A Fabulous Surprise Party

In the midst of a very full week - a surprise party takes your breath away.   What a joy to walk into church tonight and discover a party for me!   Wow - I was stunned.   Many thanks to everyone who made this night happen.  I am so touched.

I came to church with the thought that I was attending one more meeting....ugh.   And to top it off, I did not know why we were meeting and did not have an agenda, and it was frustrating.   No control.   I also had to keep an eye on Brandon as the girls were supposedly all out shopping.   We get to church and of course Brandon runs off.   Darn kid.

Then I'm told the meeting is upstairs, and there are no lights on....which was appropriate as I was completely in the dark.   Upon entering - lights come on - there are all these people - and my mouth drops and I am stunned and speechless.  My first thought was my birthday was a month ago, what's up.     Then, Linda informs me that this is a party for my thirtieth anniversary of being an ordained pastor.   WOW.

There is food - lots of food (including not one, but two dishes of lima beans, which I had mentioned in a sermon two weeks ago as a food I only get at Thanksgiving).   There is a cake, and a room full of people.   Oh my.

A couple of weeks ago I drove by Lancaster Theological Seminary which I attended for 3 years and graduated from in 1981.   It seems like so long ago.  Our daughter Jennifer was born while I was a student there.   Great memories.   Yet, as I drove by the school I realized I have almost no contact with anyone from my graduating class.   It is of the past.

I have been blessed to serve at three different churches during these 30 years - and there are great memories and good friendships and relationships that still exist.  Each church has allowed me to grow in my ministry, each church family has welcomed me and trusted me.   I have been blessed.

This is my 19th year here in South Haven.  Two-thirds of my ministry has been here, and God willing, many more years are still to come.

As I looked around the room, there were a number of folks from the search committee that invited me to South Haven.  Greg O'Niel, who hosted our family on our call weekend, spoke tonight.  His leadership and friendship have been wonderful.  There were many there who were in leadership positions when I first came.   For 19 years they have served along side me.

Filling the room were some who had just joined the church this past Sunday (8 new members, including our daughter Keyana, her guy Brandon and her son Donelle) others who joined in the past year or so - and many others who have joined since I arrived.  

Children I have baptized and confirmed - and some I have performed their weddings.   Many individuals I have been with through tough times, and many I have officiated at funerals.  This church family has supported Lynn and I as our family has grown and grown.   You have welcomed all of our children and nurtured them and cared for the,.  

We have gone through times of wondering about finances and we are currently enjoying a time of generous blessings and great energy.   

Throughout it all, we have stayed strong as a church family.  We eat and pray together, sing and study, serve and grow.  And I could not feel more blessed than I do right now.    

To all who made this night so festive, so warm, and so joy filled  thank you.   For sharing your night with me, and for inviting me into your lives, I am so honored and feel so privileged.   Thank you.

I look forward to serving in ministry with all of you for a long time to come.   I can't imagine being anywhere else.

Thank you for this honor.