Sunday, May 30, 2010

What God wants...

"We'll do what God wants us to do..." That was what Jim said to me today and I confess, there are times I really hate that line!

I want to talk about not believing that every good and noble act is God's will. To do that, first I have to tell you about Jim and Donna.

Jim has a heart of gold; so does his wife, Donna. He has a strong faith. He will look you square in the eye and say, "God will take care of it" and really, really believe it (not to mention usually be right). No, his life has not been easy. He has just as much baggage as the rest of us. But there is within him a gentle, loving, accepting spirit that blows me away at times.

I share my perceptions of Jim as a framework for the "conversation" I am about to venture into. Jim is in charge of our church's van ministry. He lines up the drivers who transport people to church on Sundays and to NA meetings on Tuesdays. I was one of those drivers today and I think we easily brought 55 people to church. On Tuesdays, I am told we are transporting 25+ to the NA meeting.

Less than a year ago, Jim's wife got involved in the ministry. She helps to facilitate a 12-step Sunday school class for one of the client groups at the rehab facility we work with. I am laughing as I write this, remembering Donna's desire and reluctance to get involved in what we then jokingly referred to as "the smoke can class," because our original idea was to conduct the class around the smoke cans in the parking lot, where the women gathered first-thing as they arrived. Donna was looking for a solution to one of the problems she had with the class: she couldn't stand cigarette smoke. She didn't mind teaching the class, she said, but she couldn't abide the smoke around the smoke cans. We ultimately decided to hold the class indoors and it was Donna who began buying cigarettes for the women so that she could "facilitate" the process of them getting in their smoke before going to Sunday school.

The women who Donna is working with ultimately discharge from the facility, many moving to transitional living. There is a transitional living facility near downtown called Paschall that many of the women go to. Understandably, they want to continue attending our church; likewise, they want us to help make that happen.

And now, finally, we get to the issue.

Last week, Donna asked, why couldn't we take one of the church vehicles to the bus terminal about 2 miles away and meet the women at the bus station each Sunday? That way they could continue to worship with us after they transition to the new facility. Whether they mean to or not, the women are pulling on Donna's heartstrings.

Pick the women up at the bus terminal every Sunday. Yeah. That sounds really easy on paper, but I see how things really work, how volunteers forget it's their week to drive, how women with the best intentions don't show up and don't' tell you they're not going to show up, and so on and so forth. I've seen the "van minister scramble," when you try to make it happen with the warm bodies present. It's maddening at best; sometimes impossible.

I talked to Jim about the issue first this morning, after he said to me, "I hear we're working out a deal to pick some of the women up from the bus terminal..." Huh? Oh no, we're not; not yet. I next took the matter up with Donna as she was passing out cigarettes to the rehab ladies in her Sunday school class. She seemed a bit more receptive to the "idea" that it really was not our job to church everyone in Houston.

I told them both, I believe it's our mission to be a transitional church for those who are in our church community for a short period of time (i.e., the ladies in rehab down the street), but not for everyone else in the city (i.e., the ladies 9.2 miles away at Paschall).

In my conversation with Jim, I reminded him that we were limited and finite, that there was a new facility moving to the neighborhood in the next six months that I really wanted to focus on, and that we had to make tough choices about how to best use the resources available to us. That's when Jim played the "faith" card. That's when he said, "We'll do what God wants us to do."

So I suppose I will explore that idea some more; pray about it; and try to be discerning without automatically assuming that the "noblest" plan of action is what God has in mind.

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