Minister Abroad: Starting Over

by Rev Robert A Wendel

“Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gifts each of you has received.  After you have suffered for a little while, the God grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will, himself, restore, support, strengthen and establish you.”  (I Peter 4:10;5:10 NRSV)

In the world of televised sports, instant replays have become ordinary.  Viewers and officials can look at plays, shots, tackles and even horses and automobiles or punches over and over again.  So, I moved out of Beckley to Waynesburg, sure that I would be able to, successfully, replay some of my college experience of 40 years ago, remaining what the M&M Board calls ‘a wondering minister’.

In exactly four decades, Waynesburg has changed and ‘my college’ is now a larger university.  Many of my college professors and well-known staff have died.  But, Miller and Hanna Halls are still the center of campus and downtown is still lined, on both sides, with familiar stores and shops.  It feels good to return to First Baptist Church and sense that I will again be able to use my God-given gifts to help, teach, counsel or encourage others in this community.

We all know that it’s really impossible to start over.  In the now-or-never battle of priorities, the secret lies in taking care of life’s biggies now – today or tonight.  You remember the old Sunday School song “Brighten the Corner Where You Are.”  We are each called to use our unique abilities to “make our world a better place.”

As you look at Beckley First Baptist and the neighborhood and community where the Lord has planted it, there is no need to ‘start over’.  The old church still stands.  But, as Jack Hayford wrote “Begin again.  The Lord calls us (no matter where we are), to return to those things which His Word teaches and which release the power of His presence among us.”

I will always be thankful for the years I spent among you all happy that some of my skills and education were sometimes put to good use and my observations on church life were allowed to be expressed.  But, just as the Lord expects more from me, He wants First Baptist Beckley to meet its future challenges.