Tom Albright, Whitehall
It is 9:00 a.m. on Sunday morning; I am eight years old and walking across the lawn from our house to our church’s Sunday School. Mrs. Dech, my teacher, is playing the worn upright piano – Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy In Jesus, but to trust and obey… Later she will be using the flannel graph and I’ll try to pay attention, but the wall of windows in the folding doors makes me wonder what all the kids out there are doing. Mrs. Dech seems so old, but I believe she loves us despite the fact there are a lot of active boys in this class and we do not always pay attention.
It is 10:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning; I am18 years old and fast asleep at Muhlenberg College. Campus Worship services do not begin until one o’clock in the afternoon, but I will not be going. Our religion professor has made me question much of what I learned of God, the Bible, and faith. He indicates to us that the Bible is a flawed book filled with mythical stories. I wonder…and not wanting to be a hypocrite, I choose to stay in bed until I can figure all of this out.
It is 11:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning; my wife and I are preparing for our baptisms. I am 34 years old. We have two small children and have been attending a Mennonite church, after searching for a place where our children will be able to learn and we’ll be able to grow spiritually.
I accepted Christ as my Savior in college, following an intellectual search for truth and finding that truth in Jesus. We had been active in a large Presbyterian church but were looking for something more personal. We would never have known the Mennonite church in Whitehall existed if a small postcard had not been delivered in the mail. My wife suggested we go, but I informed her you had to be born into that kind of church. Besides Mennonites dress strangely, and I was not even sure of their theology. My wife assured me that one of the ladies in the photo on the card attended a community Bible study and she seemed quite normal. I reluctantly agreed and now, a year later, here we are in a pool celebrating our baptisms.
It is 12:00 p.m. on a Sunday morning; we are meeting in our home with a group of five people from our community. We call this meeting “Ripple Effects”. Lunch has been cleared and we are asking about their week. A young man shares that he went to church when he was small and realized in his teen years it was a place filled with hypocrites. A woman with two children shares her grief over her husband leaving her and asking for a divorce. I wonder, “God, what am I doing here, what are they doing here? Surely you have people who know how to answer, help, and care for these people better than I can.”
No answer except that still, small voice encouraging us to keep going. We listen to their stories, their pain and joy. “How should I point them to you? Maybe I should just tell them my story. All right, Lord, I’ll tell them I had a Sunday school teacher named Mrs. Dech who taught a group of active children…”
I realize that, if ministry is a river, I am standing in the middle of it and wondering how I got out this far. I know I am called to ministry because I believe all followers of Jesus are called to minister. I see my life as preparation leading to this time, place, and calling. I know it is the Holy Spirit’s leading, preparing, and protecting that has gotten me safe this far and I know he will continue to lead. And so through the grace and mercy of God I continue to reach out in his name as pastor of community outreach for Whitehall Mennonite church and its emerging ministry, Ripple Effects