Thursday, August 29, 2013

“For each one of us, there is only one thing necessary: to fulfill our own destiny, according to God's will, to be what God wants us to be.” ― Thomas Merton

I grew up in the church through high school, even thought about the ministry.  But then came the '60's, college, sex, drugs, rock and roll, and the church (in my opinion) was on the side of segregation, hate, war, and embroiled in internal politics.  I rejected it, left it for good, I thought, and went my own way teaching in the ghetto in Los Angeles, working with mental health, and, yes, writing for Hollywood and TV and making big money.  Then, in the '80's, moved to Arkansas to pursue a Ph.D. in English and started going back to church (at the insistence of my wife).  That led in just a few years to teaching Sunday School, leading the university fellowship group, and becoming a part-time pastor of a rural congregation.  Then on to seminary at Boston University and twenty years as a parish pastor, before becoming an unpaid evangelist and missionary.  I am still an unpaid evangelist and missionary and have become a bishop (soon to be one of five Methodist Bishops covering the whole country) of the Mara and Mwanza regions.  When I was twenty, I swore I would never again become a Christian.  When I was forty, I swore I would never become a pastor.  At fifty, I swore I would never become a missionary, and at sixty, swore I would never become a bishop.  The moral seems to be not to swear (which is one of the Ten Commandments).  When you read the parable of the prodigal son, you are reading about me, and the "far country" is Hollywood.  I never thought the terms "decent," "good," "caring," and "selfless" would ever apply to me.  I don't think of myself that way, but others have used those terms to describe me (in the last twenty years at least).  It seems strange that one who fought so hard against the working of the infrastructure of the church would now be one who is reshaping it in Tanzania to become a potent force for Christianity and the expansion of God's Kingdom.  I don't consider myself a good enough man to be a part of this, but others will not allow me to ignore the task ahead of me.  Just want you to know how humbled I am, how non-deserving of any honor, yet how willing to follow where God leads me as I hold His people in my heart.  Thank you to all who have prayed for me and continue to--for I can do nothing without others "praying me through" what lies ahead.  God bless all who listen to God before they listen to others or their own self interests.  When Abraham led Isaac up the mountain, the ram was already caught in the thicket.  Amen.

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