I realize this category is for updates on my life and that I have gone a horribly long time not posting an update and I will continue to do so because this isn’t really an update. I just wanted to let all of you know how loved and blessed and taken care of the Lord has made me feel this week.
I have unfortunately been having a very very difficult time at work these last few of months. My 1-1 numbers have been terribly low and clergy have been the thorn in my side. There has just been failure after cancellation after disappointment for weeks on end and I really was beginning to feel dejected.
The worst of it was last Wednesday evening and then this Tuesday evening. There is a congregation, we’ll call it congregation M, that I have been trying to work with since I started in October. After months of phone calls and e-mails to the pastor and members I had had met exactly one person and he had no desire to learn about HOPE. In all my calls and e-mails the pastor had only responded to one e-mail to basically say keep trying and eventually we’ll meet. I finally got another church member to agree to a 1-1 and he even invited me to the church dinner that would be happening the evening of our appointment. I was ecstatic. Maybe this was the breakthrough I needed. I could see the pastor and meet people and finally get my foot in the door and begin making things happen for congregation M.
So I meet J for our 1-1 and he proceeds to spend the next half hour telling me in a 1/2 dozen different ways that the congregation no longer wants to be involved in any manner. I was furious that a pastor whom I have been spending months trying to see sent a random congregation member to do something that is his responsibility. it was disrespectful and dismissive. I went to the dinner even though I didn’t see the purpose and ended up sitting with J and the pastor’s wife; who had never heard of HOPE (not a good sign). J left halfway through the meal and there I am awkwardly sitting with the Pastor’s wife when a man comes up and she Introduces us. It was the pastor!
“hello I’m Ana Sanchez with HOPE.”
“Oh, is J not here?” (clearly he knew about our meeting)
“yeah, but he had to leave early”
“Okay, well it was nice to meet you.”
turns and walks away…
No acknowledgment of anything! I was pissed. It was just another setback in a long line of setbacks.
Then this Tuesday comes along. I had a team meeting that had been scheduled since before Christmas. I had been calling and e-mailing with the pastor for the past two weeks including the day of the meeting to ensure that people were coming and that he had the script for the vision statement I had sent him and was prepared for his roles on the agenda; since he refused every time I requested that we meet to walk through it.
I get to the meeting and the only two people other than the pastor and I who were there are the two people I had met with and invited; I could meet with or invite anyone else because the pastor kept refusing to give me their contact info. During the agonizing time that we just sat there waiting for someone to join us the pastor turns to me and asks I have a copy of the vision statement he’s supposed to give so he’ll know what to say. COME ON!! of course I did because I just had this nagging feeling that he would come unprepared. fifteen minutes into the meeting I finally ask him how he would like to proceed since no one appeared to be coming.
“well I actually just sent out the invitation letter before Christmas but I never called to check-in with people (something I had repeatedly offered to do for him) so maybe we should just reschedule for 3-4 weeks from now.”
“no pastor that’s not possible, we are already behind schedule and if we have to reschedule it really should happen in a a week, two tops.”
“No, how about Feb 3rd (another Tues. evening)”
“It doesn’t have to be a Tuesday meeting, let’s try for before or after services to make it easier on people”
“okay then, how about a day meeting. you did say most of the people you were inviting were retired.”
“alright, then perhaps we can meet during a scheduled bible study time.”
that’s it, Just like that. No explanation. Just NO. again and again and again!
“Fine Pastor, February 3rd it is then but if we schedule this we have to do everything to ensure that it happens in order to make sure we reach your congregations goal of 40 people to the Action. How about you allow me to make the follow-up phone calls and pull things together for the meeting?”
The man has a very limited vocabulary.
So that’s it. I left with a meeting scheduled that will most likely fail to accomplish what it is supposed to because the pastor will not allow me to do my job.
okay…I realize none of that sounds like blessings and you read a lot to get to this point but I wanted you to understand where I was emotionally at this point. I really was so upset. I have spent a lot of time crying and questioning my ability to do this work when so many doors were being slammed in my face. Most if not all of my job security rests on my ability to turnout large numbers of people to our yearly Action and if my congregations don’t do what is necessary to reach their goals it affects me in a very powerful way. That’s a huge weight to carry around.
