I’m currently deep into my first season of doing Charge Conferences/All-Church Conferences as a Missional Strategist & Superintendent. As a pastor, I was always grateful when my conference was completed. I’m not sure what I think of God’s sense of humor now that I get to participate in 29 conferences! I feel a little bit of remorse that I never fully appreciated my previous Superintendent’s hard work during Charge Conference season. To all of the Superintendents that I have served with in the Desert Southwest Conference, Alaska Missionary Conference, and the Texas Conference, I want to take this opportunity to give you a belated thank-you!
Without a doubt, Charge Conference season has greatly affected my schedule! I have become a frequent traveler, which includes many late-night journeys. In one month I have put about 4,000 miles on my car. My most common route includes going east on highway 10 towards El Paso, then cutting south at Benson. During this season it has become a regular occurrence for me to eat supper around 10:00 PM on my trek home. This usually happens at the Subway in the truck-stop just off 10 in Benson. I have done this often enough that both the staff at Subway, and those working in the truck-stop, recognize me. I’m also starting to recognize them.
One of the surprises that I had was when I asked the person working at Subway about their hours. She said that they are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year. She then said that Christmas Eve is a very long evening. This was an eye-opening moment for me. It has never dawned on me that they are always open at the truck-stop. Always. I’m wondering what opportunities might be there for ministering to them? Christmas Eve might be one of those times for us as the United Methodist Church to reach out to their staff.
I’m trying to be more sensitive in noticing the people around me, and the challenges that they face. This last time that I sat in the truck-stop eating my supper, I started noticing just how many semis were parked in the parking lot. There were a tremendous number of trucks out there! Not too long ago I read about a couple who built a mobile chapel that they pull with a semi. They intentionally go to truck stops to reach out to drivers. I wonder how often we really don’t see all of those truck drivers? I posted the article on my Facebook page suggesting that we should do this in the South District. One of my good friends responded that this is something that we could do, and that he would be glad to help build it. He was the only one who responded. It’s interesting to note that this friend doesn’t attend church.
I am now into my 9th year serving in the South District. I think that last year I would have been comfortable in saying that I was pretty familiar with the South District. Now I know that statement wasn’t true. There are so many South District churches that I am visiting for the very first time! I love getting to learn their stories and hearing their challenges. Some of our churches are experiencing incredible excitement within their ministry settings. We have some other churches, though, who are saying that they don’t know if they can survive to the end of 2018. Are we noticing them? Do we care about their struggles?
It is tempting to just worry about our own problems, but that is not the example that Jesus set for us. Like it or not, we are all connected! Part of the blessing that God gives us is that we get to care about each other, and strengthen one another. Who are we seeing that is facing challenges? How are we going to respond? Doing nothing is just not an option when we are following Jesus!
Your brother on the journey, Mark