Dear Church and other readers,
This morning, as we continued our look at prayer, our pastor, Michael Howard, preached a powerful sermon on praying for the nations. About the great commission. About going and serving. About praying for the persecuted church. And about praying for those who have and are accepting the call to missions right here in the Hampton Roads area and then throughout the entire world. Passionately he shared his heart with us and his vision for Seaford Baptist Church as together we point toward Christ.
I’d like to address one small part of his sermon with you, my church family.
Michael was rightfully truthful with us this morning. The past few years have been a time of tremendous difficulty and transition for our church. We, as a family, have suffered great hurt as well as natural loss. Great hurt in the form of a minister, my ex-husband, who committed crimes that threw our church into the unwanted spotlight of the media and hurt each of us deeply. We’ve also experienced natural loss as long-time and short-term minister’s have been called elsewhere to serve God in new ministries.
As Michael said, the natural tendency–and really the healthy thing to do–in those moments of crises and change is to go into “self-preservation mode.” We hurt, therefore we tend to look inward. Will the church survive? Will God heal?? Will God bring other leaders and ministers to fill in the gaps?? Will we be ok?? Where is God??
Seaford Baptist, you have weathered the storm better than any church I know of could have. You have continued to and actually increased loving each other. You have sought out God in prayer, earnestly seeking His will for the church. You have stepped into ministry positions to provide leadership as the need as become necessary.
And you have trusted God. I imagine Him saying to you “Church, well done.” And He has blessed us with two new minister’s who have a passion for Christ and His word. He has blessed us with new leadership such as Kimberly Milner in our children’s ministry. He has blessed us with many new families and individuals. As I helped lead worship this morning, I looked across the sanctuary and was actually excited that there are so many new faces that I don’t know their names yet. This is something to rejoice over!
Some of you may remember, but others of you will definitely not know that three years ago, when my then youth minister husband’s deceptive world was falling apart, I was actually in Kenya, Africa. You as a church had sent me, my daughter Keli Duffer, and Hannah Cornett there to minister at an orphanage for 2.5 weeks. It was an amazing experience. I got so much more out of it, than what we were able to give to the orphans and the AIDS widows in the village and the caregivers that we worked with.
Little did I know that on the other side of the world, my life and the life of my family was crumbling. Disintegrating.
I returned to America, and 5 days later found myself sitting in the Sheriff’s office, being given the news of the alleged crimes.
The next day, my ex-husband was arrested. And eventually was sentenced to prison. And life fell apart.
And I asked many of the same questions you asked as a church: Will we survive?? Will we heal?? Will we be ok? Where is God???
And I went into self-preservation mode, along with my children, as we “circled the wagons” and tried to earnestly seek God out in the midst of our crises. Imperfectly, yes. With many failures along the way, yes. But you as a church did not forget us. You could have. You could have, in self-preservation mode, turned your back on us. Sadly, many churches would have. But you did not. And we are well because you have shown us God’s love.
For the first time since all of this happened, I went back today and looked up the WAVY News video report of this travesty; this tragedy. On that video, the Sheriff explains that there was another victim in this event, and that was the church. That Seaford Baptist is a church that has done tremendous good for York County, and they should not be looked on with scorn, but as a victim of this crime as well. That was truth.
But, my church family—and any church that has experienced such a crises—Pastor Michael is correct. It’s time to step out of our self-preservation mode and not let the vast amount of ministry opportunities that lay around us go unnoticed. Seaford is one very small dot on a very huge map full of hurting people that need the Good News–the Gospel–of Jesus Christ. And every one of us has been called to that job. Even as I write this, 150 or more volunteers are down at the church, packing thousands of meals for those in need through Stop Hunger Now! Even as I write this, we have missionaries associated with our church serving in other countries. We are in the midst of preparing for the Christmas musical–an easy way to invite someone to come here the story of Jesus’ birth. So we are moving forward. We are pushing forward. But there is so much more to do. So much more that God would have us to do.
I write all this not only to my church, other churches and my readers, but I write this to myself as well. It’s time to step out of my own self-preservation mode. It’s not an easy thing to do. It’s safer when the wagons are circled. It’s safer when I ‘gather my crew around me’ and it’s us against the world. But that’s not what God has called me to do, either. Or my children. And so, slowly, we are learning to move forward and push forward as well. We ministered at a camp for children with incarcerated children this weekend. I wish every single one of you could have seen my beautiful Keli, who has been hurt deeply, glorify her God through dancing hula for these hurting children to the song “I Can Only Imagine.” in front of a roaring bonfire. And the laughs and giggles as she “taught” small groups of children throughout the day how to “hula”. This wouldn’t have happened two years ago. God has worked to heal and mold my girl into a godly young woman who has a heart for ministry. Each Sunday she ministers at a church service for a group home in Newport News. It’s a step forward toward the Great Commission. It’s a step forward.
As Michael preached this morning, oh, how I thought of Kenya. How I thought of going hut to hut to visit with widows. How I thought of getting to share scripture with a group of women from the surrounding area–and how that sharing erupted into joyful dancing and praising God in Swahili. And God reminded me that I will go back some day. To Africa. To Southeast Asia. To India. To Nepal. To wherever He sends me. He is not finished with Seaford Baptist Church, and He is not finished with me. We each have a job to do—and that is to deliver the gospel to those in need of hearing it. And to meet the physical and spiritual needs of those around us.
This has been a long letter. For that I apologize. And I don’t quite know how to wrap it up, except to thank Michael Howard for giving us God’s word straight. To thank the church for it’s love for me and my crew, and for being a Great Commission Church. And to thank my God for being faithful. Faithful to heal each of us. Faithful to teach each of us. Faithful to grow Seaford Baptist Church and other hurting churches into lighthouses for their communities.
In Matthew 9:37, we are told that Jesus told His disciples: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;” Seaford Baptist Church, let’s keep our eyes on Christ and keep moving forward. Other churches, you are called to the same thing. And churches and individuals that are currently in crises, please know that God sees and knows–that He will not forsake you, if you fall to your knees and earnestly seek His face and His will.
As for the Duffer family, we too need to keep our eyes on Christ and keep moving forward. When our world fell apart, I thought that God would never use this broken, messed up vessel to serve Him. But I am slowly learning that He still has a calling on my life. And I too must push forward toward Christ, alongside my church, as together we point to Christ.
All my love,