We Need Each Other

As a young worship leader in college, I started dating a girl who later became my wife.  As she and I grew in our relationship, we discovered that we loved serving the Lord together.  She helped me with church productions and I served on the drama team that she led.  When our relationship became very serious, I grew frightened at the idea of a lifelong commitment, so I broke up with her.  After a few months, I realized that my life was empty without her.  I knew that we had to spend the rest of our lives together.  God meant for us to be together.  We needed each other.

Two years after we were married, we went to serve as missionaries in Central Asia.  We soon found that our personalities clashed with many of the other Americans there.  We felt like we had made a terrible mistake in moving around the world to serve with these people.  However, we were still learning the language and we needed their help to survive.  They needed teachers for their school and they needed help in planting a church.  As difficult as it was for us all, we forced ourselves to get along.  For whatever reason, God had us together for that season.  We needed each other.

A couple of years later, back in the U.S., I found myself working in a small church with an older pastor.  As a young man with lots of energy, I worked hard and tried to implement lots of positive changes to the church’s ministry.  I soon discovered, after falling into bed one night in total exhaustion, that my efforts were pointless.  The pastor and I were not working together.  After some time, we managed to improve our communication and started to involve each other in worship planning, special projects, and ongoing ministry.  It took a long time for me to understand that God had placed both of us in the same church and therefore we could accomplish much more if we worked together.  Even though we were from different generations, we needed each other.

In all of my formal ministry training, no one ever taught me that I needed other people.  My professors taught me about systematic theology, music history, and pragmatic choral procedures, but I never learned that most ministry does not take place on the stage in front of people.  Hence, I never realized, until I was serving in ministry, that it’s mostly about people.  I thought I had to do all the ministry myself.  I thought I had to be a Christian Ministry Superman.  But it’s not about me.  It’s not about you.  It’s about the Lord.  It’s about pleasing Him.  And I’ve come to understand that I can’t do it alone.  Even if I worked twice as long and twice as hard, I would still need help.  There will always be one more service to plan, one more soul to win, one more drummer to be find, one more set to build, one more message to plan, etc…  I will never get it all done by myself.  You will never get it all done by yourself.

We need each other.

How I Beat The ABATE Motorcycle Group

“They’ve taken over,” I said to Brice, my college buddy and fellow summer missionary.

We looked across the softball field.  It was covered with leather and chain clad bikers and about thirty Harleys.  Many of them had the word ABATE written across their jackets.  Most days, I would have just walked by while trying to keep from making eye contact.  However, this was not going to be most days.  You see, Brice and I had the responsibility of leading a softball game every afternoon at four.

I looked at my watch.  It was 3:57.

“Maybe nobody else will show up to play,” he whispered to me.

Almost on cue, we noticed three families walking toward the field carrying ball gloves.

“No such luck,” I repeated.

“Let’s go talk to them,” he said.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Why not?  What’s the worst that could happen.”

“They could take our bats and club us with them.”

“Come on,” he said.

Slowly, we walked onto the field, looking like two college dweebs compared to these guys.  I noticed one of the bikers rolling his eyes.  Another cracked his knuckles.  Nobody was smiling.

“Hi,” I said weakly.  “How’s it going?”

“It’s hot,” said one of the bikers, wiping his sweat with a bandanna.

“Yeah,” said Brice.  “It sure is.”

The same biker, he must have been the spokesman for the group, looked at our badges with a frown.

“Something we can do for you fellas?” he asked.

Timidly, I responded, “Well, uh, yeah.  You see, everyday at four, we, uh, lead a softball game right here.”

For a moment, the bikers just looked at us in silence.

I continued.  “You see, it’s uh, almost four, uh, right now.”

“Yeah?” said one of the bikers.  “What about it?”

Brice smiled and asked, “Do you guys want to play?  We’ve got plenty of extra gloves.”

The members of ABATE once again stared at us and then at each other.

Finally, one of the members smiled and said, “Nothing else to do in this heat.  Sounds like fun.  Come on, guys.  Let’s get these bikes off the field.”

Within a few minutes, we had chosen up teams (we made two bikers the team captains) and were playing ball.  Many of the members of ABATE could really hit the ball hard, but their jeans, leather, and chains kept them from running very fast.  Some of the bikers even had their lady friends run the bases for them.

By the end of the game, however, we weren’t summer missionaries, park staff, campers, and bike members.  We were all just people playing a game, having fun.

I learned a big lesson from Brice that day.  When people seemingly place themselves between you and your goals, sometimes the best solution is to involve them in your process.

By the way, my team won the game that day.  That’s how I beat the ABATE Motorcycle group.  Well, at least half of them.  The other half of them were on my team.

Additional Note:

Years after the above event happened, my friend Brice shared with me that the word abate actually means to reduce in amount, degree, intensity, etc.; lessen; diminish. Despite that connotation, I’ve learned that ABATE stands for American Bikers Active Toward Education. In addition to riding, they participate in motorcycle safety education as well as other charitable and humanitarian activities.

 

A funny thing happened while waiting in line to fill my tank

           

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to spend 8 days in Haiti, working with Mountain Top Ministries (MTM) in a city called Gramothe 4500 feet above sea level.  While there, I worked with a team of doctors, nurses, medical personnel, and general flunkies (where I fit in) to run a medical clinic for a week and participate in the local church worship services.

While working with MTM, the director Willem Charles drove us to the capital city of Port au Prince and drove by the tent cities that were built as a result of the 2010 earthquake.  Calling these dwellings “tents” is really generous, since most of them seemed to be pieces of tarp and plastic tied together with string and rope that basically kept the rain and sun off of their heads.  As we stopped by one of the entrances, children ran out to where we were, hoping for some type of handout.  Many of them wore either a t-shirt or a pair of underwear.  Some of them were naked.

Today, as I drove to a local gas station in my comfortable air-conditioned car to top off my tank just in case of evacuation, my thoughts suddenly went to the people who live in the tent cities of Haiti.  I wondered what it must have been like for them to go through the tropical winds and rains of Isaac with only a flimsy piece of plastic over their heads.  I imagine that it’s not much different than if they’d been outside in the storm in a raincoat.

I read today that 8 Haitians lost their lives in Isaac.  I’m glad that the number wasn’t higher than it was.  I’m surprised that it wasn’t.

Then, I thought of those people who live in New Orleans who have no transportation to evacuate if they were called to do so.  I think of the homeless people living underneath the raised interstate in Orleans parish, hoping for the opportunity to sleep in a real bed in a real building over the next few nights.  I think of the medical emergency personnel who will ride out the storm in the local hospitals, even if everyone else is called upon to evacuate.

Lord, bless the nations of Haiti and the United States.  Help the people of Port au Prince recover from Tropical Storm Isaac even as the people of New Orleans prepare for Hurricane Isaac.  Bless both groups of people.  Help us all to trust in You.

*To read more about Tropical Storm Isaac in Haiti, check out http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/26/hurricane-isaac-2012-haiti-death-toll-7_n_1831449.html

*To learn more about Mountain Top Ministries in Haiti, check out http://www.mtmhaiti.com/