I received a priceless gift last Sunday to mark this milestone. We refer to it in our household as the “25th Year Book”. It is full of cards, letters, stories, memories, and blessings.
I would like to share a portion of one of those letters from a pastor in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. I’ll have a few quick learnings from his story to share with you at the end. I met this pastor a few years ago as a participant in our first PLI Learning Community. From the beginning he was a reluctant participant…to say the least. Maybe a better term would be resistant. We struggled against each others’ expectations. I remember vividly the incident he shared in his letter to me. At the end of our two-year learning community I had little confidence that any of our efforts with PLI did much to equip him or ready him for his ministry moving forward. I was stunned last Sunday when I read this:
|“I remember one session when Jeff asked us “What is one thing that could help you in ministry? One thing, why not pray about it and see what God will do. Well if you don’t know me, I am naturally a smart aleck and often say exactly what I am thinking. Jeff called me out for some reason to be the first one out of the box and said, “Tony what is one thing that you would like God to give you for ministry?
I said, “A Boat”. Everyone laughed as it sounded like a silly request. Jeff then asked me “Why a boat?”
I responded, “It would give me time away from the congregation for prayer and an opportunity to minister missionally to individuals who might be more willing to go fishing than step in a church.” One of my classmates Phil Robarge then said, Tony that is stupid, I bet you a 12 pack you never get a boat.”
And THEN I was SHOCKED when Jeff said in response, “That is great, let’s ALL pray that God provides Tony with a boat!” Yes, we prayed and in the back of my head, I thought Jeff was crazy for encouraging me and my insane ideas.
Well, what happened 2 years later shocked me. I received a call from someone in my past before I went into ministry. A friend of mine from many years ago lost his battle with cancer. His wife called me up and said that before he died he asked his wife if I might want his pontoon boat. This shocked me. We had not talked for years. I think I may have only gone fishing on his boat once. But he knew we had young kids when we went to the seminary and now we were in ministry and wondered if I might want his boat.
I was shocked. I didn’t expect or even think that God would provide me/ give me a boat. And yet God did. I truly credit this gift to God being at work in my life. God is at work in Jeff’s life and the ministry he is providing. Here is the cool part. This past Christmas I baptized Todd Gloth, a man that I took on that boat. REALLY! It happened!
I have been amazed at how God has used me and my congregation after going thru PLI led by Jeff. Over the past 2 years thru the intentional idea of Missional living along with the Holy Spirit our church in Cape Girardeau has grown tremendously. We have added over 80 new members in the last 18 months. I have been blessed through the skills and training that I have received through Jeff and his ministry team at PLI. Thanks for all of your work that you have done for Christ. God’s blessings.” Rev. Tony Kobak, Hanover Lutheran Church, Cape Girardeau, MO
What lessons do you learn about leadership, about missional living, about expectations, as you reflect on Pastor Tony’s experience? Read next week’s Spiel to hear some of mine.