Those of you who know me well know how much I enjoy old-fashioned, relationship-based pastoral visitation.
I've always thought it a unique privilege that pastors can practice the ministry of presence simply by being with people, hearing their stories, and adding a biblical perspective to the conversation.
Sadly, the larger a congregation grows, the less such visitation is possible, let alone practical. Add to that the fact that city dwellers in the 21st Century are not exactly clamoring for people to visit in their homes after dark, and you can see how my schedule and priorities have changed.
Why do I tell you all this?
We have recently had a group from Bhutan begin attending Good Shepherd. They come as part of a larger group from The Neighborhood Good Samaritan Center, located on the east side of Charlotte. Our partnership with the Good Samaritan Center is one of our most vibrant, and their presence adds much to the spirit of our 11:30 worship service.
Yet I don't simply want to preach to these new friends; I want to know them. So on Wednesday, Ron Dozier and I journeyed over to Sharon Amity Rd. to practice the ministry of presence with our new congregants. It took two translators, many smiles, and the shared greeting of "Namaste," but we at least approached our goal.
But here's the best part of the story: most of the these Bhutanese neighbors are political refugees who have sought sanctuary in the U.S. and in Charlotte. And what did they help us do this past Sunday? Prepare and package 193,000 meals for famine-stricken Uganda, where the food will be delivered to . . . refugees.
Refugees helping refugees. In the midst of Good Shepherd Church.
That's even better than old-fashioned, relationship-based pastoral visitation.