In the nature of the case, missionaries must be thankful people. Being the “stretching arm” of the church that is sent around the world to minister to other parts of the body of Christ – this calling inevitably means that one is placed in a situation of perfect and complete dependence on the other members of the body.
As we near the finish line of our fund-raising efforts, it is incredibly sweet to think of all the senders we have met and partnered with, whose hearts were moved by what we plan to do. I have often said that my sense of calling is largely an awareness that I have been called by others to do this job. So many people want this mission to happen, and they have entrusted our family with it.
Chief among them is Fr. Mike Fitzpatrick, the rector of Grace Church, Collingdale. He has visited our parish in Cincinnati several times, and knows everyone in the REC’s NEMA diocese. He is a gentle and kindly man, truly a father figure for his parish and for the African students of Christ Academy, the school that meets in his church.
Fr. Mike wants us to go to the Philippines. And while his parish is considering us for financial support, he has already used the best treasure he had for us: his friendships with other REC rectors. He made phone calls and arranged visits for us. He opened up the whole diocese for us, and led us to make many new friends who are also eager for us to go. They in turn are now very dear to us, and we look forward to visiting them again when we get back from the mission field. Without Fr. Mike, we would not have met them.
When we visited Philadelphia this week, he arranged for us to be put up (for 9 nights!) by one of the teachers at his school, Mrs. Miller. He bought us pizza. He gave us money to visit a museum in downtown Philadelphia during one of our free afternoons. He loved our kids and was a blessing to them, understanding in his own heart that it is difficult for kids to be “dragged around” from church to church on deputation visits.
Fr. Mike is also an inspiration to me as a pastor. The stories he can tell of his adventures in the service of his parishioners, with their troubles as immigrants and residents of pretty rough parts of town, are simultaneously hair-raising and heartwarming. He has a real heart for the immigrant families in his parish, and he does for them the same thing he did for us: he lets their needs be known and gives his friends opportunities for good works. He is a shepherd. He cares for his sheep. Some pastors want to be Bible scholars, or great orators, or dispensers of sacraments, and they neglect pastoral care. But for Fr. Mike, it is at the core of his ministry.
Thank you, Fr. Mike! Without you, we would not be able to do what we are about to go and do.