Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Monday, August 25, 2008
Friday, August 01, 2008
Monday, July 28, 2008
Your missionary to Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, Rob Schenck, reporting:
I’ve just concluded a weekend of ministry at Florida’s First Assembly (of God, that is), another one of our Anchor Churches. Bet ya’ don’t know much about Wauchula. It’s central Florida’s little secret. Except for some attention during Hurricane Charley some four years ago, this little hamlet surrounded by not-so-little cattle ranches, orchards and orange groves has insulated itself pretty well from the urban sprawl of nearby Orlando. (Or should I say Disney World?) Well, notwithstanding the smallish population and feel of the place (everyone seems to know everyone at the only Saturday evening restaurant in town), Florida’s First Assembly remains a relative “mega-church.”
Pastor Bob Lecocq and his wife, Debbie, lead a vibrant, rock solid family of Christians who are effectively connecting with their rural community. Bob is a sharp, gifted, multi-talented man; a caring pastor and dynamic preacher who doubles as a professor of communications for two nearby colleges, one Christian, the other secular. This other vocation gives him a real advantage in “communicating” his Christian witness in his town and in many other places, including Washington and even the Royal Kingdom of Morocco! Yes, you read it right: Bob was a member of one of our Christian Friendship Delegations to the North African kingdom and was well received by our official government hosts there. He built a special relationship with King Mohammed VI’s minister of religion. I’ve asked Bob to pray about joining us on the next scheduled mission this fall.
I don’t want to leave the church’s “First Lady,” Debbie, out of this report. She is a leader in her own right. The daughter of distinguished missionaries who spent most of their career in Upper Volta, Africa (now Burkina Faso), her parents finished their call by supervising mission stations across the newly freed nations of the fallen Soviet Empire. As you can imagine, Debbie's seen a lot and she brings that rich experience to bear on the ministry she shares with her husband today.
A bonus to my Wauchula visit was a side trip to see old friends Charles and Belinda Nestor. Cheryl and I have known them since we were married—more than 32 years now. I’ve always valued long and deep friendships over short and shallow ones. Charles and I forged our “buddy-ship” in 1977 when he was chairman and I was director of a church sponsored home for troubled young men in Rochester, New York. Those were tumultuous days. Not only did we have to do all those things that go along with such an intense ministry, but also we had to deal with some very scary characters, including convicted murderers, predatory sexual offenders, child molesters and lots of heroine addicts and dealers. Cheryl and I even had to cope with a psychopathic neighbor who wore a Bowie knife and kept nine women as a harem in his house, all of them perennially pregnant, their children consigned to deplorable conditions.
Well, I digress. I got caught up in just what the weekend yielded and I left out the mysterious ten days of silence while I was in “Beautiful Branson,” Missouri. That was for the annual board meeting and conference for the Evangelical Church Alliance (ECA), America’s oldest association of Evangelical church leaders, dating to 1887. It was again an opportunity to strengthen existing friendships, alliances and strategic networking for our ministry. I have always believed in maximum accountability (I just have enough self-doubt to think I need it), and that’s exactly what the ECA offers. No one can exist as an island unto himself, particularly in the ministry. These outstanding men and women—pastors, ministry executives, missionaries and the largest number of active duty Evangelical military chaplains—keep me sharp and hold me and our organization to the highest standards. I appreciate that. In reciprocity, I serve them as chairman of the ECA’s Committee on Church and Society. As their missionary to elected and appointed officials, I also deliver to the conference attendees an annual field report on the state of the ministry here in Washington. This year I included a “sermonette” on using their spheres of influence to help God’s people know, “How to Vote.”
While I’ve been gone on this road trip, our ministry team has been as busy as ever with the behind-the-scenes work on Capitol Hill. You generally read about the exciting ministry “happenings” as they’re about to happen, are underway or are already over. There’s an enormous amount of work, though, that must go on continually behind-the-scenes to get ready for those events and to ensure their success. That’s what our chief-of-staff, Peggy Birchfield, does without a lot of fanfare.
Well, I’m on the plane and they’re shutting me down for the descent into the airport. Gotta’ go. Be back later when I’m safely on the ground!
Rev. Rob Schenck
Faith and Action
109 2nd St, NE
Washington, DC 20002
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
I'll never forget a meeting of national conservative leaders when Bush Administration spokesman Tony Snow was on the hot seat. It may be surprising to some to learn that President Bush is not popular in many conservative circles, and he certainly wasn't with this crowd. The small group peppered poor Tony with demanding questions. I didn't share the disdain. My mind was on how sick the man looked. His hair thinning grotesquely; his skin that sickening cancer-color gray. I had no doubt he was dying.
Still, Tony kept his composure and gracious smile, doing his best to generously respond. At the appropriate moment I decided to break in and thwart the pillorying. Instead of thrusting another barb at the poor man, I turned the discussion. I told him that as a minister, I had a pastoral side that wondered what his journey through cancer had done for his spiritual life. What followed was one of the most grace-filled sermons on suffering I will likely ever hear.
With just a few words, Tony talked about how his disease had, more than anything else, drawn him closer to God, to his wife and children and to other people. Everyone in the room could see it was genuine. There were no cameras or reporters present and no one was allowed to comment to the media afterward. It was a small group--hardly an audience to impress.
Tony was known for his deep Christian faith. I know he kept company with the likes of Jerry Leachman, former UA football player and current Washington Redskins team chaplain. I would hear mention of his dropping in on Bible studies and prayer meetings around town. On that uncomfortable day on the hot seat, he spoke convincingly of his conversations with God. Mercifully, one of the venerable members of that group suggested we end with prayer for Tony. He humbly bowed his head as hands were laid on his perspiring neck.
I often wondered about the words of Psalm 116:15, "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints." It's a funny thing to think of death being "precious" to God. When I think, though, of how precious this man was, I can see how God would like to reclaim him. My thoughts and prayers are with Tony's wife and young children who must miss him terrribly, as so many of us will in much smaller measure. At the same time, I can see how God Himself would rejoice over having this caliber of servant among his ranks.
See you in Heaven, Tony!
Rev. Rob Schenck
Faith and Action
109 2nd St, NE
Washington, DC 20002