did that really just say what I think it said? It detailed, "The balance of this account, as of (the date) is...$xxx,xxx.xx" Were there really that MANY numbers? I read and reread the letter to make sure I had correct reading comprehension skills. I began showing it to others in the financial department. We excitedly agreed- 100% MUST be 100% of THAT number!!!

The director of personel came up to ask a question and I showed him the letter. He about jumped out of his skin with excitement and laughed, "Let's go tell the leadership team right now, they are having a meeting!!!" He about drug me down tot he meeting, threw open the doors and bounced in declaring, "Jaclyn has something to share with you all!"

There I stood, letter in hand, gazing at the top leaders (about 15) of Overseas Missionary Fellowship. They stared at me curiously so, shaking with excitement, I began to recite the news. Right before I read the line with the amount I began to get teary. Great, I thought, here I am infront of all of these men crying! I looked up and I could see that they understood the seriousness of what I was reading. I smiled and continued.

When I read the amount a vast display of emotions erupted- some clapped, others shouted "Praise God" and the rest sat shocked with awe. For dramatic emphasis I read the last line again. The president motioned me to his side and I showed him the letter. I cannot even begin to describe the look on his face. I will never forget it as long as I live.

The question we all asked, "Who was Grace Chiu and why did she leave OMF her estate?" We began the detective work and discovered very little. All we knew at that time is that she called us three years ago to put us in her will. We finally found more information:

"Aside from what we already know: Grace and her family were originally from Hong Kong. Grace became a believer in high school in HK, coming to the US by herself to pursue undergraduate studies. After receiving her doctorate in chemistry a few years later she remained in the US in Pensacola, FL except for a brief time back in HK to teach. Lena and Grace's brother came to Canada at around the same time as Grace's coming to the US. Their parents followed and lived with Lena and her husband in Canada until their deaths. Grace visited them in Canada often over the years. Grace never married and had no children. She died of lung cancer after a 3 year illness. Upon learning of her illness, she retired and move to Toronto to be closer to her family. The vast bulk of her estate is represented by the OMF gift. OMF is well known to the family and it did not surprise Lena that we were named a beneficiary. The only surprise was that Grace did not also name the University of West FL or others. The endowment in Grace's name at the university was established by Lena and her husband."

Please visit this memorial website and rejoice with all of us at OMF:
Death by ministry. Life by ministry. Then there is the third combonation: Life and death by ministry, but I will save that for another post...


ann marie said...

I still want to explode with joy at the thought of the events of that day and your call to share the news!! And now I'm even more thrilled to hear the subsequent chapter of the story...
God is amazing. Life in His that's the high life :)

Galant said...

Hi Jaclyn. That's astounding news. It's funny, it seems over the last few years I've developed some kind of unknown trigger which has lead to some strange situations. I've found that acts of great kindness or selflessness even if it's just in a movie, or even once a commercial, lead me to want to shed tears!

Being a guy I've held back on it most times. Had I been in your position I'm certain I would have had the urge to cry at my desk if not later when conveying it.

It's amazing when the Lord shares His compassion.

Be blessed, I'll be praying for OMF.


PS - We here in Tucson saw some snow two days ago.

ann marie said...

Hey J :)
I'm so excited to pray with you in the adventure of where God continues to direct your life in ministry :)


Spanish Morning said...

Woah, woah, woah. Apparently I only read the first half of this post after you put it up. So I just read the second half. WOW! I got all choked up too! I can't imagine what it must have been like for you to be little young Jaclyn bursting through the doors of the top notches. Sounds straight from a movie! :-) The looks on their faces is a good reminder that we are all humans whose role is to bring glory to God -- from secretary to CEO!