Come To Jesus Meeting
Say "Pancreatic Cancer" and people flinch. Even the surgeon looked at me and said: "I want you to understand this is serious surgery with a 25% chance of something going wrong!"
But surgery is past. I came home on the sixth day. Allow me to invite you on my journey for we are traveling together.
About 3 AM Sunday night my blood pressure was up, and there was another medical issue. Nurse and doctor were present.
Constance, the nurse, lives in Greensboro, NC, and works at UVA. She deeply loves the Lord. One night she placed her hand on my shoulder and prayed for me. Sunday night at 3 AM she placed two fingers on my forehead and said: "We can't get your blood pressure down if you won’t. stop thinking about things to do." The shots to bring my blood pressure down were not working.
The nurse and doctor left my room. It was dark. My pulse pounding. It was time for a "Come to Jesus Meeting". He listened. I talked. Allow me to help you understand the context of our conversation.
September 1, 1981 Randy Smith used a flatbed Pepsi truck to move our family of five into a two-bedroom parsonage attached to the church complex. It was 100 degrees that day.
We were excited to be welcomed by a congregation of wonderful people that we still consider heroes. Those still living are highly esteemed. Thurman Henry is an elder since 1952!
The former pastor led singing, received offering, visited hospitals and homes, did church accounting, preaching and carried all the keys.
I knew things had to change. We hired the former pastor to help with new construction that began less than two months after our arrival. We quickly gave $16,000 to start the building. The general budget of the church 1980 was $39,000 and in 1981 it was $103,000.
However, no bank would help us. We loaned and gave our own monies to get the Old Testament building completed. Volunteers made huge contributions to save tens of thousands of dollars. We moved into the new sanctuary on Resurrection Sunday! It was a huge celebration. Then a bank loaned to us.
Jerry Steele came to be our music minister. Over time staff grew.
In 1986 Laila and I moved our family out of the parsonage into a private home. It was a tremendous blessing.
Our church body grew in numbers and maturity. Then in the late 80's it was time to build again. A lobby and offices were added.
The initial two acres were not adequate for further construction. We purchased ten acres about four miles away. County officials resisted construction of a large sanctuary in a rural area. It was a public political battle. We traded the ten acres with Dr. Charles Hurt for additional land around Covenant Church. A total of nine transactions of land were made to finally obtain almost seven acres in our current location. I once was negotiating a land transaction on Christmas Eve. (Laila is still pretty sore about this event).
In 1994 we had negotiated sewer rights allowing us to build. Once again we ran low in funds, but an elder said: "Let's build until the money is gone." We never stopped building and completed the New Testament sanctuary and gymnasium in 1996---about 26,400 sf.
Staff members were added. The church grew. Our missions heart reached around the world and out to our community. We established a community center in the heart of Charlottesville. For several months we bused in 50-60 homeless persons each night to provide them safe shelter and a night and morning meal. This too became a political battle with politicians.
We remodeled. Provided for OT Cafe. Youth room on mezzanine of gym. North Annex with lobby and porte cochere and room for ethnic worship services of various nations. Removed a classroom and provided theatre seating for 114 people on the mezzanine. Upgraded sound system and lights.
We planted Valley Covenant Church in Fisherville with an investment of about $400,000. The first Sunday attendance was over 120 and they were financially independent.
On our main campus our two buildings were separated. We dreamed of joining them. It took about twenty years to have all plans that met approval of county officials. This time four banks vied to work with us. The Bank of the James made an incredible offer and has been awesome as a partner. Randy Nexson, Vice-President, is a constant encourager.
In the process of our current building program we remodeled generously to make the old look new and painted the exterior. Offices were moved downstairs---they are beautiful. All the main level of the OT building is devoted to children's ministry, including the old parsonage (a total of about 8,000 sf).
This week the patio pavers above the front porte cochere will be installed. Hand railing is done. Concrete is being finished. Waiting on asphalt and handicap markings.
Back to the "Come To Jesus Meeting" in the middle of the night. Constance's words about my letting things go echo in my mind. Then Dr. Zadyfudim the surgeon stood in front of me Monday AM and said: “You need time to heal."
I have prayed for the Holy Spirit to teach me how to release. Pastor McCready is a strong and powerful right arm, with integrity and a heart for ministry. Pastoral team and Elders are more than able. We have strong leaders.
In the past few months there is excitement as men are stepping forward into leadership. This will bring the favor of God.
Having a health challenge is new for me. For the next few months I will have to be careful and give primary concern to healing. So I ask for your prayers for me to know how to rest my mind. I need time to heal and refocus to serve best. It is a journey I have never been on.
Soon we will cut the ribbon and have full use of all facilities. Each of you can make a difference by witnessing and leading. Visualize growth. Believe it is God's will. We are strong. We are Covenant.
My "Come to Jesus Meeting" was a realization that others can carry the load for this season.
Pray that my part will be supportive while allowing others to invest themselves according to their talents, skills and Holy Spirit calling!
James 1:5 If any man lacketh wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth liberally and upbraideth not.