A couple weeks ago with Kevin out of the country for work and no particular geographic place I needed to be I packed up from DC and headed south toward North Carolina.
While I was in seminary I worked to keep my student debt at $0 as a student associate pastor at a rural United Methodist Church.
For two academic years, New Sharon United Methodist Church was my home.
It was a win-win for both the church and me, I believe. They got extra pastoral help. I got valuable experience as a pastor in an affirming environment. I taught them that all folks with Baptist roots aren’t crazy. They taught me the joys of entering deeply into their lives. We loved each other. And I made some life-long friends as a result of being a part of this community.
So, it feel natural to call some New Sharon church members who have abided in my life since then– and ask them if I could stay with them when I came to town. Tim and Debbie Smith were great to say “Yes!”
In being in North Carolina, the land of many trees, I remembered who I was. And I got a lot of writing done surrounded by good company and food.
Not only through the gracious hospitality of my hosts, but through numerous lunch and dinner conversations and even a visit back to choir practice at my old church.
I heard things like, “We still think of you all the time . . . We are so glad our paths crossed when they did. . . . I wish you lived closer.”
I even got to reconnect with an older church member, Bobbie Hunt who told me that she has a bookmark I gave her after my visit to Africa in 2005– and that she prays for me daily. Every time she sees the bookmark, she said that she prays for me! I was amazed and tears came to my eyes as I heard this. Not only did I have no idea I’d made any impression on her life, but to know of her daily prayers for me was amazing (especially considering so much of Kevin’s work with FTC is now in Africa!).
North Carolina was good for my soul.
I remembered I came from somewhere– including there.
I remembered that I have more people who love me than I realize from my current experience in a new place.
I remembered the joy that comes from the calling of being a particular group of people’s pastor.
I remembered that I have a home to go back to anytime I forget.
Durham, Hillsborough and New Sharon United Methodist friends, I love you. Thanks for reminding me again how much you love me too.