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Ministry Moments Blog
From Josh Hodges, Leader Care facilitator in the metro Phoenix area. For more information, visit leadercareaz.com.
Recently, heart breaking news surfaced. The lead pastor of Inland Hills Church in Chino, California, Pastor Andrew Stoecklein, committed suicide. This is devastating news anytime it occurs. But, it is especially difficult when it is a fellow pastor. Honestly, I’ve thought about this for several days, uncertain of the appropriate response. However, I am certain that I should respond to this tragedy in some fashion. This story hits a little too close to home. So, for that reason, I thought I might share a brief portion of my story…
Nearly 19 years ago to the day of Pastor Andrews death, I sat on the end of my bed as a senior in high school, sobbing, waiting on the news that my father, a pastor, had killed himself. That news never came as police were able to take my father into custody before he was able to harm himself or anyone else. By the grace of God my father is alive today.
You see, my father had been struggling with depression and anxiety for months. From reports on social media, it appears Pastor Andrew was suffering from similar bouts. Chances are at least some who read this can reflect on a time when they endured similar struggles. Fortunately for me my father is still alive, but our family has never been the same. Andrew’s wife and small children have a different battle to face now. Pray and pray with deep conviction for this family as they grieve.
Pastor, though it may be difficult to see today, your service has eternal value. If you are currently struggling under the weight of some dark thoughts, don’t carry that burden alone. Would you please reach out to someone, anyone?! It doesn’t make you less of a pastor, less of a Christian, less of a father, husband, or even a man. You’ve accepted a calling on your life to serve the image bearers of the one true God, and to serve the body of Christ. It may feel lonely in your pursuit of peace, but you are not alone. It’s time to let others serve you during this difficult season.
By God’s grace and mercy, if this doesn’t currently describe you, please consider reaching out to a pastor friend today. In the army we never did anything alone. Everywhere we went and everything we did was with a “battle buddy.” Brothers it is time to stop waging war with the enemy on our own. It’s time to lock arms and confront the enemy head on, connected and united in brotherhood, for the sake of your own personal health, your family, the congregation you lead, and the kingdom of God!
We’ve continued to ask different people to tell us about their “why” in their ministry area, today we hear about Parent Aide from Kayla Walker, Parent Aide Team Supervisor.
. . . From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. - Luke 12:48
In Parent Aide, we often find ourselves in situations where we see, hear or feel things that cause pain, anger, frustration or other uncomfortable emotions. For a helping heart, this can be a very confusing role to play. Parent aides often take on the brunt of families’ frustration and anger, and observe the severity of unhealthy family dynamics, yet have the least amount of control or influence on the decision-making process. This can frequently lead a parent aide to ask, “why?” While supporting parent aides through those moments is never easy, I'm reminded of stewardship and the Luke 12 parable of watchfulness. We do not belong to ourselves, nor do the gifts we've been entrusted with belong to us to use at our discretion. The lives and stories of the families we serve are special to God and should be handled with care. So I often thank God for using the eyes He gave me to see the hurts of His people. I thank Him for allowing me to hear the stories and feel the pain with His ears and His heart. I ask Him to help me with stewardship of those gifts lest I never take for granted the reason He entrusted me with each conversation and hard story. So then the question shifts from “why Lord?” to “how Lord?” How do I used what you've entrusted me to see, hear and feel to bring You glory? That is the responsibility with which we've been entrusted.
Esmeralda* had a rocky childhood. By her teenage years, she was angry and self-destructive. She found ways to numb herself with drugs and unhealthy relationships. When she found out she was pregnant she was overwhelmed with fear and uncertainty. "I couldn't see myself as a good person, let alone a mother." During her pregnancy, Esmeralda stayed with her uncle who is a committed Christian. He would talk to her about the Lord Jesus, and he often had worship music playing in the home.
One day, out of habit, she was on her way to meet with her drug dealer. She says God stopped her in her tracks. "It felt like I was in cement. I stopped where I was and cried out to God, I can't do this anymore! I don't know how to believe that you love me!" She says in that moment she experienced God's presence for the first time.
That day, instead of getting high, she went to detox and rehab. She started pursuing God by meeting with a pastor, reading scripture and going to Bible studies. After having her son, though, she fell into old patterns. Her new baby was removed from her care.
"I knew I had to move forward or I was going to lose everything," Esmeralda said. She decided she would do everything she could to get her son back. She cooperated with the Department of Child Safety (DCS) and found resources like the New Life Transitional Program. Through her work to get her life back together, Esmeralda found a job and housing and she eventually got her son back!
Esmeralda will now tell you that she has good and bad days. She says on the bad days she has to give herself permission to feel and work through it. Her son and her growing relationship with the Lord are her motivation to keep moving forward, one step at a time. *name changed
We’ve continued to ask different people to tell us about their “why” in their ministry area. Meet Hillary Horn, one of our Arms of Love licensing specialists. Hillary has been with ABCS for 8 months, but her family has been involved in foster care since she was 12 years old. Hillary has felt called to the ministry of foster care since she was a child. When God opened the door for her to serve families at Arms of Love Foster Care, she knew she was supposed to be here. Hillary loves working in foster care because she can advocate for families and give them a voice. She also feels passionate about helping families fulfill their calling to care for hurting children. The most amazing moment Hillary has experienced while working in foster care is seeing children grow and flourish in a safe and secure environment while watching families grow in their abilities and confidence in their care of the children. Hillary’s favorite verse is 1 Peter 5:7, Give all your worries and cares to God for He cares about you. Hillary loves this verse because it shows Jesus as a Father who cares for us as his children. We can cast all of our anxieties and fears on him and he will take care of them.
We’ve continued to ask different people to tell us about their “why” in their ministry area, today we hear about Foster Care from Mike Molina, Arms of Love Foster Care licensing specialist.
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. - Galatians 6:7–10
Sometimes doing good can become exhausting when we see no change as a result of the good we do! No question the believers of Galatia were feeling this way. They were sowing seeds of goodness, but nothing good seemed to be coming forth. Paul is writing to the Galatian believers to encourage them to keep doing good. At times, I have felt that way in my life and I just want to throw in the towel. When I was a 5th grade teacher, I would pour myself into my student’s lives. At the end of the year I would ask myself is it worth it, considering the pay, excessively large class sizes and lack of resources. A few years after I had been teaching, though, I started seeing the fruit of my labor. Students coming back to tell me thank you for being patient with them, helping them learn, and I even had one tell me thank you for showing me Christ.
Now as a pastor and a licensing worker I am reminded the very thing that drives me is my faith in Christ and wanting others to see him by the good that I do. I will continue to do good because that is what I am called to do and I know at the right time, God’s time, I will reap a harvest for the good I have done.