The beginning of 2016 has brought a busy season for me and my ministry. A number of special events, trips, normal gatherings, meetings, and demands of life have flooded all the hours of my days. I don’t say this as a complaint but as a reality. In the midst of these demanding moments of ministry I take a moment and realize just how tired I feel. Other moments, however, reveal just how full I feel. Full of life, passion, and love for these people with whom I get to share life.
I had one of those moments last Thursday night around the kitchen table in the home of someone in my group called The Gap. The Gap consists of college and post-grad aged young adults who found each other at First Baptist Abilene. Some of us are in school or just out of school, others working, others looking for our life’s work and passion. All of us are young adults seeking to acknowledge God’s presence among us and take part in God’s work around us at FBC and in Abilene.
Sherry and her mother, Ping, regularly attend our gatherings and events and bring much to the life of FBC in service and ministry. They moved to Abilene from China for Sherry to attend the music school at our local university, Hardin-Simmons, as she is an incredibly gifted pianist. Sherry is not only immersed in a different culture but is also blind. Her mother speaks little English but faithfully attends our group with Sherry. I have learned so much from Sherry and Ping since they began attending The Gap in the fall and have found my life to be enriched by their friendship and example of perseverance and thankfulness.
They both joined myself and a group of young adults from The Gap on a Winter Retreat to Glorieta, New Mexico. Our retreat consisted of skiing, sledding, movie watching, puzzle constructing, and lots of eating! Any member of The Gap will tell you I believe good food is essential to any gathering and Winter Retreat was no exception. We feasted! Ping especially enjoyed our fireside ritual of roasting marshmallows. She excitedly offered to roast everyone’s marshmallows for them and she was quite skilled at the art.
After returning to Abilene and into our normal routines, Sherry and Ping invited myself and several others from the trip to their home to share in their own version of a feast. While we devoured fajitas, spaghetti and burgers in Glorieta, Sherry and Ping worked all day to present a spread of authentic Chinese cuisine. There was a dish to please any palate and more than enough for each of us to stuff ourselves and take a plate home upon the insistence of Ping. The table was bursting with bowls and plates. Ping would get up and bring yet another course to the table just when we thought we couldn’t eat another bite. Obviously, we all continued eating as no one wanted to miss out on what was next.
In addition my enjoyment of the culinary beauty of this moment, I took in the moment of relational beauty. Just as we had laughed and rubbed our bellies in Glorieta over Tex-Mex, here we were in the kitchen of Ping and Sherry laughing and attempting to make room for dessert as we enjoyed the food of the place they call home. These moments happen time and time again as I have opportunity to share life with my friends from Bryan, Arlington, or Midland. Places as close as across town or as far as China bring me friends and fellow adventurers in life.
As ministers, we often have to embrace these moments when we forget how tired we are, sit with the thankfulness for the people in our lives and our ministries, and take another bite.