My role at Gallatin CARES Worship Center is very humbling. I am program coordinator for Spiritual Formation. Basically, I plan and create opportunities for the "members" of our mission congregation to receive spiritual care, love and learning. I also invite others into the doors of our "church" to give back and in turn receive as well. I get to love on God's people and sweep floors too. My job might be to help others but each and every day at CARES is a lesson for me and an opportunity to see God at work. God shows up.
It humbles me to go to work every single time I unlock the doors. God never ceases to amaze me. I've been told I'm fortunate to have such a great place to give back. But, as I think about it, it seems God is giving to me much more than I could ever give to his people. And, I am figuring out God has to make things really obvious for me. He gives me BIG examples at Gallatin CARES to remind me of his activity and that makes me never want to miss a moment of his amazing presence in that place. God shows up at CARES and I'm not the only one who has noticed it. This was told to me early on by a friend who used to attend a large congregation down the road from our little mission church but now regularly attends CARES Worship. When I asked him if he attended both churches, he replied no and confidently explained. He said, "I"m certain that when Jesus returns, he'll come to Gallatin CARES before he would visit my previous congregation and so this (CARES) is where I want to be too."
Jesus may not have physically walked through the doors just yet, but God shows up every time those doors are open! There was the time that Jane, our pastor, and I were arranging chairs on a Tuesday afternoon. We had two very long pews and a bunch of mis-matched chairs to seat our congregants. They worked just fine, but we couldn't get the sanctuary seats turned the way we wanted and just threw our hands up and said we'd try another day. We left frustrated. The VERY NEXT morning, we received a tap on the door. The stranger asked if we could come to his church and pick up about 15 or 20 pews and use them in our church. His church was moving and they had tried to sell them, but no one was responding. He looked through the windows after driving by and saw our chairs. He wanted to GIVE us his church's pews! Needless to say, we picked up the pews and they look like they were made to fit our little church! God shows up at Gallatin CARES.
Then, there was the day just a few weeks ago that I was humbly reminded to keep my focus before the day barely began. I arrived that morning and when I looked down, I had on my black canvas tennis shoes. Oops! I was wearing blue and was supposed to have slipped on my blue canvas tennis shoes. My TOMS are my favorite "go to" slip-on shoe and I own pairs in a few colors. They aren't the most supportive, but they are comfortable, and they also give back so I love the concept of the company. I momentarily got frustrated with myself about wearing the wrong color shoes but went on about my day. Within an hour, one of my friends from church walked in. He lives a couple of miles away and doesn't have a car. He walks to work, to the grocery, to church. He is in recovery - physically, mentally, and spiritually. My friend asked me for a PAIR OF SHOES. Turns out he has only one pair of tennis shoes. All the walking he does around town had worn his out and he just wanted a "new to him" but used pair of shoes. We walked across the street together to the Gallatin CARES Thrift Store to find a pair of shoes for my friend (he didn't even care what color they were). I wore my perfectly fine pair of shoes (that didn't match my outfit) as I walked alongside my friend. There aren't really words for that walk but it was indeed a humbling moment.
God is showing up my friends, God is showing up. Have you seen him? Is he in your neighbor's shoes? Where can you look for him today?
“Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.” ― Mother Teresa
One thing that I’ve been reminded of a lot recently (in life and in ministry) is that dreams do not come to fruition overnight. It seems I meet dreamers who think their dreams will never come true or that their dream will not matter or help another person as they envision. I am guilty of not always acting on my dreams and letting them fade into the morning sun. But, I’m learning to pay better attention and to partner with God’s nudges to “do something” about them more often. Instead of letting these dreams and ideas we may not fully understand fade, maybe we just need to do something about them and let God decide if they are reality. Recently, I’ve seen one of my dreams collide with another dream at a local non-profit and it’s been an exciting and confirming experience.
For most of us, our dreams begin as nudges or feelings in the pit of our stomach to "do something." What began as an urge to "do something" in one community five years ago has turned into a dream not only for the dreamers but also for those locals without reliable health care.
A group of individuals began meeting to dream about providing health care for those in Wilson County who were working but did not have health insurance. This small group began researching local health clinics, recruiting volunteers and within a short period of time was offering basic health care for a very small fee in a local office building. What began as a dream, quickly turned into a 501(c)3 non-profit, Charis Health Center. Thanks to the hard work, passion, and vision of the volunteers, the center continues to grow.
In 2010, Charis added a part-time nurse practitioner as the first staff member thanks to grant funding. In 2012, they hired a part-time Executive Director, Karen Rudzinski, to continue dreaming alongside the Board of Directors and office volunteers to manage grants, funding, and volunteers. Just months ago, this booming non-profit closed the doors of that original office building and moved into a much larger and spacious vacated physician's office. No longer are the volunteers just getting by with available space, but they now have dedicated medical space to offer quality health care and a prayer room for spiritual care as well. The prayer room has been made available for patients, volunteers, and the community. Charis was founded on the belief that wellness incorporates body, mind, and spirit. This faith based clinic from the beginning wanted to offer space for both health care and spiritual care for their patients.
