Where did you grow up? How did where you grew up contribute to preparing you for life in small-town pastoral ministry
My earliest memories are in our home in the Philippine Islands where my parents were missionaries for eight years. After that my dad went into the pastorate where I observed first hand what was involved for the family. We moved into a small-town that needed a gospel preaching church, a town where we knew only my uncle and his family. I guess experiencing it gives a whole different perspective than reading about it!
Where have you served in ministry?
We actually started as missionary church planters in Southern Ireland. It was there that God really developed our “style” of relational ministry. My husband is particularly gifted in this area and I have learned through the years. After seven years there we moved to Guam to do an interim ministry. Since joining RHMA we have served in eight churches in Nebraska, Wyoming and Kansas.
Can you describe the particular culture in those areas and how that affected your ministry there?
Being in the same geographical area there were many similarities, all small towns with struggling churches that we worked to establish. Most were agricultural areas and some were ranching communities, all with the rural mind set. The best way to get to know folks was to jump in and work with them where possible. It takes a while to earn the trust needed to minister to their lives. But they can be the most loyal of friends once the “stranger” barrier is broken. They were most always very private people so it took time for the sharing of hearts. Almost all were deeply grateful to have a resident pastor.
How did God bring you to a place of serving in small-town/rural ministry?
Perhaps being raised in rural areas we were most aware of the spiritual need there. In reality, it wasn’t our choice at all, but God’s. He directed us to these small towns.
Did you have any sort of “calling” in this? If so, describe the circumstances.
I don’t think we had a particular calling to this, just a determination to go wherever God sent us. He, of course, knew that our gifting and abilities would be best used in the rural setting.
How did God bring you and your husband together to serve in this way?
We met at Bible School and both had told the Lord to lead wherever He wanted us. When He brought us together it was just a continuation of that. In fact that was one of the important things that actually attracted us to each other.
Did you have any particular areas of ministry in which you served in your church and community and what led you to those decisions?
In each church I tended to concentrate on the area of need. In most places that involved children’s ministry, ladies’ Bible studies, and worship music. Particularly in the area of children’s work I tried to train others so that we could have several helping out.
What has been one of your greatest challenges in this ministry context and how did you persevere in it?
As I have noted before, ours is a relational ministry. In one church the people were not interested in a relationship. They just wanted a pastor and wife to do the things needed on Sundays – preaching, Sunday School, etc. This not only hampered the way God usually used us, it also was hurtful. We loved them and tried to pour our life into them but there was always this barrier.
What did God teach you through it?
In order to prevent repeated heartbreak in that situation I hardened my heart towards them and just went through the motions of ministry. One day I cried out to God that His presence seemed far away from me and I missed Him so much! He let me know that the wall I built for self preservation was also keeping Him out. With many tears I confessed that to Him and He freely forgave, renewing our close relationship. Then He asked me if I could just love the people without expecting anything in return. With His help I was able to. I will have to say that I was glad when He moved us on to the next place!
What has been one of your greatest blessings in this ministry context and how has that affected your perspective of small-town and rural ministry?
The greatest blessing to me is always watching someone respond to God’s call to walk with Him. Seeing the baby steps that grow into maturity is what keeps me going! No matter how miserable a situation may be, if there is someone growing under our teaching and discipling, it all seems worth it.
If you could give a piece of advice to other rural and small-town pastors’ wives, what would it be and why?
Hang in there! Hold tight to Jesus! This is not a walk in a rose garden, but a spiritual war that is taking place. Hold on to the things that encourage you personally, pull them out and look at them once in a while. Prioritize your personal time with the Lord. None of us has it in us to accomplish this in our own strength!
Another important thing to remember as a young wife with children, don’t ignore your own children to love on and minister to other children. The years pass so quickly and you don’t get a second chance to train your own children. Sometimes when things were difficult I could get sidetracked on mothering. Just not being totally there for their needs. God pointed it out to me and I had to confess and forsake that. But I could never get the wasted opportunities back!
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