So far my family has logged in an official 37 hours of drive time. We have done some stopping and starting while hitting touristy places. I am currently setting by the pool while my boys enjoy a few hours of fun before taking off again. We have about 32 more hours to go but the roughest parts are behind us. Alaska, The Yukon and British Columbia are full of beauty along lousy roads, especially in a 26 foot Uhaul.
Early in my trip I was reminded of how motorcycle drivers usually wave to each other along the highway. I think it is interesting how they acknowledge each other and their common bond on the road. I thought it would be cool to do the same thing with other Uhaul trucks. So my son and I started waving at every other Uhaul that we saw. The first three days we saw 29 other Uhauls heading north and waved to every one. We had 3 people who waved back at us. Just three. I guess there is not as much bond as I had hoped. We will see what the next few days hold, but I am not very hopeful. All of us want a place to connect but people in Uhaul trucks are transient renters and not owners. Our membership in the group is short-term and there is no real sense of pride in our situation. We are bound for somewhere else and I hope to be there in 32 more drive hours.
It is now Monday June 23. I have spent the entire day packing and loading and we are ready to head out tomorrow for our new ministry in Missouri. We will be on the road for the next 8 days and be traveling over 4000 miles. I hope to make a few posts as I stop in hotels, but mostly I hope to enjoying the trip with my family.
I appreciate your prayers and will return to a normal daily blog on July 7 from my new office.
I want to offer a “Thank You” to the people of Homer Christian Church.
Thank you for letting me be your pastor and preacher for the last 5 years.
May God bless you into the future.
Friday is usually my day off. I work to get my sermon, my Sunday school lesson and any additional duties done by Friday. Then I relax and enjoy the day. Well, this is my final Friday in Alaska and as pastor of Homer Christian Church. There is no Sunday school this week as we are having a fellowship time. My final sermon is done and ready to preach. There are still a couple of last-minute duties I need to tie up, but for the most part everything is finished.
This is the end of a 5 year and 1 week ministry here in Alaska. By my calculations this is what I have done in this ministry.
Preached 250 sermons.
Taught somewhere around 150-160 Sunday school lessons.
Given roughly 75 communion meditations.
Performed only 6 weddings and 1 funeral.
Led 5 Christmas Eve candlelight programs.
Taught one “college level” class at the local Bible Institute.
By the end of this Sunday I will have baptized 7 people including two of my children.
I have met with countless people for various reasons, offered numerous marriage counseling sessions, ate an unknown number of meals with people, and printed thousands of programs.
The flip side of this is always hard. There are people who refused to come to Church. There are people who did not accept Jesus as their Savior (yet). There was a lot of ministry that was not done. I always worry about the items left undone when I leave a ministry.
These factors make an ending bitter-sweet. There was more to do for God, but He has allowed me to be a part of so much. I thank God for the time I have spent in Homer and the ministry he has allowed me to be a part of each week.
My family is looking forward to the future of our lives and ministry in Missouri. This is true because we are moving on. We will have new experiences, meet new people and see new things. For us the future is unknown and that holds a great deal of excitement. We have apprehension but mostly are filled with anticipation.
My conversations with people here are full of sadness and loss. This is true because they are staying behind. They know how things work and they know the people and places. They see life as normal minus us.
Yesterday while having a conversation about one of his friends this became very clear to me. My son is excited about moving and his friend is sad because he is leaving. As he told me the story I started thinking about death and heaven.
I hate the idea of people I love passing from this life. It will hurt. It does hurt.
But for people of faith, we believe that death is just moving on to the next life. There will be a new heaven and a new earth in our future. Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us and we are full of anticipation.
How you view the end of life depends on your position. Are you the one moving on or the one staying behind? The difference is a matter of sorrow or joy.
If you can’t fly, run;
If you can’t run, walk;
If you can’t walk, crawl;
But by all means, keep moving.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, 1964
From the Founder’s Day speech at
Spelman College, April 10, 1960
We are now within 7 days of leaving Homer Alaska for Adrian Missouri. My family is busy doing a few things. We are packing the final items we need to take, preparing for a final sale and finally doing anything fun we can squeeze in. One of the fun things we are doing is buying souvenirs. We have bought some T-shirts, some Christmas ornaments (plus a few gifts for family) and a little local artwork.