This is where my dream fits into the picture. My dream to "do something" began after years of personal health crises (one crisis after another including cancer, stroke, and brain surgery occurred in my 20's and 30's). God nudged me during my own healing to begin walking with others in 2010. The calling was to reach out and help others find healing and wholeness through spiritual care by offering spiritual direction and retreat leadership. Charis opened their doors for my practicum coursework and we are now partnering to offer spiritual care alongside primary health care for interested patients. Studies show that patients show greater motivation to complete the task of healing when their spiritual needs are met and that spiritual care may even help improve pain management.
The vision from just a few is now helping so many. It really is amazing how God can begin working on our hearts without the full details. Just this month, a local physician, Dr. Joseph Ozenne announced he is now volunteering as the clinic's medical director. According to Dr. Ozenne, the opportunity to more fully incorporate his faith into his medical practice has been a dream of his for some time. Without following that nudge from the Holy Spirit to do something, there would be no Charis Health Center for the patients, staff or volunteers. Since opening the doors in January 2008, Charis staff and volunteers have served more than 2,800 patients and provided over 7,800 office visits. I’d say that is doing something!
We often think our dreams are unlikely, improbable, and impossible. We think we can't make a difference by starting out with just one person in need or one part of a community. We get scared off by the big picture. In reality, only God can fulfill the dreams he places on our hearts. Have a dream? Like that amazing group of people who had a dream and a vision for starting Charis Health Center, maybe you should do something about yours.
What is your dream? Who will you share and invite into your dream?
Posted originally at MinistryMatters.com. Ministry Matters supports ministry leaders with resources, community, and inspiration. Follow them: @ministrymatters on Twitter | ministrymatters on Facebook
A friend of mine at Gallatin CARES who walks all over town - literally - is one of the most joyful people I know. He is also one of the most faithful members of our weekly Wednesday Bible Study and shows up no matter the weather, on foot.
I will also admit, he is the kind of friend that has had to grow on me. At first, I wasn't so sure how to respond to him. My friend, we will call him Jim, is full of excitement and praise - loud praise. The first few times I delivered the message at our Sunday service, I got multiple "Amens" and "Uh-huhs". I wasn't sure if he genuinely liked what I was saying or if he just liked that I was quick to get to my point and not very long-winded!
Jim will often interrupt me when I am leading Bible Study each week to be sure I don't miss any points. He also repeats much of what I say either because he wanted to make sure he understood or because he couldn't hear me the first time. Sometimes I have to kindly and clearly ask Jim to simply sit down and be quiet. Jim will give me a good hearty "Hello" and "How are you doing?" the moment he catches my eye, every time he sees me (or anyone in his path). Let's be honest, Jim, may not have been the most likely choice for a friend. The fact that he has daughters older than me is just one of the many differences in our lives. Jim and I have one thing in common, we both want to grow in our faith and sometimes that can be uncomfortable.
The week we practiced silence as a spiritual discipline in Bible Study was especially challenging for Jim. However, he practiced. Jim was the only member of our Bible Study to report back to me that he practiced his silence every single night that week. He did also follow up with how hard it was to practice silence (that got a good honest giggle from the other friends hearing his silence update). Jim wants to be in on the action. He wants to be included and part of a community. Jim wants to learn. Jim wants to give back.
Recently, Jim picked up his bag that he carries all over town and began digging to the bottom. He told me he had something special for me and I was not sure what he was going to pull out of that bag. It reminded me briefly of an episode of "Let's Make a Deal", but not being sure what he was digging for, I was a bit hesitant to reach out and receive. Jim pulled out a tiny container of Almond Joy coffee creamer (the kind you find at a gas station coffee bar). He held it up to me with a giant smile on his face and a giggle in his voice. He told me he wanted me to have this highly coveted flavor of creamer and asked if I drank coffee. I enthusiastically replied yes (which is a slight stretch of the truth since the closest I get to coffee is a Decaf Starbucks Via in my favorite Chocolate Mocha Smoothie). I said yes because I couldn't not receive this gift of joy - Almond Joy.
Christmas giving can be so routine. It can be stressful. Jim has taught me a lot. He has reminded me of the story of the widow's mite. He has taught me it is not about what I give, but how I give. I hope I can give this season with an ounce of the joy that Jim gives.
Mostly, I think that my unlikely friend, "Almond Jim", has taught me to receive. He has taught me it is indeed possible to receive in both the silence and the noise this Advent season.
May you find joy this Christmas!
This reflection was also posted at www.ministrymatters.com.
Whitney R. Simpson
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