Posted tagged ‘Mason’

My Secret Santa

December 13, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         December 13, 2016

                                           

About a week ago Mission Medical Clinic of Colorado Springs received a boxed gift in the mail from an anonymous sender. Inside was a check for $10,000 and three $50 gift cards. The clinic offers a variety of medical services for people who have limited financial resources. The $10,000 will go a long ways in helping meet needs that never seem to lessen.

The first thought of the mission’s director was that it was a scam, so she called a local TV station about it. Further investigation revealed that it was genuine…and the praises began! Another local charity also received an anonymous check.

Even though the Christmas story revolves around expectancy it brings us the unexpected. Kids squeal and giggle over the expectation of the coming of Santa Claus, but stories of secret Santa’s take our breath away and leave us open-mouthed.

I will always remember my secret Santa! He or she sent me a gift shortly before Christmas in 1984…thirty-two years ago! Carol and I were the parents of two toddlers, and I was in my first months of pastoring my first church, the First Baptist Church of Mason, Michigan. Our financial resources were minimal. Most of the toys that the kids received for Christmas that year had been bought at the yard sales of the previous summer. We didn’t have much, but we had just enough! Carol learned how to use macaroni in numerous ways, and our home was often scented with the fragrance of digested pinto beans.

And then a $50 cashier’s check arrived in the mail from “Secret Santa.” A note attached to it said, “Take this check down to Jack Davis and buy yourself a new suit!” Jack Davis was the owner of Davis’s Men’s Wear, located on the corner of Ash and Jefferson, across from the Ingham County Courthouse in downtown Mason. Although I’ve had my suspicions, to this day I do not know who the Secret Santa was. All I know is that it lifted my spirits. That was back in the day when suits were the expected Sunday attire for pastors, and my suit selection was limited. My Secret Santa saw a young pastor with a wife and two kids who needed a little help. We had so many other needs to take care of that a new suit was not even on the list.

I thought of that story recently after receiving a check in the mail from my denomination’s retirement and benefits board. It was a “thank you” check sent to all of the retired ministers and missionaries of the American Baptist Churches, expressing appreciation for our years of ministry and service. I hadn’t thought about being a recipient of it, but rather as a giver to it, and yet here, once again, was an unexpected check!

This time, however, Carol and I have enough resources to be able to pay it forward to someone else, or some other organization. Not necessarily a check for $10,000, but rather the givers of an unexpected gift in a season of expectancy.

Whose Next?: The Responsibility of Supporting The Next Called Ones”

October 30, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                                  October 29, 2015

Our money preaches our priorities. It clearly conveys what we feel is important and what is an add-on. It conveys our dedication to comfortableness and reluctance to commitment.

As I approach retirement from being a pastor…a paid pastor that is…I’ve been doing more and more thinking about money. Carol and I are looking at what we can expect, and not expect, once my position at our church ends.

But I’ve also been thinking about my responsibility to support the next generation of “God’s called.” I’ve been blessed to see several people I’ve known as their pastor or their coach enter into some form of full-time ministry. I believe I have a responsibility to affirm and encourage their calling through words of blessing, prayerful support, and financial backing. It’s the punctuation mark to their blessing, to be affirmed in these ways instead of comments like “Hope it works out for you!”

     That conviction I have was affirmed today as Carol and I met a young man named Tony LaMouria, his charming wife Elisabeth, and their four boys…nine years old down to seven months.

Carol and I have known Tony since he appeared one cold, sleet/rain Sunday morning at our church in Mason, Michigan, riding a bicycle. That ride into our midst began a new chapter in his faith journey that was marked by disappointment, confusion, acceptance, and unconditional love.

There’s so much to “the Tony Story” that I won’t mention, but one thing that I will mention is how one family in the church, the Andersons , took Tony into their home, gradually brought him to the point where he became the new little brother to their two older daughters, and modeled for him a love that is blended with wisdom, firmness, and encouragement. The Andersons felt a deep responsibility to support this high school kid with a charming smile and a confusing past. They were entering the period in their lives called “the empty nest”, and now they believed God had called them to parent another who wasn’t even theirs.

That family that supported him was part of a new foundation in Tony’s life. The other was our church that took him in, came alongside his new family in the “congregational parenting” of him, and applauded him in his accomplishments.

Today as Carol and I talked with him and Elisabeth he told us of their calling to be a part of a mission organization that sends pastors to churches, mostly rural or small towns, who don’t have the financial resources to support a pastor. There are thousands of churches like that around our country. In our conversation Tony shared how important our church in Mason was to him at that time in is life when he was trying to figure out if he had purpose and value. As he said to us today, if he had gone to a large church he would have gotten lost in the crowd, but our church loved him and embraced him. Now, years later, he sees the value in small churches, and is looking to serve in one of them.

That means I have a responsibility to continue the blessing, to come alongside him, to help him to keep the pursuit.

What blessing! What a responsibility! What a privilege!