By Greg Petrie, District Representative, Northwest District
The Question: Why Serve in Rural Ministry?
Why serve in rural ministry? Our Village Missionaries can answer this question.
Village Missionaries are called “missionary-pastors” for a reason. Village Missionaries are not only encouraged, but expected and directed, to get involved in their communities. They are appointed to not only pastor the local church, but also to illustrate, demonstrate, and proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ throughout the community they serve.
One avenue of community involvement and connection many Village Missionaries engage in is the local volunteer fire department. I did this for about 15 years myself when we were on the field.
Law enforcement and professional medical care may be an hour or more away, so the local volunteers truly are the first responders to a myriad of situations. When the local pastor is part of that team, he either officially or unofficially takes on the role of a chaplain to the rest of the department and the community.
The Answer: Eternal Impact
Pastor Charlie is one of these. Charlie and Rhonda serve on the Volunteer Fire Department in a community that may be small and out of the way, but has the same issues and problems of the big city—poverty, addiction, violence, bent and broken people—but without the social resources of the city. You have the volunteer fire department and the church in town, and along with the school, that’s pretty much it. If you’re hurting and need help, that’s who you turn to.
When a man was ready to snap, and his family was in fear, Charlie was the first one there to courageously enter that situation to try to de-escalate the tension. When two men got into an altercation and one of them ran over the other with his car—killing him—Rhonda was the first on scene.
Charlie and Rhonda are there to help in some tough situations, but also much more. They have a greater calling. They have answered the question, “Why serve in rural ministry?”
Sometimes these small community fire departments will join together with other community fire departments in mutual support to fight a fire or raise funds for equipment.
I recently received the following email from Charlie:
“I am asking for your prayers this morning as this Friday I will be conducting a memorial for a 4 month old. The dad is a member of a local fire department. We share duties with from time to time. This is why we joined the Fire Department to begin with. He said, ‘I don’t know any other pastors.’ Pray the Lord will give the words that would comfort this couple during this time. Thanks. We will be in camp with kids this week and will leave camp for this memorial.”
(That’s not uncommon-for a Village Missionary to have camp all week, then a memorial service on Friday, then have to preach on Sunday!)
Why Serve in Rural Ministry? God Has Placed You There
Charlie has it right. As Village Missionaries, that is what we sign up for. My response to him was, “That’s why God has placed you there. I know you’ll find God’s grace to be sufficient to give to the strength and the right words.”
I later asked Charlie how it went. He replied: “The memorial went as expected: some tears, some laughs, some shared stories. It was a time to present the message of Christ and the price He paid so we could all spend forever with Him. One couple seemed to know the story as they gave affirmation to points along the way. After the service I spoke with them. They travel from Central Oregon to attend a church in Portland…’We don’t go every Sunday though,’ he said. Many of the other attendees seemed as though this were the first time they had heard it. We will continue to pray that seeds were planted and will look forward to the day of harvest in the knowledge that we have done what the Lord has for us.”
When His people faithfully serve, God works to accomplish His purposes.
God At Work in Rural Communities
Charlie shared some further follow-up a couple of weeks later:
“God IS at work through all the heartache. The family that lost the infant has two older daughters. We made an invite for them to attend our VBS. When the parents said they didn’t have a way of transporting the kids, we reached out to another family who used to live in Wishram that have moved to Dallesport. They have been bringing the two girls. Today, the mom came with them and ended up helping in the craft room. His plan is comprehensive!”
That is what Village Missions is all about—reaching those in the corners of North America who might otherwise be forgotten with the Good News of Jesus Christ. That’s why you faithfully partner with and support Village Missions—so that Charlie and Rhonda (and others) can live and serve in a community among those who say “I don’t know any other pastors.” Maybe God is calling and directing you to be one of those to go incarnate the Gospel in an out-of-the way corner of rural America?