Ten years ago tonight we had just completed our first day pastoring at Gateway Covenant Church.
Our house was full of boxes, we couldn't find anything, and we were trying to get our small kids into their beds because tomorrow would be their first day at a new school.
I was excited, but worried. God's leading us here was so clear as to be considered miraculous. That clarity would be drawn on over the years of work here to reaffirm our call here. Actually during my early days I honestly thought that eventually I would be invited to leave here. People were hurt and wounded and that can result in violent self preserving responses when they feel cornered.
Perhaps that was why, when I was overwhelmed late one Sunday night, I poured out my heart, asking God what he wanted me to do here. Distinctly I heard, as if he was right there, that all he required of me was to love them.
No big plans, no miraculous insights, no huge amazing turnarounds here. Just do what every pastor is asked to do for the people they care for, love them.
How many times I have failed at that. How often I have asked God if he has seen this or that, and he wants me to love?
If there is any redemptive quality from love, and I know there is, it has come in spite of me rather than because of me.
Within the first month here I had two funerals to do. That was two more than I had to do in my previous church during the previous ten years. The funerals were such that the emotional demands they placed on me were completely overwhelming.
The first was a 16 year old boy who was found hanging in his closet, dead. The pain of that loss, meeting with his parents, his friends, his dad who found him, was to me nearly unbearable. The funeral with over 300 wailing weeping lost kids, I'll never forget that.
The second was an elderly lady in the congregation who was dieing of cancer. She was the first I would walk with, through cancer, into death. Her son was in the Cabinet of the ruling political party here in Saskatchewan, and when the day for her funeral came, so did his friends and coworkers. The Premier of the province, along with the Cabinet all flew in for the funeral. They introduced themselves to me and all took their place in the front row. That too I'll never forget.
Since then we've gone on to walk with a number of friends through illness and disease, into death. I've prayed for them all, hard, asking God to spare them. His answers have been complete and good, just different than mine.
We've baptised believers and dedicated children, served the bread and cup, preached, taught, met with, drank coffee with, counselled, prayed for, encouraged, watched out for, married, fed, held secrets for, and tried to love these people God has given me to care for.
Ten years worth.
Last week while visiting an individual, she brought up the subject on how much we have changed as a church. She said she felt we were so much more gentle. We were relaxed and more caring about one another now. I had to agree, we've come a long way and we have much to rejoice over. This place is a great place to live and love and serve. The people are very caring.
Now, as tricky as this work can be occasionally because it's about people, tonight as I reflect on it, it's the kind of thing I've wanted to pour my life into, long term. It's the way I have chosen to spend my life and I am grateful to have had the chance to live this way.
And God has been faithful, in spite of me.
No there have been no big sudden turn-arounds, no quick cures, just a long slow movement towards God which I believe causes a deeper truer change anyway.
Ten years done.
I wonder what the next ten years will hold.