Posted tagged ‘Kansas’

Chaplain Rich Blanchette, First Lieutenant- United States Air Force

July 3, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                              July 2, 2017

           

I remember when they appeared at my church. Actually, it was the second time they were there. I had been on vacation the first Sunday they showed up, but heard about the young family with two kids who had visited. (It always seemed to happen that way! When I went on vacation visitors would show up. It made my congregation want me to take more vacations, or at least stay away!)

Rich and Casey Blanchette had moved to Colorado Springs from Highland, Illinois. He was beginning a new assignment at the Air Force Academy. Their two munchkins, Hailey and Richie, were about 7 and 2 years old.

Rich and I connected! He understood my humor. We laughed together a lot. They got involved in various ways at church. Casey was enthusiastic and full of energy, like a balloon you let go of and the air releases from as the balloon flies all over the place. Rich was a part of a small group I began of young guys.

And then Rich felt called to the ministry! He had to make a decision. Re-enlist for another four years, or exit the Air Force after 13 years and head to the uncertainty of seminary. He followed the calling. Although his G.I. Bill paid for tuition, the family endured tight financial times as they absorbed educational costs like books and travel expense from Colorado Springs to Denver three to four times a week, plus the loss of income. Entering a three-year seminary program as a 32 year old married father of two is a serious life re-routing, but he did it.

During seminary our church helped him cover educational costs, brought him on staff with the title “Seminary Student Pastor”, and paid him a small stipend. However, the big plus was that it allowed me to mentor him, come alongside him, and get to know his heart for people. Seminary was hard for Rich, more because the demands of study limited his family time. There was always a bit of guilt about writing a paper for a class instead of hanging out with his kids. He struggled to find that balance. I remember both he and his wife sharing their frustrations as they tried to figure out a family rhythm. In the Air Force he had been deployed for six months to Afghanistan and knew the heartache of being away form his family. During his seminary days he would be in the basement of the house studying, just one level below his wife and kids, and still feel that heartache.

But he made it! After our church ordained him, he worked at the Springs Rescue Mission while he looked for pastoral placement. And then First Baptist Church of Goodland, Kansas called him. He interviewed with their search committee, and sent them a couple of sermon tapes. Pretty soon he was being presented as the candidate to be their next pastor…and they loved him, and Casey, and the kids.

Our church said goodbye to him, and they moved three hours away to their new church. I remember in those first few months of ministry he would call me from time to time to ask me questions. “Pastor Bill, what would you do…” “Pastor Bill, how did you go about…”

“Pastor Bill” was, and still is, my name to him even though we are both ordained clergy. In Rich’s mind it has always been a indication of his respect for me, but it also says something to the value that he places on people.

Almost three and a half years later his ministry, a ministry of depth and growth, at Goodland came to an end. Since the last Sunday in June was his final Sunday, the church is just in the beginning stages of grieving the loss of their beloved pastor, but most of them hold Pastor Rich in high regard and will love him always.

Why? Because he felt God tugging on his life’s guide ropes, leading him into a different direction that the Almighty had used the previous twenty years to prepare him for. He is now Chaplain Rich Blanchette, First Lieutenant, United States Air Force, on his way to his first assignment at Los Angeles Air Force Base.

I get somewhat emotional thinking about him. I remember the first sermon he delivered at our church and he took his shoes off before he spoke because he said this was holy ground he was speaking on. I remember taking notes on his messages and doing post-sermon critiquing with him the next week. “Rich, you had great content, but don’t try to feed them the whole haystack all at once!” “Rich, if you can’t illustrate a point with a real-life situation don’t use it!” “Rich, that was your best message yet, and your delivery has improved so much.” I remember traveling over to Goodland one Sunday with Carol and our friends, Ed and Diana Stucky. What an awesome time we had worshiping with the congregation and listening to their pastor preach. As he spoke my eyes got moist because of the symphony that God has orchestrated from his life.

The Blanchette’s stayed with us this past weekend as they began their journey to California. What a great time together! What a delight to be able to laugh so much together about things we had experienced and times shared together.

I have been blessed by him and his family, and in admiration of who he is and who he has become I think I’m going to start calling him “Chaplain Rich!”

The Why

August 17, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                    August 17, 2015

                                                    

Most of the things I do each day are done out of habit. The way I brush my teeth, when I brush my teeth, and how I brush my teeth…regardless of what my dental hygienist tells me…is done out of habit. Some habits become a part of our life because of a situation that we go through. For instance, I always read at bedtime. Sometimes I read a few pages, and sometimes I read for two hours. The root of my bedtime reading goes back to when I had a herniated disc in my back and I was mostly bed-bound for a couple of weeks. I would read between pain pills.

Habit is a powerful life stabilizer. We hang our hat on it. It’s also why bad habits are hard to break. We shape our lives around them. Good habits, bad habits, routines…even rituals.

Many of our habits are done without a clue as to why.

I take a shower in the morning…every morning! Why? Because…that’s all I can say. I didn’t always take a shower in the morning. Goodness gracious! When I was growing up we didn’t even have a shower! So at some time in my life I decided that a morning shower sounded like a good idea.

“The Why” is a question that gets covered over. Why do I do what I do? If you were to ask me that question while staring at me there is good chance that you’ll get this glazed over look staring back at you.

