Being “People People”…
During a Pandemic Crisis
by Bob and Susan Phillips
(Bob and Susan Phillips, our guest bloggers, are no strangers to Just Jump Ministries, Inc. Bob serves on the Just Jump Board, and Susan communicates regularly with our Executive Director with encouragment and prayer. Bob and Susan have served in ministry for decades and share about "being "People People" during a pandemic crisis.")
Dr. Haddon Robinson, beloved pastor, theologian, and seminary professor, told this story:
After graduating from seminary, he received his first call to a church as Assistant Pastor. He was part of many Ordination Councils during his three years at this church, and they were all pretty much alike in his denomination. But one was so unique, he never forgot it!
A young man was seeking Ordination to the ministry. The pastoral candidate had been “put through the paces” with questioning regarding his conversion, call to ministry, Biblical doctrine, etc, etc, etc….
Finally, the Ordination Council chairman felt that the candidate had “suffered long enough,” and said that unless someone had further questions, he was calling for “the vote.” An older pastor who had been in ministry for a long time stood up and said, “Well, I do have two questions.”
“Son, do you love people?” At the time, Dr. Robinson “thought it was a stupid question.” The young man certainly wouldn’t say, “No, I’m in it for the money!”. Years later, after decades of ministry, Dr. Robinson realized what a vital and insightful question it really was in light of 1 Corinthians 13!
Paul says we can have all of the Spiritual gifts (plus education, training, desire, etc.) for ministry; however, if those gifts are not USED IN LOVE, our efforts are “nothing.”
Question number two followed: “And, Son, how do you know that you love people?” In that same chapter of 1 Corinthians 13, Paul went into greater detail to describe this “Agape love,” and Dr. Robinson summarized his study of this LOVE in action by characterizing our Manner of service, our Motive for serving, and our Mood as we serve.
Susan and I sold our Houston-area home in March and crossed the country, visiting old friends and family along the way! We arrived safely in South Carolina at our “Halfway House” (vacation rental) about 20 minutes from our new home building site on March 23. Within a few days, we found ourselves “staying in place” with on-line Sunday worship services, weekly trips to the small local grocery store, wearing masks and gloves, and “visiting” our son’s family, a la “Social Distancing”!
“Being People People During a Pandemic Crisis,” began as a challenging time for us! After fifty years in the ministry—working, serving, being intimately involved with, and living in close fellowship with our church and community—we found ourselves sitting. Just us two in our Halfway House. No church family (yet!), no local friends (yet!), no way (we thought!) to reach out and help people. We felt trapped, being so new to the area and bound by the Law of the Land! So we prayed that God would ease our longing to CONNECT with people, to befriend someone, to help heal a hurting heart…to minister in God’s name. WOW! It didn’t take long at all for us to see our first ways to serve God right at the end of our noses!
We’ve been married for 53 years, and we love each other more than words can say. But after being under “house arrest” together, 24/7, for a few weeks, we had to confess that just SAYING “I love you today!” wasn’t going to cut it! There was something different about the “house arrest” part! God reminded us of what we’ve practiced all these years: that “I love you!” is best lived out by prayerfully and continually being patient, kind, forgiving, and always being quick to do something to help each other (Bob carrying a heavy laundry basket, Susan trying to be creative with meals when grocery store food choices were extremely limited). God’s love won!
And, right under our own roof in our vacation rental house, our delightful host (a senior Christian couple) was devastated when they learned unexpected heartbreaking news about one of their children. When they shared their grief with us, we were privileged to actively listen, encourage, and pray with them. Their tearful gratitude touched our hearts, and we thanked God for allowing us such an unexpected opportunity. We are “staying the course” with them, and as of today, we are growing closer in our friendship and Christian fellowship. We praise God for new Forever Friends!
God revealed to us that we could help local ministerial students, who were suddenly without dorm housing and their off-campus employment paychecks, by donating a bit of financial aid which was matched by a wealthy donor. What we considered almost a “widow’s mite,” God used!
We found that a simple “Your hard work is a blessing to us today!” to overworked grocery store stockers brought a smile and gratitude for the encouragement! And, sharing one of only two packages of toilet tissue on the shelf with an overwhelmed shopper…well, her tears said it all! PTL!!
Encountering one particular cashier who was downright irritable, we asked about her health and that of her family. She immediately softened, and answered that all were safe and well. She thanked us for caring enough to ask about her. The next week when we deliberately checked out in her lane, she was cheerful and friendly when she saw us. And now Angela is our new best friend. “Patience” and “Kindness” won out, once again!
As we thought about Dr. Robinson’s story, and remembered petitioning God to show us how we might minister during this COVID-19 “crisis”, we have studied 1 Corinthians 13 once more— s l o w l y, thoughtfully, and prayerfully. God heard our heart cries as we longed to connect with people while living in our temporary rental. He reminded us in a powerful way that “staying in place” and “social distancing” do not mean that we cannot serve our Master. But, WHEN-ever and WHERE-ever, it’s about…
Our MANNER of serving… with love, patience, kindness, pleasantness, remembering that “Agape love” is a charitable love which begins with our 24/7 spouse, children, and moves out to our Samaria…
Our MOTIVE for service… in genuine humility and gratitude to God for His “gifts,” and for opportunities to use each of them without feeling like we are more important than others, and exercised while waiting in long “Social Distancing” lines, or at “forever” red traffic lights…
Our MOOD as we serve… subduing the impulses to become irritable, bad-tempered, self-centered. Confessing these as “moral sins” and seeking God’s grace and forgiveness. Being especially on guard when we are exhausted and overwhelmed from pulling long work shifts, or being crammed into tiny work cubicles, being lonely and isolated in a nursing home, or even in our own home with barking dogs, crying children, or…!
Questions only YOU can answer:
1. Do you honestly and genuinely love people?
2. If so, how do you truly know in your heart that you love people?
And, perhaps more importantly,
3. How do THEY KNOW that you LOVE PEOPLE?
Shared with love and prayers for you,
Bob and Susan Phillips