We recently had a team of 16 individuals work in Guatemala with Common Hope, an organization doing wonderful things to help children and their families. It was a great week filled with meaningful experiences in a part of the world filled with beauty and challenges. While we were surrounded by beautiful people and environment, we simply could not ignore or overlook the suffering and poverty present.
Among the many things we did in this dramatically mixed environment is build a house for a family. Blessing the house at the end of the week is a wonderful illustration of being in the midst of the difficult and beautiful, as well as the power of drawing on God’s love to have hope for a better future. The house has two small rooms, no electricity or running water, and was built on someone else’s property, yet it represented security and hope for a family with three children. After we blessed the house, the new home owner, Gloria, along with her two teenaged children shared gratitude and blessings upon us.
The gift of blessings among brokenness experienced throughout the week has been a powerful inspiration to face challenges in order to make a positive difference in the world. This can only happen if we are willing to deal with the difficult among the beautiful. As I conclude my pastoral role at Pilgrim, this is one of my prayers – that you face the difficult with honesty while drawing hope and strength from God’s beauty and grace in your midst.
In closing I will share a piece of the blessing I gave when dedicating the home we built:
May the Lord bless your home in such a way that whether the sun is rising or setting, whether the winds are blowing from the North or South, you know God’s love is always with you so you can dwell in peace with grace and joy. Dios te bendiga. (God bless you.) Amen.
We recently learned the South African government posthumously awarded former Pilgrim missionaries Ray and Dora Phillips a prestigious award for their work beginning 100 years ago. They established numerous organizations promoting care and social justice including the Bantu Men’s Community Hall and the Jan Hofmeyr School of Social Work where they trained individuals from all backgrounds to promote social well-being. Despite world wars, economic depression and other challenges the Pilgrim congregation financially supported their work. This is a piece of our history to be very proud of. It also begs the question, what can we be known for in 100 years? The answer, of course, depends upon our commitment to Pilgrim’s ongoing ministry.
I once heard of a pastor who, during a stewardship worship service, walked down the church aisle as the offering plates were being passed. Members of the congregation were acutely uncomfortable as their pastor watched them put money into the plate. After the offering was taken the pastor held the plates and said, “You clearly were uncomfortable as I watched you put your offering into the plates. Why should this be different from any other Sunday when God sees exactly what you put in the offering plates?”
God knows exactly how we live our lives, and what we give. What and how we give to God through our congregation will determine what and how we can be in ministry. As we consider the present and future ministry of our congregation, an important question comes to mind: How do we show our faith in God’s work through Pilgrim? If God were to approach us individually and ask this question, how would we answer? The answers we each can honestly give determines what we can be known for 100 years from now.