Where does God show up?
In a pastor!!
I spent some time this summer in Cookson Hills, Oklahoma at the Cookson Hills Center with the youth group from my church. As a group, we taped and mudded drywall, painted, worked with jewelry, fixed siding on a house, sanded concrete floors, moved a couple from their home of 14 years, picked up sticks, cooked ate and sang together. It was a good week, challenging and life-giving. Here is a bit of what I discovered:
Wednesday during lunch at the senior center, I saw the pastor of Stilwell Mission United Methodist Church, Pastor Deb. She was wearing a wonderful cross necklace. I commented on her necklace we chatted for a second about it and then we both went on with our day.
On Thursday, we watched the amazing puppet show that the youth performed for us. I asked the women, Sherri and Jenny about the vitality and life that I felt in this small church. They both believed that their pastor was the reason for their vitality. Before Pastor Deb they had less than ten people in worship every week, after only a year, the church had more than doubled that amount. They had amazing plans for being a positive force in their community; they were excited and enthusiastic about their church. This was a church, tiny, and full of vitality.
What was it about Deb that brought vitality and life to her church? Well, of course, I asked her. I asked how she accomplished so much, before she answered, Colleen, our host (and boss!) for the week, told me it was Deb. She is an amazing pastor, who simply cares. She shows up to preach, cares about how her people are doing, and understands their needs. Deb simply loves her congregation.
But Deb did something I will never forget. As we were eating dinner on Friday night, she gave me the beautiful cross I saw her wearing earlier in the week. I don’t remember what she said, but I DO remember how I felt. When she gave me her necklace as a gift, I felt like she believed in me. I felt like she saw something in me that I have a hard time seeing in myself. She had confidence in me, where I sometimes do not. And in that moment I knew, she turned the church around, not because of her amazingness…but because of her ability to see the amazing gifts in others and sincerely communicate what she sees. I am grateful for Deb and her gift to me. It is not every day that someone makes it so clear that they see something in you. It was a powerful gift that I am forever thankful for. Thank you, Deb!!!