Recently Sandy and I traveled to Phoenix where I attended a conference and then spent a few extra days together celebrating our 27th wedding anniversary. While we were there, we spent an evening with some friends from Oklahoma. About six months before I moved to Greenwood, I hired Danny Hughes to be my Worship and Arts Pastor. I was very excited to add Danny to my staff and felt bad that I only got a few months with him. After faithfully serving the church in Oklahoma for the past eight years, Danny and his wife Kristi moved to Chandler, Arizona, where he is now the Worship Programming Pastor at the Chandler Christian Church.
As Sandy and I were driving back to our hotel after our dinner together, we talked about how one of the most difficult aspects of ministry is it often takes you so far away from family, friends, and familiarity. Danny and Kristi and their two boys are now living hundreds of miles away from their families, their home towns, and everything that’s familiar. And while they are very excited about being in their new home and church because they know that it’s God’s plan for their lives, that doesn’t mean they don’t feel the emotional pangs of being away.
I know that there are many people right here at Mount Pleasant whose work has taken them away from their families and their homes, but I want to ask you to think for a minute about those on our staff who are a long way from home. I say that because when you are in vocational ministry, your opportunities for travel and vacation can be pretty limited. Think about it. Most people have the freedom each week to take the weekend or even a long weekend and use it to visit family to “go home.” That’s not the case when your every weekend revolves around church services. I’m not saying that as a complaint, just a matter of fact. In a couple of weeks I’ll be traveling to Tulsa to meet with my brothers and sisters to talk about my mom and her living situation. I don’t know what the exact days will be yet, but I do know that it will be easier for my brother and sisters who aren’t in full-time ministry to do this on the weekend. Some people say, “Just take time off during the week.” That sounds good but unless you take the weekend off as well, you don’t really have time off because you’ve still got to do whatever your individual ministry requires you to do to be ready for the weekend.
Why am I writing this? I’m not writing it to whine or complain. I’m writing it to ask you for a favor. In Mark 10:29-30, Jesus said these words to his disciples, I tell you the truth, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age. (NIV) What does that mean? It means that God rewards the sacrifices we make for the kingdom. I don’t really think that Sandy and I and our children have had to sacrifice anything significant for the sake of the kingdom…certainly not in comparison to other believers. But I realized a long time ago that when it came to serving Christ, my life did not belong to me. And I have tried to be faithful to follow him wherever he was leading. That led me from Texas to Oklahoma to Indiana. And while this is our home, there is a sense in which it’s not (I hope you don’t misunderstand that). This is not where we grew up. This is not where our family is, etc. And there have been many times when we have missed and longed for our family and friends. There are moments, still, when I wish my children could have grown up around our family and our oldest friends. But I will tell you this that over the years God has given us thousands of people to be our family and friends. Because that’s what God does. I have two earthly brothers, but I have hundreds of spiritual brothers. I have two earthly sisters, but I have hundreds of spiritual sisters. I have many people who have been like a mother and father to me. And it’s made my life rich. It’s made our lives rich.
Here’s what I’m asking you to do. Be a brother or a sister—a father or a mother—maybe even a grandparent to those folks on our staff who are far away from family and home. Be the blessing or reward that God promises to those who are faithful. We’ve got some folks on our staff who have come a long way to be a part of the Mount Pleasant family. What I’m asking you to do is make it your plan to be a family to them.