My ministry on campus is made possible by generous individuals and churches who support the ministry. One of these churches is a tiny church in rural Illinois, about 4 miles from the Indiana border. It is named after the town it is in, Cheneyville Christian Church, but the town is so small that the address is Hoopeston, the closest town with a post office. I was pastor there part-time during my first year of seminary (2002-2003). The church had about 12 regulars on Sunday including one kid, two middle-aged adults and the rest over the age of sixty.
After financially supporting my ministry for the last five years they recently told me they can no longer, as a “dwindling” congregation, afford to. Here is my thank you letter to them. I post it here because it gives a glimpse into the impact small churches can make and it also shows how grateful we campus ministers are to those who support us.
Thank you SO MUCH for your support of my ministry over the past six years. You all have been a tremendous blessing to my life.
I recall coming to you back in the fall of 2002 (wow, almost 10 years ago) fresh out of Penn State University. Unlike many at Lincoln Christian Seminary I did not go to Bible college. I had never been taught how to prepare a sermon. But you all gave me a chance to preach and pastor. I will be forever grateful for that alone.
When I was called back to Penn State to work in campus ministry in 2005 I decided to ask you all to partner in the ministry. We had not had much contact in my last two years of seminary as I worked in youth ministry at another church. Plus, even then the church was small and I figured with over thirty previous ministers having gone through, there were probably others that you supported. But why not ask? The worst you could do was say no.
To my surprise, you began giving $100 a month and continued for over five years. That makes you one of my top supporting churches. I have fond memories of visiting you a couple times to say thank you in person. In the future, if I am ever passing through the area I will drop by and say hello again on some Sunday morning. The road from eastern Pennsylvania does not easily lead to Hoopeston, Illinois but who knows, maybe I’ll find may way.
If I don’t, I am confident that we will see one another again on the other side of this life. A day will come when the veil is removed and we see God face to face. In that time and place where there will be no more suffering and death, I look forward to embracing each of you for the part you played in my life and ministry.
You will continue to be in my prayers. I imagine that after all these years even though the financial support is ending, you will keep me and my family in yours. And know that when I share stories of small, apparently weak people and communities who made huge impacts both in my life and in the world, perhaps when I share such stories with my daughter, I will mention you and your work.
I will leave you with a passage from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians which has been on my mind since I began writing this:
1:26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
Thank you and may Christ bless and keep you,