So I left that meeting this past Tuesday night and drove out to Temple Terrace UMC for the launch of a new service that I thought I was going to miss because of the team meeting. The service is called RE:WIRED and is a joint effort of the church I attend (Van Dyke UMC) and several others. Temple Terrace was hosting us.
I had a great evening of prayer and worship and really was in a much better place spiritually then I had been when I walked in those doors. I stayed to help clean up and just as we were finishing a man who had been sitting in the corner talking with a couple stopped me and asked me who I was and did I work for Van Dyke. I introduced myself and told him what I do and suddenly found myself in a deep conversation about justice ministry with the Pastor of Temple Terrace UMC.
It ended with him emphatically stating that “any church that isn’t pursuing justice should just close its doors and how does Temple Terrace join?”
I said i’d be happy to meet with him and he asked for my number so that he could call and schedule something. I was feeling a very guarded excitement because I would likely never get a call and if I did most clergy don’t fully understand what a justice ministry is and the work it will take so his enthusiasm could wither very quickly.
The next morning I decided to call him instead and and his administrative assistant, whom I later learned is also his wife, scheduled a meeting for today.
Being randomly pulled aside by a church pastor was blessing enough. I don’t know exactly how it worked but I think I stepped out of the place I had been for weeks and spent an evening in worship and praying over others and the Lord blessed me. I invested in him and he gave me something to lift my spirits.
So I’m driving to the meeting today and I stop for gas. I always unlock my cars and leave my keys on the seat because I heard someone say a long time ago that if you hold your keys or cell phone while pumping gas you might blow up. true or not, it stuck with me.
I go to get back in the car and it is locked. I don’t have AAA so I call a locksmith from the phone book and he tells me it will be a 1/2 hour before he gets there and that it will cost me $50. I had no money on me and didn’t have $50 in my account to spare but I say okay, hang up the phone, and proceed to shock the gas station attendant by immediately bursting into tears.
I just don’t think I had it in me for much more to go wrong and here I was about to be late for a crucial appointment because I’m stuck at a Citgo waiting for a locksmith that I can’t pay. Crying was really all I had at that moment.
I stood outside my car crying and decided to pray over the car. I’m willing to pray with expectancy so I just placed my hand on the car door and prayed repeatedly for God to unlock the door. I’d pray..pull the handle…nothing….pray again…pull…nothing….more tears.
“I’m praying with expectancy here Lord! could you please hold up your end of the deal!”
Suddenly a truck pulls up a couple spaces near me and two guys get out saying they had been watching me from the other end of the gas station and could they help. They proceed to go back to their truck, open up the bed, which was literally packed with tools, and looked for something to unlock my car with.
So I’m watching them and I look up and to my right to the street where a AAA truck is pulling up to a red light. The guy pulls into the gas station, jumps out of the truck, says he saw me crying from the road and thought I needed help (I wasn’t sobbing so I don’t know how he noticed). I explained the situation and that I had no money but that the two guys near us were looking for something to open the car with. He pulls out a locksmith kit and proceeds to start working on the car and when I repeat that I have no money he told me not to worry about it. So while he was working I told him I thought he was God’s way of answering my funny little prayer. A few minutes later the car is unlocked, Jimmy (that’s his name) gives me a hug and is on his way. I made it to my meeting several minutes early.
I know that God could have answered my prayer the way I asked for and that would have been a cool weird little story but instead he answered it with an abundance of generous people and I think I like his way more. I felt very loved and taken care of.
My meeting by the way was phenomenal. I shared my story and spent the rest of my time answering question after question about HOPE and what we do.
“Okay, so how do we join? do you need me to sign something?”
SERIOUSLY!?!?! (but in a good way)
I walked him through the three yearly processes of HOPE, the process we’re in now, and how a congregation builds a Justice Ministry Network. We scheduled a time for me to speak at his church services and he enthusiastically agreed to come to our Clergy caucus next week.
This truly was just the Lord handing me something to remind me that what we’re working towards is in line with his kingdom and his vision and that he didn’t make a mistake when he put me in place to do the work i’m doing. Some moments may be extremely difficult and I may sometimes face opposition but some of it is exciting and fun and simple. Every clergy and every congregation is in a different place when it comes to understanding their call to justice and I need to be patient and grasp tightly onto the victories while waiting for everything else to fall into place.
It was just nice spend a day feeling so embraced and protected by my father.