Sunday, October 20, 2013

From My Heart, for Pastor's Appreciation Month

In many places across the country, churches are celebrating and acknowledging October as Pastor Appreciation Month.  As I’ve heard or read about various expressions of love and honor, my mind has gone back over the years of my life, and the Pastors that I have been blessed to have.  The very first Pastor I remember is from my early childhood, right here in Winchester at the little Wesleyan Church.  Bro. Wolfe seemed like a giant of a man to me, with snow white hair and a booming laugh.  His smile could light up a whole room.  These some 35 years later, a warmth washes over me to remember him, for the depth of love that he expressed for his congregation.  As a little girl, I knew my Pastor loved me!

We moved to Florida while I was still very young, and what an awesome thing it was to be a child attending Children’s Church at Hobe Sound Bible Church at that time! George and Ruth Vernon made every week exciting, and the songs and stories they shared with us are with me to this day.  Once a month they would bring in special speakers, like dear Brother Winter who spoke to us children with such tenderness and compassion. When I was older,   I came to have great respect for the teaching preaching of the Pastors I grew up under for many years; men such as Robert Pelton, G.R. French, Robert Whitaker.  These men left an indelible mark on my life and in my thinking and understanding.  Sometimes I find myself having a memory of a sermon from years ago that made an impression on me, and called to mind now, influences my thoughts and decisions.  Then there was Pastor Pierpoint during my college years, with his colorful illustrations and stories!   I can’t turn to the book of Philippians even now, without remembering the time he spent teaching that book.  

After Derek and I were married, we soon accepted a call to minister alongside Pastor Greg Makcen in a place called Tuscaloosa, AL. We had never even heard of it before! J  The time that we spent there was such amazing preparatory work for the years that would follow.  More than we could ever have realized at the time.  Greg was our Pastor and our friend and our neighbor. He modeled for us an unrelenting passion for souls, and an incredible work ethic in the ministry.  We learned a lot from him.  Sometimes we are still surprised to discover traits and priorities coming out in our philosophy of ministry, that we can point back to as a result of our time in AL.  Bro. Greg was taken from this life too soon, at such a young age! We honor his memory and the place he will forever hold in our hearts.

When we moved to Kentucky, in the short time prior to accepting a new ministry call, we attended church with my parents. There we were privileged to sit under the beautiful teaching of Pastor Bill Konstantopoulos.  Bro. Bill is from Greece, and he preaches with a quiet confidence and authority.  His Greek accent only helps enhance the authenticity you feel as you listen to him make Scripture come alive.  His sermons are committed to memory, and we always marveled as he strolled the platform delivering 3 and 4 point outlines and subpoints with effortless precision, ticking them off on his fingers one by one!

God soon moved us into a new ministry role at Mt. Zion UMC, where we were privileged to serve for 6 years.  We have many precious memories of our time there and the friendships made.  During that time we worked with Pastor Bill Kidwell.  He was a spiritual father figure to us, a mentor, and friend.  Brought into our lives at just the right time to walk life’s journey with us.  We shared together, prayed together, cried together….what a blessing he was to us! Ironically, he left KY for AL! We still miss him and his wife Nancy!

In most recent years, Derek has been serving as Youth Pastor and Music Director for First Methodist here in town.  We have been challenged by the great preaching of Pastor James Williams, and now are getting to know our new Pastor, Jeff Carter.  We pray wisdom and blessing on him as he is beginning  his time of ministry among us!

On a more personal note, I want to acknowledge the beautiful Pastoral heart of my husband as he has so faithfully reached out to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the people of the churches where we have been, and truly to the surrounding community.  Derek’s love for God and people is a challenge to my own heart, and I feel blessed to witness up close how God uses the gifts He gave Derek to advance His Kingdom.  Additionally, I have marveled in these last months as my Dad has been valiantly fighting the fight against cancer, how his heart for the people he pastors has never missed a beat.  During even the worst weeks of physical weakness and weariness,  he has found new strength to make it to that pulpit on Sunday mornings, or to hospital bed-sides throughout the week.  God is giving him strength day by day, and how thrilled I was to hear of the honor his congregation showed him last Sunday!

 I would also be remiss if I did not acknowledge as the friend, wife, daughter, and daughter-in-law of men in Ministry, that while these roles are truly places of reward and fulfillment, they can also be fraught with pain.  Pastoral families experience the highest joys and deepest hurts in ways people may never fully realize. 

So, were I lifting my ice cold Ale8 in a toast today (!), I would say “here’s to our Pastors and their families.  May the Lord richly bless you and keep you, and may you know His presence and guidance in every step along your journey.  You fill a place in life that is sacred, anointed by God Himself.  May He give you every grace to walk worthy of it. WE APPRECIATE YOU!!”

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