The pastor looked slightly worried. The landlord had somehow gotten the natural gas shut off in the pastor’s apartment, and that meant no heat or means for cooking for him, his wife, son, and mother-in-law. It was a chilly night. The gas company said it was going to be three days, at least. And this was Saturday night, the worst night for a pastor, with Sunday duties looming on the horizon.
We were standing out on the roof of the church, and a few prying eyes in the apartment complex across the street peeked through twitched apart curtains to get a look at whatever was going on at this church, this strange collection of people. So we went inside and prayed. And amazingly, two hours later the gas company called to say they would arrive that night and fix things!
I wish this were the end of the story, but it isn’t. A few days later the landlord ripped out the natural gas pipes in the apartment and the pastor and his family were back to square one with no heat and no cooking, and there was no clear answer for the meddling. Now imagine this frustration with a full slate of pastoral duties: preaching, a counseling matter, a discipline case, and more.
This is my brother. He risks his life for the gospel. He posts with boldness on Facebook about his faith and answers the curious questions of visitors asking about this Jesus whom he so clearly loves.
A few weeks ago I traveled to the Middle East with six other women from the Asia Minor Partnership. Our primary aim was to commune with our brothers and sisters in the two churches, and especially to strengthen friendships with the women. Americans are very concerned with action, on doing, on building. But what’s transformative about the gospel is the notion of who we are because of what God has done. And out of that being-ness, if you will, comes action, where warranted. The awesome, amazing thing about God is the incarnation, Emmanuel, God with us. So how could we not go and be with others, to share life as siblings?
So we sipped tea, we chatted, we swapped stories about our respective families, we worshiped together. We made discoveries or were newly struck by facts we already (albeit dimly) knew. For example, did you know that the seven churches mentioned in Revelation are all churches in this country? It was not uncommon for a friend to cite a Pauline epistle and say, “Oh, my father is from this city. This letter was written for us!” It definitely made me read those passages with a fresh perspective!
One particular highlight was sharing Thanksgiving dinner with the central city church friends. No turkey, but chicken and duck in abundance. The adults talked over second helpings of stuffing while the teenagers (okay, and some of the adults) tried to outdo each other in video game dexterity.
I cannot downplay the completeness of the family dynamic. Like any family, the central city church has its problems and concerns, its disagreements. But because they only have each other in this context, they must band together. So should we.
In Luke 8:20-22 there’s a particularly fascinating exchange with Jesus and the crowd. “And it was reported to Him, ‘Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wishing to see you.’ But He answered and said to them, ‘My mother and my brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it’.” I feel close to the women of our sister church because of who they are. They are my sisters. My family. May we continue to uphold them, especially as we think about gathering with family for Christmas. Pray for our brothers and sisters in our sister church in the Middle East. For them, even sitting in church is a loud statement to their natural family. But more than that, they are our family in Christ. When we hurt, they will hurt with us. And when they lack, we will feel its effects.
The work of our sister church in the Middle East is supported by the Outreach budget.
Furthermore, the Asia Minor Partnership, of which Tenth is a partner church, is raising funds to purchase a house for the pastor mentioned. This would allow him and his family to have greater flexibility in ministry and not have the constant stress of hostile landlords who are suspicious of Christians. For more information about this matter, email Kari.
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Kari Randall. © 2023 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org