Preparing the way

Dear Friends:
When things don’t come easy or trouble comes my way, is it God discipling me or preparing me?  That question often comes to my mind, because in my 34 years of ministry, full-time ministry, nothing seems to come easy and at every turn there seems to be a challenge or an event that could shut my ministry down!    I wonder often is it because I have failed to heed His commands, or I am not as holy and focused upon Him as I should be, or I am not listening carefully enough.  And after I examine those possibilities the only other reason I can imagine a sovereign and all-loving God would allow suffering to occur is that He is preparing me for something, or allowing my struggles and desperate times to become an inspiration to someone looking for God. I have seen all three of these possibilities over the past year, but I am hoping that in 2017, I experience less disciplining and more preparation for more awesome service.
Today I was able to taste some of what it means to be “in service” and of use to Him in ministry. We had 35 youth and adults join us for the weekend from a local Catholic church Sunday and today. The kids were genuinely respectful  and well-behaved. After supper last night I invited any that were willing to join me this morning (7:00 am) in the kitchen to prepare breakfast.  About ten hands went up but I did not expect many to be there. To my surprise, ALL of them were there at 6:30 am——and it all 13-15 year old boys!  Those teenagers worked for one hour to make the entire breakfast with no horse-play or lessening up. I was incredibly impressed. But it occurred to me it took more of my time and energy to show them how to make the scrambled eggs, how to use the commercial mixer to mix the dough, how to arrange the fruit, how to heat the ovens, etc. etc. etc. In truth I did nothing but teach ten boys how to cook in a commercial kitchen (Please do not share this blog with our local Health Department Inspectors).  After the preparation, I met with the boys, thanked them, told them that work was  a good thing and to never think otherwise and prayed for them. After breakfast I asked for other volunteers to help prepare lunch and twelve more volunteered and dutifully showed up on time, and just like the first group worked industriously and without complaining—-with JOY—in preparing lunch.
It occurred to me that what I offered them might have been more, in terms of solid ministry, than the six or seven hours of  confirmation classes they attended. I am not saying that I was the hero of the weekend, but in allowing these boys to do what I could easily and more efficiently have done myself, they left here with a better appreciation of who they are, why they are here and the satisfaction that comes from serving!  You CANNOT acquire that lesson by merely listening to a priest or pastor or reading a book. 
As the youth left after the lunch meal, they were laughing, running, smiling, happy and had performed an act of service at a special place called The Vineyard. They may never come here again, but I would wager that they remember the satisfaction that was theirs because they served.  What a blessing to serve in a place like this.
Dean Barley

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