Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
By Luke C. Nelson
I have been living here for a year and I wanted to share some reflections.
A little over a year ago I really thought a lot of myself. I had earned a master's degree, worked as an assistant minister in a historically black church in Los Angeles County for a couple of years and lost fifty pounds. At the ripe age of 25, I would begin serving as the pastor of the United Methodist Churches in Kimball and South Haven.
I was raised in small town Minnesota. When I moved here last summer, memories of what life was like came rushing back like a flood. Hot dish can cure what ails you. Hard work is a sacrament. The community centers are the school, churches and bars. Frequent attendance at one of the three is widely expected. Everyone talks rather than complains about snow because it's never as bad as the big one from years back. Families can trace generations that have tilled the soil, worked the stores and tended to the municipal needs.
My head was filled with romantic ideas for ministry. Not too much time elapsed and I was issued a reality check. Funerals more than double our baptisms. Money is tight and the jobs needed to loosen it up are not available. Television would have me believe that compassion, compromise and forgiveness seem antiquated and childish. Physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual pain is medicated rather than healed. What is a young pastor to do when these statements prevail in our churches, our town and our culture?
I'm reminded of a story. After a long talk from Jesus, the thousands who had come to listen to him were hungry. The disciples looked at their empty pockets and counseled Jesus to send them away. Just then a young boy brought his lunch to Jesus and thought it would help. Jesus was moved by the boy's generosity and began to hand it out. The miracle was that no one walked away hungry, in fact there was more than enough.
I have seen this story repeated time and again this year. Be it the waitress who, seeing the tired first-time Mom walk into the restaurant, immediately offers to hold the infant; giving the Mom a quiet, peaceful and warm dinner. I have seen volunteers give up their Saturday mornings and several hours during the week to coach and mentor children in extracurricular activities. The consistent lines of residents who fill our churches, halls and parks to purchase meals that benefit ailing neighbors or support a local cause. These small gifts are blessed with divine grace.
Preachers proclaim from the pulpit the Good News on Sunday mornings, but the communities I serve do the job of revealing it all week long. This year has testified to me that, in an age of skepticism, lack and doubt; hope, abundance and faith yet remain. We are not alone in humbly offering our portion. Asking the Lord's blessing, may we be faithful in our giving, joyous in our receiving and growing in number. I look forward to another year full of miracles.