I recently read that true Christian disciples never walk alone. While I don’t know if I always look the part of a “true Christian disciple,” a quick glance at my spiritual journey shows me how true this statement really is.
My wife, Leah, and I served as unit leaders of a Service Adventure household in Raleigh, North Carolina, from 2010 to 2013. Prior to that, we lived in northern Indiana where, along with taking seminary classes, I served as a youth pastor. When the opportunity to go to North Carolina was presented to us, Leah and I were excited yet apprehensive. Accepting the position as unit leaders meant we would quit our jobs, extend my seminary education, and leave our community.
In our time of uncertainty, we turned to the couple who had married us and whom I served alongside as staff at our church. Like us, early in their marriage they had the opportunity to serve far from home. They told us their story, about the risks they took and the things they gave up. The journey was difficult at times, but even so, they said it was all worth it, and encouraged us to follow God’s calling.
Upon our arrival in Raleigh we found their advice to be true. Throughout our time there, we experienced both amazing moments and times of difficulty. Many of the young adults who came into our household had profound questions about life, faith, and who they were called to be. As we got to know each of them, we had the chance to talk about their hopes and dreams, and to challenge when necessary. It was a humbling opportunity to be in a position to walk with these young men and women during their terms of service. At the end of each year, we were always amazed at how much participants had grown in their sense of self-worth and the calling of God in their lives.
We also continued to seek out people to mentor us during our time as unit leaders. Leah connected with a neighbor with whom she often would go on walks to process the happenings in our life and seek advice. I connected with Duane Beck, the former pastor of Raleigh Mennonite Church, who later became an official mentor for me as I completed a seminary required internship. Both of these individuals, along with many others in our community, encouraged us in our ministry, provided outlets for us to express our feelings, and walked beside us continuously.
Now, two years removed from my Service Adventure experience, I serve as a pastor. As I lead a congregation through the anxious times of this current church climate, I find myself more and more appreciative of those who walked alongside me. From their encouragement and guidance I have learned what it means to be a leader, and have developed confidence in my own pastoral abilities.
I am also left with the realization of how important my own encouragement and guidance can be. I hope that just as I was blessed by others, I can follow their example, because walking together makes better disciples of those who need the company and those who do the accompanying.