“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”
(John 13:34 ESV)
As a pastor, I’m expected to be there for people during difficult seasons of their life. This is part of my calling. And I love the fact that I can be a support and an encouragement for them. However, I want to publicly thank my congregation, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Beulah, North Dakota, for the support they’ve recently shown to me.
So often, pastors are not given the level of support I’ve received. Unrealistic expectations are frequently placed upon them as they labor among their flock. It seems that congregation members don’t realize that, although we’re called to serve God and his people full-time, we too are human. We too experience hardships. We too get tired. We too are burdened. And this often ends in pastors becoming burned out.
As my mom was suffering from terminal cancer, and as she passed away, the people of Prince of Peace were incredibly gracious. I was told at the outset of her illness that I should take as much time as I needed to be with her, and that this would in no way be counted as vacation. And these were no idle words.
Having a big family, summer is really our only opportunity to travel. And, on top of personal vacation, I also had two ministry related trips scheduled. This made it seem that my time at the church was extremely limited.
Yet, in addition to a week with my parents in late May, I was able to schedule two trips to see my mom as her condition worsened. And the church had no hesitation when, on the Friday before her death, I made a last minute decision to jump on a plane to be with her and the rest of my family.
Her funeral required that I be gone yet another Sunday. And, once again, the people of Prince of Peace were so supportive. Our youth pastor jumped in to cover for me, as he always does. And I was told repeatedly that I was not to worry about anything at the church.
I so greatly appreciate the time that was given me to both be with mom and also to mourn. It’s been an extremely stressful time, and the flexibility given to me made it so much easier. I did have some feelings of guilt, being away so much. But these were the result of my own sense of responsibility, and were in no way placed upon me by the church.
I also appreciate the cards that were sent, the prayers that were raised on behalf of my mom and my family, and the condolences that were expressed. I appreciate the congregational leadership who stopped by to simply check up on me and to reassure me that all would be taken care of. And I appreciate the beautiful flowers that were sent to her funeral.
I am truly blessed to labor among you. I am blessed by a congregational leadership that recognizes my needs. And I’m blessed by a supportive staff, who gladly adjust and take on additional responsibility at a moment’s notice.
Now that I am home and once again engaged in ministry, I continue to grieve. I’m still a bit drained emotionally and physically. But I am eager to be a blessing to the people who have been such a blessing to me.