Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Baby Dedication

Previous Baby Dedication at NVM

            Recently, we had a baby dedication at the church. Well, there was supposed to be one. Pastor Pierre was not there, so just before the service, I was asked if I would mind doing a baby dedication before I preached. I was a little surprised, since I’d had no forewarning, but at the same time, I was excited to get a part in this. Baby dedications are a big deal. Parents will often rent outfits for themselves and the baby to come decked out. They often invite other family who are not from the church or area to come and support them in it. As I thought about it before the service started, I was really pleased that they’d asked me to do this. The part in the service came up where we were going to present the baby and family. They were called up to the front and a mother carrying her baby walked to the front of the church. As I suspected, they were both dressed to the nines. The elder who had called them up asked where the father was. When the mother explained that he could not come that morning, the elder apologized, thanked her for coming, but then said they could not do the baby dedication that morning. Talk about a rough way to start preaching! I was given the mic as the mother made her way back to her seat and I was really conflicted. To transition, I prayed for the baby, Merveus Saint-Victor, before going into the sermon.
After the service, I found the elder and asked him to explain what had happened. The mother had spoken with the church leadership and assured everyone that the baby’s father would be there. She was not married to him. This is one of the areas in which the church is making a stand against the culture. It is culturally acceptable for a man to have many wives, or women. Marriage here is more of a common law practice, rather than a legal binding in a lot of areas, such as Chambrun. Men will often have a different wife in two or three different towns and spend him time between them. This is a practice that the church is understandably taking a stand against, thus the awkward moment in church. If women were going to be willing participants of such a lifestyle, the church is going to be firm in letting them know it’s not biblical. If a woman decides to leave such a situation and want to present her baby as a single mother, the church will most definitely promote that and come alongside of her to help. What seemed like such a slap in the face to the woman this morning now looks like the loving rebuke of a church, doing just what God would want it to.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Where it All Began, Part 3

I am sure that as I continue to write this story, I will have memories come to me of pieces I have forgotten.  So, this story will never be complete, but I want to continue to tell how God brought me from Pastor's kid, through some extremely difficult years as a young adult, to where I am today. 

I left off in this story (months ago - sorry!) at the point of getting married.  So, I would like to tell a little more of that story.  When Gami and I started dating in 2001, we did so under the premise that we would be getting married.  We had both dated in high school, and we were done with "dating for fun."  What we did not realize is just how much more difficult this would make temptation.  As freshmen in college, we did not have a strong support system.  I had started going to a church in my first semester.  However, I no longer had a ride starting in January.  I never realized what an impact not going to church or having a support system can have on a person.  I began to let other things go - I would skip Bible study to go do something else.  I desired to have more time with Gami, and we began to withdraw from many people and activities.  I had no accountability - and that is a dangerous place to be! The one area that God held our hearts firmly was in worship.  Perhaps this is part of why we still love leading worship together.

While in college, we led worship in a college band for our campus.  When sexual temptation started to become too strong for us, these nights of worship became heart-wrenching repentance and a plea for strength and help.  We so desperately wanted to wait for intimacy until we were married, but we made foolish choices.  We set ourselves up for failure. 

When we got married in August, 2001 (a year ahead of schedule), we were 4 months pregnant with our first-born.  We were young...so young!  We dropped out of college to try to find work that would support us and allow us to support our new family.

"I felt ruined...forever forced to sit on a pew at church and never be involved again."

After 9/11, Gami was laid off.  This started something that we never would have foreseen.  We moved out of my parents' house and into his parents'.  Gami found work in Chicago area and I transferred my job in sales to the same area.  We had our first child in January, 2002.  This was one of the most difficult periods of our lives.  I felt ruined...forever forced to sit on a pew at church and never be involved again.  You see, my parents had always taught me unconditional love and forgiveness.  They had shown this to me through this process.  Yet, as a pastor's kid, I had seen quite the opposite in the church.  I saw one person after another be cast aside by the church - not by my Dad - for past "unforgivable" sins.  Divorce, adultery, teen pregnancy, etc. - I had been taught by the church that these things were unforgivable.  If you committed one of these unforgivable sins, God may forgive you, but you could never again serve in ministry.  My heart was crushed.  This message that I had seen played out in the church for so many years was screaming in my head, "You will never again be good enough!  This mistake has sealed your fate! You are not good enough to serve God anymore!"

Yet, the church we found in Chicago (Nov, 2001) immediately asked us to serve.  They wanted us to help their after-school youth program for inner-city south-side Chicago teenagers.  This was a rough group, and they felt that our example could really speak to them.  Secretly, I wondered if they were just na├»ve and did not realize I was pregnant.  Regardless, we started going.  I was constantly wondering who would find out, what they would say, if I would be banned from ministry...but I never was.  Miguel was born, and I continued serving. 
It was so healing...so incredible....to have people come around me and show me that it was okay.  If I was forgiven by God, it was His choice how He would use me.
 This would take me years to truly grasp and accept, but this church - a body of believers saved by grace - started a healing process that I cannot explain.  They showed me that some churches really did follow God as the authority, and God never said I was not good enough. So, the journey continued...