Why am I a pastor? Because God placed a calling on my life that became defined my senior year of high school. I was clueless about a lot of other things my senior year, but I was clear on my calling.

“The Why” is a question that gets forgotten as we journey. A young lady I’ve known since she was born about 24 years ago, Allison Perrine, just completed a seventy day 4,000 mile bicycle journey along with 30 other college-aged young adults from across the country. I’m sure that when Allison was pedaling across Kansas she may have had moments when she asked the question, “Why am I doing this?”

Kansas has a way of doing that to people!

She was doing it to raise funds for cancer awareness programs. (She raised over $22,000.) But, really Allison was bicycling from baltimore to San Francisco because of her mom who lost her battle with cancer and her Aunt Marie who is a cancer survivor. That’s the real why behind the journey.

The church is often negligent of revisiting the why question. Why do we do what we do? Why do we give of our financial resources to the church and to missions? Why do we volunteer our time? Why do we pray for people? Why do we help our neighbors? Why are we passionate about ministry? Why do we clap when someone is baptized?

What is at the core of our purpose? Why do we care?

When we remind ourselves of the why we stay grounded in the cause.

It even helps us get through Kansas.

Missing The Biennial

June 7, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                  June 7, 2015

                                               

From the time I was eight years old I’ve been a part of American Baptist Churches. Before that time my family went to a Southern Baptist church in Winchester, Kentucky (Central Baptist Church with Pastor Zachary). We switched to American Baptist because we moved from Winchester to Williamstown, West Virginia, and the Baptist church in town was First Baptist Church with ties to the ABC.

That’s my pilgrimage! No doctrinal differences that sent us scurrying for safety. No questioning of our salvation, or limited program opportunities…just one town with one Baptist church. I was at an age where I didn’t understand what a Nazarene was…and the only things I knew about Methodists were that the Boy Scouts met there and that they didn’t meet as often as we did at the Baptist church. They didn’t even have a Sunday night service, which I thought was the eleventh commandment!

I grew up, moved to Zanesville, Ohio, and then to Ironton, Ohio. The First Baptist Churches in those communities were also American Baptist-related. And that’s how I became entrenched in my denomination.

All that to say that in less than three weeks when my denomination has their biennial convention in Overland Park, Kansas I won’t be there! It isn’t a protest because of some issue they will be debating. It’s just a matter of church budget constraints. I didn’t even ask for the biennial convention to be a line item in our 2015 budget. If we are committed to sending mission dollars to various parts of the world I just couldn’t see asking for a thousand dollars to send one pastor to four days of meetings.

I’m not disgruntled or embittered. I’m just…conservative!

And I’m probably not alone. I’m sure there are plenty of other pastors of small and medium-sized congregations who can’t justify the expense as well. A few years ago I made a suggestion about simulcasting the biennial to various places around the country and world. The concern was that we would lose the “community feeling” of the biennial, those face-to-face conversations with people we know or missionaries who are available or region executive ministers being able to meet with “new blood” potential pastors.

I still was not convinced that the cost of bringing a couple thousand people together from around the country and abroad was worth the expense. The last biennial I attended was in Richmond, Virginia eight years ago.

And so I will miss this one! I’ll miss reconnecting with ministry friends such as Tom and Diane Bayes…and Bret Truax…and Ed Owens. I’ll also miss the Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board luncheon, and some great speakers, and the freebies that I’ll keep for memories.

But I’ll survive…and our denomination will go on.

Sometimes you just can’t do everything, and a person needs to decide what it is he/she can do. What is financially responsible? What is good time management? What makes sense?

Seeing Kansas

December 16, 2014

 

A few years ago I was on the top of Pike’s Peak on a clear, beautiful, sunny day. Someone said “You can see Kansas from here!”

My sarcastic nature made me think “Why would you want to see Kansas?” But my next thought was that I wasn’t quite know if we could see Kansas or not. I mean Kansas is a long ways off from Colorado Springs. And, secondly, how do you know where Kansas begins and Colorado ends. There isn’t a definitive line that marks it or a river that you have to cross to get to it…at least on the western side!

So I stood there wondering “Is that really Kansas or not?”

There are certain situations in life…certain sightings, if you will…that we are unsure how to classify. Is the birth of our fourth child…that we hadn’t planned on having…a blessing or an ill-timed additional obligation?

Is the lay-off notice I received the first step of a blessing that will lead me to another profession that I’m passionate about?

Are all the little kids in church an added responsibility and burden that diminishes our energies or the beginning part of a promised future for a congregation?

Was the raising of Jesus by Joseph and Mary seen as being a blessing? I’m sure that Mary could look back at her son and see how she was blessed, but was it seen as being a blessing as they were in the midst of it?

Seeing Kansas is hard from such a distance.

Most of us replay our lives and we ask “What if” questions. We ponder how we might have done things differently. Seldom do we think that maybe we did exactly what God called us to do, and to be exactly where God called us to be.

When we look back we can see the trail that our life made. In our prayerful meditations we can received comfort and encouragement about those times when our path was in sync with the plan of God. We can also painfully recall where we took our own way away from his plan…the effect of it upon us and others, the grief it brought…and rejoice in the fact that God never stopped loving us.

Some of us are in the midst of situations that we are having a hard time seeing there being a blessing involved in it.

But be encouraged! Kansas is out there and the blessings of God will become clearer and clearer as you keep faithfully traveling on.