Due to inclement weather, the 9 a.m. service for Sunday, Jan. 20 has been cancelled. We will have one morning service at 10:45 a.m. as road conditions improve.

Labor is Not in Vain

by Jeremy Shaffer

For as long as I have been in ministry, Sunday morning services have always started with Saturdays.  Saturdays are the days in ministry life that you are thankful for because they give you time to get everything prepped for Sunday; but they are also days that I dislike because if something goes wrong, it goes wrong on Saturday.

In the last few months, the kid’s ministry at LMBC has been worshipping under the tent.  We’ve been calling it “Tent Church.” (we also have another area for toddlers called the “Toddler Tent”). Let me be the first to tell you, if you don’t know already, God is doing great things at Tent Church!  Tent Church, like all Sunday morning ministries, starts on Saturdays.  For the past several months, arriving early Saturday morning has been my norm.  Preparation has been critical: bailing water off the tents, pumping water off the tents in hard to reach places, setting up fans to dry out soggy carpet, and re-staking parts of the tent that have given way because of the weight of the water.  During this early morning preparation, I have a reoccurring conversation with God… “Lord, it would be nice for it to be dry once in a while.”  I often feel like the prophet Habakkuk, who had similar conversations with God.  For Habakkuk, God was going to use the nation of Babylon as an instrument of His judgment for Israel; He was going to allow Babylon to take Israel into captivity for 70 years.  Habakkuk struggled to make sense of this as he had more conversations with God.  

Then, one Saturday, it finally happened!  I arrived at the church early, ready to begin prepping for Sunday, and I realized that everything was dry.  I can remember saying, “What?  This can’t be right, everything is dry.  Have I missed something?”  My questioning of God’s ways, like the prophet Habakkuk, had turned to a walk of praise as I walked the entire tent areas checking every spot.  As I finished, I pulled out my phone, thumbing through the screens to get to my weather app.  Once I checked the weather report for Sunday morning, my heart sank in disbelief.  Today might be dry, but rain, rain, and more rain was predicted to hit the Tent Church about 30 minutes before we started on Sunday.  But then I thought, “this is the weather; it constantly changes. Surely by Sunday, the rain will be pushed back or maybe not even come at all.”  My morning conversation with God had turned from a time of praise to a time of questioning His ways: “Of all the weeks for the weather to come on Sunday, why this one?  We have our first baptism scheduled since this pandemic started; this was going to be a special day!”  After spending some time scrubbing out and sanitizing the outdoor baptistry (and having more conversations with God), I left the Tent Church area hoping that tomorrow would not be ruined by downpours of rain.  Like the prophet Habakkuk, I didn’t understand God’s plans or God’s ways but I still trusted Him to do what was best, even if it didn’t make sense at the time.  

Sunday morning arrived, and I just knew that the baptism needed to be canceled because the weather report had not changed.  But, abnormal to my personality, I didn’t have a plan B.  It wasn’t long before the rain started on Sunday morning, exactly as the radar had said it would days earlier – when has that ever happened?!  Still, I have no plan B, so we are going to do this rain and all.  The rain continued intermittently as the kids starting arriving, and then more kids, and then more kids.  At that moment, God gently reminded me about the importance of having a child-like trust in Him.  As kids continued to stream in, I moved quickly to get extra chairs. We had more kids that Sunday for Tent Church than we’ve had since we started Tent Church.  

We began the service with a song, and then the rain started pouring harder; we had to move the kids’ chairs around the streams of water pouring off the tent and puddles forming on the carpet under the tent.  When we finished up the song, the rain slowed to a gentle drizzle, and we corralled all the kids outside the baptistry trough for the baptism.  For a brief moment, I had a chance to explain to them the meaning of baptism; never before was I able to do this in a group setting; they were extremely attentive, and there was something very special and Spirit-filled about that moment.  I baptized one child that day with all his family and friends gathered around to watch.  His baptism brought forward many others who I will baptize in the coming weeks.      

I see what God was doing now, and I see that God wanted to work his mighty and awesome ways through a child.  He wanted a child’s baptism to be a reminder that the church is still alive and active.  He wanted to remind all those children that the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (through the imagery of baptism) is what is vital to our faith.  He wanted to remind the adults who watched that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church.  He wanted to remind everyone of those faithful workers, who show up to serve in the children’s ministry every Sunday, that their labor is not in vain!  He reminded me that the simple faith of a child, who was set on being baptized (rain or not), is what I needed.  He reminded us all that although we could not see God’s plans, like the prophet Habakkuk, we still need to trust His ways.  Sometimes, God’s ways are mysterious, and sometimes we can’t make sense out of them, but God’s ways are always the best ways.  The prophet Habakkuk ends his book with a beautiful hymn of praise that captures what it means to trust God’s ways even though you might not understand God’s plan:

Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls –
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The LORD God is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer’s feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills.
   – Habakkuk 3:17-19 (NKJV)

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