It is interesting to be on the other side of this trip. When we moved here 5 years ago we ran to all the shops and bought hats, shirts and all kinds of trinkets that said Alaska. Interestingly enough, much of it was made in China. We were like tourist who just happen to live here. Now are looking for items that really represent our time in Alaska. We are looking for Alaskan made items. We are looking for unique pieces. We looking for items that mean something to us. We want things that will take us back to this place in our memory. Now we are locals just looking to remember our time here together.
Let me encourage you to got some quality souvenirs of faith. I do not mean buying high quality art or Christian made gifts at the local bookstore. I mean collect stories of a life of faith. Spend time with other people of faith in unique situations and take pictures. Attend a conference once a year and keep notes. Collect encouraging notes and cards. Hold onto the gifts that other Christian people have given you (except food).
For years I kept a box of all the discouraging notes I was given. All of the anonymous notes scribbled in anger toward me. Letters from people leaving the Church or at least the Church I led. Then one day I decided to throw all of those away and start a box of encouraging notes and photos. I now have one on my computer inbox too.
Now, whenever I get down I open up those notes or read those emails and suddenly I am encouraged. I have special gifts people have given me that make me smile every time I look at them. I have photos of numerous special Church events that bring me joy every time I look through them.
If you do not have some of these items, then my only encouragement is to make them for someone else. Send a card to someone in the Church today. Take pictures at the next Church function and share them with everyone. Get a special one printed and give it to someone in a frame. Buy a gift and give it to someone who has helped grow your faith.
Be the blessing you wish to receive.
I was reminded today of a guy I knew in Iowa. He ran a business and he had a sign that said,
“Cost, Quality, Time”
At the bottom of the sign it said, “Choose any two”
I am coming to believe this is not only true of business but most areas of life.
Over the last few weeks I have mentioned several lessons I learned about the Church and it’s people while applying for new ministry positions. Today’s lesson comes from a very practical standpoint and here it is:
“Most Churches have no idea how to handle Human Resources.”
I have found this to be completely true in congregations under 250 people in average attendance. Numerous Churches have no plan for regular evaluation of their preacher. Only a limited number have plans for how to remove a preacher that is not working out. Many have no idea how to hire a new preacher other than gut feelings. This is especially true the longer the former minister has been in the pulpit.
I say this for several reasons. One, I have had several Churches contact me in the last two weeks that I sent a resume to back in January. My personal experience has underlines this truth over and over. Two, most Church leaders are good Christians but not great business men in smaller congregations. They simply have not been trained how to do these needed tasks. Three, because of the nature of a “divine call” in ministry we hesitate to handle hiring and firing with any business sense. We walk a fine line of Christian faith and good human resource practices. Fourth, most Churches have no idea what they need to look for in a preacher. Usually they are trying to get a guy just like the last preacher or they are looking for the exact opposite. I am sure there are other reasons, but most Churches really struggle in the area of human resources.
So – here are my suggestions for Churches. First, have your leaders attend a human resource class if they can find one. (Bible Colleges should offer these at leadership conferences.) Two, read a book or two on human resources as a group. Do this when you have a minister so you are prepared for anything. Finally, ask around. See what other Churches are doing or what they have done. See what they learned. Go to a larger Church and ask them their practices.
When you have done all of your learning about hiring, evaluating and firing then take and type everything up. Edit it and refine it as you learn and grow. Have your plan in print and when that day comes that your preachers decides to move on or he goes home to the Lord, your Church will be ready.
I have this in my files and it is credited to Erma Bombeck in “Family — The Ties that Bind…and Gag.”
One of the best pictures I’ve ever seen on the current confusion of the placement of fathers comes from Erma Bombeck. She paints a portrait of a little girl who loved her dad but wasn’t sure what dads do:
One morning my father didn’t get up and go to work. He went to the hospital and died the next day. I hadn’t thought that much about him before. He was just someone who left and came home and seemed glad to see everyone at night. He opened the jar of pickles when no one else could. He was the only one in the house who wasn’t afraid to go into the basement by himself. He cut himself shaving, but no one kissed it or got excited about it. It was understood when it rained, he got the car and brought it around to the door. When anyone was sick, he went out to get the prescription filled. He took lots of pictures…but he was never in them. Whenever I played house, the mother doll had a lot to do. I never knew what to do with the daddy doll, so I had him say, “I’m going off to work now,” and threw him under the bed.
The funeral was in our living room and a lot of people came and brought all kinds of good food and cakes. We had never had so much company before. I went to my room and felt under the bed for the daddy doll. When I found him, I dusted him off and put him on my bed. He never did anything. I didn’t know his leaving would hurt so much.