Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look! I’m making all things new.” He also said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.
In my eleventh year serving as pastor of a semi-rural UM church, things were going very well. The congregation was growing. The people loved and supported their pastor.
HIV/AIDS was very much on peoples’ minds at that time. There were many fears and much false information. In the midst of that, God called my wife and me to make a very personal response to that crisis—we were to become foster parents for HIV positive infants. We received a ten-month old Hispanic boy that year, and an African-American newborn baby girl the next spring. This began a time of transformation in our own lives and in the life of our church. I learned that transformation sometimes happens only after a time of disruption and discomfort.
Some in the church, who were gripped with fear, suggested that my wife keep these children up at the parsonage, and not bring them to the church. Some said they could no longer visit in our home, or allow their kids to play with our kids. The head of the PPR committee suggested that I had made a decision that could destroy everything I had worked for at the church. Many of our closest friendships were called into question.
In the midst of a “pity party” that I held for myself alone in my bedroom one day, Jesus came and spoke to me. He said, “On the cross all my friends left me, too. Who do you want more—your friends or me?” That was transforming for me. My relationship with Jesus was renewed!
Over time, the church was transformed. Others in the church became foster parents to children with special needs, and some adopted children from other countries. What had been a totally white, rural congregation was transformed into a multi-ethnic congregation. One person, who was very concerned at the beginning, came to us later and said, “These children have really been a gift to this congregation!” God had made all things new.
After the mother of the little boy we were keeping died of AIDS, we adopted him, so our family was made new again!
Thank you, Lord, for your amazing grace that stretches us out of our comfort zones, sometimes allowing disruptions and discomfort, as you transform our lives and make us new so that we can offer Jesus to a hurting world. It is in Jesus’ precious name that we pray. AMEN.
The Rev. Dr. Frank H Billman
Aldersgate Renewal Ministries Director of Church Relations
Dean of the Methodist School for Supernatural Ministry
Adjunct Professor, DMin program at United Theological Seminary