In addition to the random feature “GR Spotlight” where I plan on focusing on works others are doing in Jesus’ name, I am beginning another random feature.
“A View from the Pew” will highlight the positive experiences and themes that come from attending church, retreats, and other events that build the body of Christ. The most recent event I attended was the retreat from our former congregation, MacArthur Park in San Antonio. This congregation was known affectionately as Mac in its shortened version.
We were at Mac six years. It is a focused church. They are known for their strong youth program, good preaching and class choices, a benevolent ministry for church and non-church members, their support of several international and local missions, a World Bible School presence among many of their ministries.
John and I do not have children and have been free to fill in at congregations where we’ve attended as needed. Usually we find one ministry and stick with it for a long time. But I learned a new lesson in attending Mac; sometimes one’s ministry at a congregation is not obvious. If one ministry does not fit, try another until you find one that does. I believe I worked with nearly every ministry to some degree, getting to know a little about each minister and their families along the way.
The last two years I was there I felt called to begin a prayer group with three other women. We grew to twelve regulars, averaging eight at the most in attendance at one time. I believe more today than ever that some of God’s secret glue that holds the body of Christ together are women who gather to pray for the leadership at church, for others needs as well as the needs in the group itself.
We have been gone almost two years now, but I find myself appreciating Mac more. They were family while we were away from ours in Houston.
This past weekend was the annual ladies retreat. We were privileged to hear from the Mac minister’s wives. The theme was Renew based on II Corinthians 5:17.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here.
Each speaker was capable of teaching the entire retreat, so we were all the more blessed to have had such a rich variety of topics and experiences presented. I want to share one takeaway I gleaned from each teacher. Some simple, some profound, but all worthy of consideration.
Laurie Brown, wife of Doug Brown, adult discipleship minister, challenged us to put away our phones and other devices for the weekend. She encouraged us to see the value of being more mindful of real people than pulling out the device to show ongoing virtual conversations and photos with those present. It worked. I enjoyed each connection I made. And as I looked around to find others I knew, I was touched by all of the happiness and genuine fellowship I witnessed, very few phones in hand, and only when it seemed necessary.
Ellen Abshier, wife of Mark Abshier, preaching minister, reminded me about WWJD (What Would Jesus Do). Though it was a Christian “fad,” its simple wisdom calls us back to following our leader always.
Kristie Speer, wife of Kody Speer, youth minister, challenged us to look deeper at people as to give perspective to their lives. Yet, to look at people with renewed spiritual eyes, not the eyes of our own flesh and personality.
Janet Shough, wife of Richard Shough, church life minister, likes to repurpose things for her house. She pointed out that God repurposes our hearts, and to not lose hope when times get tough. Renewal is in process.
Sofia Newton, wife of Barry Newton, associate minister, said, “Satan’s lies are 100% tailor-made for you and me,” so ask God to provide what we need through what he wants for us.
I sat at a table of women whom I knew much better on every level when I left. I knew four of the women at my table a little when living in San Antonio, but was richly blessed hearing their hearts. I credit God for using my friend Laura King and others to work with the women’s ministry, helping them not fear opening their hearts up to each other, and minister compassionately to one another in the spirit of James 2:13.
Mercy triumphs over judgment.
When we moved away from San Antonio nearly two years ago, I had mixed feelings. I was happy to be returning to Houston where my family lives, a little sadness at not feeling as connected at Mac as I would have liked, yet thankful to have had a good church family (from the many good choices in SA) the whole time we were in San Antonio. While in San Antonio, I got to know a little about a lot of people at Mac. My mother pointed out years ago that any giving to others is like sending out ships. Sometimes it takes a while for them to come in.
When I returned last weekend, it’s as if I had been the greatest of friends all along with every woman I conversed with. My ships had come in.
Thanks MacArthur Park for being Christ to us for six years. May God bless you richly in your service to the Lord in your corner of San Antonio.