By Mark Canady, District Representative, Western District
Learning the Value of the Rural Pastor
Multiple times over the years I have learned the value of the rural pastor. Here’s one story.
Many years ago, we ministered in an area where our small rural school experienced a very difficult time of transition. Lifelong friends turned into enemies during this volatile time.
And we found ourselves with friends on both sides of the issue.
I have discovered that during these times it is usually wise to not take sides, but instead to work towards peace. For months the battle raged on, and we kept moving towards our friends who were in strong opposition to each other.
Finally, the day came when the final decision was made. But that did not resolve the pain of a community that had been ripped apart. We hoped, that by God’s grace, we could be peacemakers. Because we had remained silent, God granted us continuing friendships from both groups. However, some people moved out of the community, so badly were they wounded.
Fast forward several months. Our local high school performed its annual Spring Musical. We have always loved these events and looked forward to attending. Other than graduation, this is often the most attended event of the year. I had put out of my mind the hurtful time our community had been through, and Bonnie and I greatly anticipated a wonderful evening of community enjoyment.
Let me state this with more clarity: it never dawned on me that this was the first big event that had happened since the “battle”. To be honest, this fact remained hidden from me both that night and for many months following the musical.
With that in mind, something happened that night. Even though it involved me, I was clueless. When Bonnie and I entered the auditorium, she went off visiting folks in one direction and I headed in the other. I noticed that some friends of ours were sitting in a section all by themselves!
Now, years later, I should have figured that this was odd because “Fred” was at least the third generation of his family to live and work in this community. But the Lord wanted me to be blind to this thought. I went over and warmly greeted Fred and his wife and I stayed and visited with them. Never once did I dream that this was a significant event.
Fred had never attend the church where I served as a Village Missionary pastor. It was at least one year after the Spring Musical before he and his wife showed up one Sunday morning. One day as he and I visited, it was revealed to me what had happened that night at the Spring Musical.
Fred told me that men he had known all his life had even gone all the way through high school with had shunned him for months. Refusing to talk with him, leaving stores when he walked in and even the night of the Spring Musical they had built an imaginary wall around him and his wife, a line no one dared cross.
Then he said, “You walked into the room–our community pastor–and walked over to my wife and me. You treated me as if I was one of your best friends in the world. EVERYONE saw this and I will NEVER forget what you did!”
Have you ever read in God’s Word, “He takes care of His beloved even in their sleep” (Psalms 127:2)? I have found that He also uses His beloved even when they are sleepwalking unaware. Or maybe better put, sometimes being available is better than being smart, for I could have never planned that out. God’s plans are always better than ours!
This is just one story of the many that could be told regarding the rural pastor. Daily, Village Missionaries live out these stories in both the United States and Canada. Some of these stories, God allows us to be aware of and others… Well won’t heaven be a grand time to reflect on the sovereign God working through clay pots to accomplish His purpose!