This past November 15th, I celebrated not only my birthday, but the 5th anniversary of the start of my ministry here in Houston. Wow. Half a decade a Texan, having come from the Pacific NW, and before that NYC. I give pause and reflect on two things – half a decade in Houston – and half a decade in ministry. I’ll reflect on the latter first.
Half a Decade in Ministry
Last weekend I shared with an experienced minister and professor that I just finished my fifth year in ministry in one place, and he remarked, “That just about ends the hazing period.” I’ve heard much the same – 5 years is only the beginning of ministry. One thing I wish people knew about ministry is that the job acclimation period doesn’t take a few months, but several years, and if it doesn’t work out, the chronic uprooting and instability can wreak havoc on a family’s life. Longevity and perseverance are required. Some of the challenges are our own – personal shortcomings / unaddressed issues (ministry is not for the unhealthy and unwhole!) but a significant part of it is also due to the systemic strains, leadership challenges, gossip, emotional triangles, vision & value battles. Ministry is not for the faint of heart. I am fortunate to have the congregation I serve in a place that has been very good to my family and I – and that leads to the other piece – half a decade of ministry in Houston.
Half a Decade in Houston – and the Stranger in our midst…
Having lived on the West and East Coast for significant portions of my life, I can truly say the South has continued to welcome my family and I with open arms, and has continually been so kind to us.
It is true that Houston is church-saturated. But it is also true that Houston continues to grow exponentially, drawing from all over the country and all over the world. Never have I lived in a place so internationally diverse as Katy. The world has come here, and the church needs to serve the world. I see the present refugee crisis & Islamiphobia as a test – not for the general public, but for the church in particular. I am one Christian who is not for the anti-immigrant rhetoric. I see the challenges, yes, but I believe the way forward is relationship, not retrenchment; friendship, not fear. This may not make sense to the world, but the church is not called to live by the world’s standards.
I for one, am willing to build concrete and significant friendships & relationships with Muslims and people of different ethnic backgrounds – right here in Katy! I am called as a Christian to do so. For Jesus, the notion of “neighbor” and “good Samaritan” was not so much the identity of the neighbor (the ethnicity of the victim himself is never revealed in the passage) but what it means to behave like a neighbor – and surprisingly, it was the least expected one in the passage to do so. Don’t be surprised, Katy, TX, if the acts of kindness and community activism come from the stranger in your midst.