It was a real pleasure for me to have Dale and Kathy Hollenbeck worship with us on the 9th of September. Dale and Kathy are missionaries to Uganda and old friends from seminary. Dale is an MTW missionary and an instructor at the Uganda Bible Institute (UBI). UBI is a school for pastors serving to prepare men to lead in the many churches that have no pastor. It is hard for us to fathom the situation where 66% of the churches in Uganda have no pastor.
The Hollenbecks are supposed to return to Uganda near the end of September, but they still have outstanding financial needs. Support must be raised to cover those needs in order for them to return to the field. I do not bring that up in order to ask the church to support them. Whether or not we support them is a matter for the Mission Committee to decide pending approval by the Session. What I did want to do with this is to bring your attention to the fact that Dale was asked to tell about his mission work in conjunction with the sermon he delivered. He chose not to do that because (although being almost $1,000 a month short of his needs) he took the preaching of God's word as too important to be mixed with telling about his ministry and needs. For that, and many other things, I deeply respect the man.
Now let me encourage you with this, the real reason I am writing. The Hollenbecks have been back in the United States since May. They have been on the road most of that time trying to raise support. That means every Sunday trying to get to at least one if not two churches to report back to old supporters or tell new potential supporters about what God is doing in their ministry. Home missionary assignment is not a vacation, it is a grueling experience that has taken Dale, Kathy and their three little boys from Iowa to California to Mississippi and now back to Virginia. So you ask, “What is so encouraging about that?” Well I've painted the picture so far in order to tell you what the Hollenbecks shared with me about Faith Reformed Presbyterian Church. Remember, they have never visited our church before and there is no guarantee that we as a church will have any further relationship with them. In other words, they have no vested interest in saying anything positive or negative about FRPC.
Having been in more than 20 churches over the last few months, the Hollenbecks thought our church was refreshing. Here are some of the things they shared with me. They were encouraged by the warmness with which they were received by the congregation. Dale said he was very impressed with the way people were paying attention during the sermon, even when he went past noon. He said, “They were up in their seats, really connected.” Both Dale and Kathy really loved the congregational singing. Dale said he felt such joy in the singing at one point he just had to stop and listen. They both spoke of the sense of really being engaged in the worship of God. If you were one of the many paying attention during the sermon you probably heard Dale say he was impressed with the concern for reaching out that was expressed in the leader's prayer time before the service. That continued after the service as the Hollenbecks watched how the congregation dealt with visitors and with each other. They said this is the kind of church of which they would want to be a part.
That said, I have to tell you I was somewhat surprised by what they shared. I was pleasantly surprised, but surprised none-the-less. Sometimes when we get close to something it is hard to step back and get a fresh perspective. If what the Hollenbecks were saying is true, then praise the Lord, we are growing! We are growing in our ability to share the love of Jesus with those that come to visit. We are growing in our worship of the living God. We have a growing desire to hear and know God's word. Nothing could be more encouraging to me. I hope you are encouraged as well. That said; let me tell you that I am not so close to the issue that I don't see the areas where we still need to grow. We cannot rest on one good testimony. Take it as a gracious providence from God for our encouragement to be spurred on to love and good deeds. Brothers and sisters let us love our God supremely and let us love one another and let that love spill over to those the Lord would be pleased to bring into our sphere of influence. Pray for our church's growth in grace and godliness. Pray for our growth in number, that the Lord would be pleased for the gospel to advance powerfully at Faith Reformed Presbyterian Church. Pray these things for the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom.