Caring for the caregivers – a phrase usually reserved for taking care of those who take care of terminally ill or Alzheimer’s patients. Usually when we talk about this, we are referring to giving them some time off of their regular duties or providing them with a listening ear. While I would love to be able to give some of the pastors who are in the midst of caring for their people through this disaster, that is not within my power. I do hope that somewhere along the line some of our state missionaries/college presidents/large church pastors will see the need and send some of their preacher boys over to fill the pulpit as I mentioned in an earlier post. But the second part of the caregiving is all about listening, and that I can do. In fact, we have had the great privilege of sitting with some unsung heroes of the faith – pastors whose names will never be mentioned on the news because they love their people, but love their people they do. As we have talked with several of these men of God, we have watched them closely. Some put on a brave front because that’s what pastors do. Heaven forbid that we ever show a sign of weakness or demonstrate that we aren’t up to the task of ministry. But sometimes, we aren’t up to the task. When tragedy strikes, it is easy to become overwhelmed, overstressed, and overexpected. I don’t think that last word is actually a word, and neither does my spell check, so let me explain what I mean. I think sometimes people expect their pastors to be supermen, so they let them work every day all day long without a break taking care of the needs of their church members. And sometimes this happens for weeks on end.
Please don’t misunderstand. No pastor that is truly called into the ministry will ever stop when there is so much work to be done – at least not willingly. Usually there are only two things that will stop us: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual breakdowns or one of our church leaders stepping in and saying, “Pastor, that’s enough. Go take care of yourself and your family.” We talked with two young pastors yesterday who have been going at it every day since March 9. That is 15 days worth of mud-out, counseling, preparing messages, more cleaning, checking on the sick, taking care of…. You fill in the rest of that sentence. As we met with these young pastors, there were a few signs of their weariness, but they covered them well. We encouraged these guys to give it a rest. “Maybe next week,” they said. And I have no doubt that they have been going strong today and will go strong tomorrow and the day after that. Please, God, send someone to give them a break.
Today we talked with an older pastor. His wife has fibromyalgia, lupus, and a broken vertebra in her back. She is in constant pain. When we drove up to the church, the water was still up to their sidewalks. Most of the houses within sight were still flooded. And these guys had already done a great deal of the work that will eventually get them back to normal. But the pastor and his wife are physically and emotionally hurting. He had taken a couple of hours to take care of her, but then he was right back at the church. So we sat down and talked a while. And when we asked for specific prayer requests, he asked for prayer for his wife and several church members that were hurting. He was focused on everyone else’s needs.
Folks, we weren’t able to even scratch the surface this week. So many more pastors are going through what these men are going through. I know that lots of people are hurting, but I can guarantee you that very few people understand what it means to be a pastor at a time like this, and I don’t mean to sound arrogant or to belittle anyone else, but few people have the kind of love that pastors have for their people. So pray for these men. Love on your pastor. Encourage them to take care of themselves. Give them some time off. Help them help themselves. You won’t regret it because he will come back to you a new man – refreshed, revived, and renewed.
One more story, and then I’m done. I visited with a pastor about 10 years younger than me this afternoon. He told me that this might sound strange, but in some ways this flood was the best thing that ever happened to his church. I asked him, “How so?” He said, “Well, we’ve been praying for revival for years, and nothing has happened. Finally, my people understand what it means to be the hands and feet of Jesus.” And just maybe that should become our definition of revival because when people understand this, revival is on the way.
Thanks for reading my blog posts this week. Mark and I will be heading back to Alabama in the morning. Pray for us as we travel. And my prayer for you is that you have a Blessed Resurrection Sunday.