Joy in the journey
This past week I was especially blessed to be at the Pastors and Leaders Conference at Keswick in Whiting. The speaker Dr. David Ritter from South Jersey preached on “A Word to the Busy, a Word to the Frustrated, a Word to the Distracted, a Word to the Wandering and a Word to the Short Timer”. Each message had tremendous application to my own life and ministry, and I was very thankful for the opportunity to be there to be encouraged and refreshed. As I was reflecting on the joy of being at Keswick over the last few years, I was reminded of the invitation that I had received from Pastor Dave Sutter back in January 2020, to come and be his guest for a day at the conference in February. I went that February and enjoyed that day so much that I registered to attend the conference in February 2021. I could not have imagined all the things that would happen in the coming year between February 2020 and February 2021. This year would be without question the most difficult year and experience that I had in 36 years of pastoral ministry. All the disagreements over covid shutdowns, masks, social distancing, politics, and many other issues were very difficult and painful to bear.
In January when I got a call from Keswick about the upcoming Pastors and Leaders retreat in two weeks, asking if I still planned to attend, I had completely forgotten that I even registered for the conference the previous year. I looked forward with great anticipation to a time of encouragement and inspiration, but as the conference was approaching so was a major snowstorm. The snow started that Sunday morning and John S, an NDC attendee (now in heaven) suggested that I should drive over Sunday afternoon, instead of waiting till Monday to go to the conference. John’s suggestion was a word from the Lord because if I had waited, I would’ve never gotten out of the church parking lot.
Each year that I have attended has been a great blessing, given the stress and issues that we’ve been dealing with over the last three years. I realized a deep sense of appreciation and thankfulness to Pastor Dave for inviting me three years ago and what a difference that’s made in my life. I thanked him for what may have seemed like an insignificant invitation, but it is something that God has used repeatedly in the last three years to encourage me in my walk with Him and my service for the Lord Jesus Christ.
This year I stayed over for the first time for the Christian hymn sing that takes place the first Thursday of each month at Keswick. Debbie and I had attended last month when we spent the night over at Keswick for my birthday. I invited our church family to join me down at Keswick for the hymn sing and was delighted to have two of our couples come down and enjoy breakfast, lunch, music, and fellowship. We had a delightful time of fellowshipping and enjoying the beauty of music and each other’s company.
I’m encouraged by the Word of God that reminds us, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ,” (Gal.6:2 NKJV). We never know when an invitation to someone will lead to the opportunity of sharing together and perhaps even helping them bear their burdens. Burdens are heavy loads and I think about the heavy burden of ministry over the last three years that was significantly lightened by the experience of the leader's retreat at Keswick. I think it’s important that we take the opportunity to invite people in our circle to things that are going on in our lives so that they may have an opportunity to be blessed by those things as well. I believe my dear brothers and sisters who joined me for the hymn sing would agree that it was a great shared blessing to be there. Just as I thanked Pastor Dave for inviting me, let’s look for opportunities to invite others to join us to experience the joy in the journey. We never know when our invitation is going to lead to someone being richly blessed because they took us up on the invitation. When we bear someone else’s burden it carries the idea of helping them with endurance. Endurance, faithfulness and perseverance have all been critical needs in my ministry in the last three years for which the Pastors and Leadership conference has been a great assistance. Let’s share the joy in the journey with those around us.
In the King’s Service,
Pastor Rich Sivo