Waves and Saves

20 Feb

    I like to take my sailfish or canoe out on the lake.  It’s a pleasant and peaceful way to spend a couple hours of the day.  Sometimes, however, a strong wind will spring up, sending choppy waves my way.  Then my limited sailing skills are challenged as I tack into the wind or head across the waves.  I have capsized the sailfish more than once but learned how to right the boat by leaning with all my weight on the centerboard until it pops upright again in the water.

Like Jesus and his disciples when they ventured across Lake Galilee, a squall or storm can spring up quickly.  Unless you spot the dark clouds early on, you may find trouble at hand.  On one occasion, when that happened to me, I was in my canoe and had to paddle like (*bleep*) to make it to shore!  I arrived just before the rains came down and lightning strikes lit up the lake.

Over the course of my campus ministry, I noticed a recurring pattern similar to this.  Just when everything was going along smoothly, something would intrude that would rock my boat.  Most of the time these were intrusions beyond my control but sometimes they were my own doing.  Doesn’t matter how these difficult occasions come upon you.  What counts is how you respond.

One especially troubling time was when one of the five supporting churches of my ecumenical campus ministry threatened to cut off their funding to our SCC (Student Christian Center).  The minister had convinced his council to drop us out of their budget.  Losing one-fifth of the pie hurts.  I felt like I was kicked in the gut by a clergy person who betrayed me and our ministry.

After sleeping on it for a night, the following day I went to see one of this church’s key laymen.  He was also a member of our Board of Directors and a good friend.  I told him what happened.  He said he would take it to the whole church at their upcoming congregational meeting.  Church friends got up at that meeting and voiced impassioned words about mission and benevolence and our campus ministry work.  “This church ought not be in business if we cannot support the SCC!” was one memorable comment relayed to me after the meeting.  A motion was put on the floor to reverse the Council.  It passed overwhelmingly and the funding was restored.

I share this to let you know you are not alone when you encounter these unwanted storms and stresses in your ministry.  You can’t wish them away (like I’d like to do sometimes).  Instead, I’ve found it more helpful to face the waves head on and ride right into them.  Use your wits and try to do an end run at times.  God will open creative ways to work through your challenges.

Paul Walley served at the State University of New York
in New Paltz as ecumenical campus pastor
before retiring in 2007.  Presently he is part time
pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in West Camp,
New York ~ and is our current NCMA President.
Paul is an avid swing dancer and also enjoys a
variety of other dances (blues, cajun, zydeco).
He’s worked with Habitat for Humanity in New
Orleans and attends their Jazz Festival.  He sings
with the College’s Musical Theatre Ensemble and
performed most recently in “Amahl and the Night
Visitors” as one of the three kings.

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