Last week my son was sick so I spent some time going through my files at home. In doing so I ran across a file of illustrations and observations mostly from my first years of ministry. In that file was a card from my first year of full-time ministry is Missouri.
No one ever quite prepares you for that first year out of college and into the “real world.” Your first job is usually less than desirable as you are willing to take almost anything for experience and a paycheck. This was no less true for me when I entered the ministry. I went to a small town just 45 minutes north of my college so my wife could commute every day continuing her education. The “village” as they called it consisted of 110 people and an unbelievable amount of dogs. Many of the people were older and were content to stay there till they died. Any younger people wanted to get out, but didn’t have the education or the motivation they needed.
As you can imagine it was not a great place to live or to work. That first year out of college was greeted with hostility, disappointment and rage. And those were just my emotions. At the end of that first year I fell into utter defeat until I finally submitted my resignation.
My wife and I left all of our possessions in the house and set out for 8 weeks to find a job. When we were finally successful we returned back to load up our stuff and move on. We classified it as one of those tough experiences that we used to grow into maturity.
Now back to my file. Inside of it is was a card from that first year that was stuck in the door sometime while we were gone. I pulled it out and looked at it, my response of laughter was overwhelming. It was a Christmas card actually complete with a tree on the front. Open the card up and inside it is signed by a couple in the Church with the handwritten phase, “All our love.” It all seems sweet right? Well, the funny part is what is written on the outside of the envelope. It was suppose to be written to my wife and I – Matt and Michelle. Instead in handwritten ink it says “Mark and Misseli.” I kid you not. I had ministered at this Church for a year, spending every week preaching the Bible to these people and they did not even know my name!! Now I suppose I could tell you that it was written on a program that was handed out every week and placed on a sign in front of the building just for added emphasis. This couple gave a card to me with “all their love” even though they didn’t know my name!
I have since recovered from that first ministry experience, but I will never forget those people and that year. I imagine they quickly forgot me, since they never even really knew me…or my name!

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