This congregation brings me joy in many ways. I see the elders increasingly focus on shepherding human needs. I see Christians showing compassion with a sense of passion for God. I see quiet kindness and obvious kindness. I see incredible generosity, in depth caring, compassionate service, generous commitment, and selfless sacrifice. I see thoughtful things done for individuals, for families, and for groups.

Always, I am hesitant to note specifics for fear I will forget something truly noteworthy. Think of things you know happen--health clinics in third world countries using equipment CARE collected, loaded, unloaded, and shipped; school children receiving eye exams and glasses this fall because of equipment, supplies, and volunteers coming from your concern; 300 people from the inner city community receiving help here last Saturday; the inner city community outreach; the Hispanic conversions; 41 members returning from Mexico; a group leaving for Guyana; involvements in Ethiopia, Nigeria, Thailand, Laos, Romania, France, etc.; the blossoming college student work; local, active declarations that we care because God shows us how to love; the struggling encouraged; the hurting to whom we minister; the confused to whom we provide guidance.

Consider the quilting ladies, the VBS planners and workers, the quiet maintenance people, the teachers, the projectionists, the song leaders, etc. I am constantly amazed by the number of caring people involved in our weekly functions!

Is everything ideal? No! I am equally amazed at how discouraged some are in the same spiritual environment. Who is at fault when that occurs? No one! We all have different background experiences. We all have different needs. We all perceive differently, learn differently, understand differently, grasp differently, feel acceptance differently, feel rejection differently, and find purpose differently. That is not "good" or "bad." It is just real. It may be just different, but it is absolutely real.

Reality demands God's people in God's kingdom be flexible, always learn, always grow toward God's purposes, and always spiritually mature in understanding God's priorities. People are different. That does not bother God, but it sure bothers us. God can forgive all who come to Jesus--even if they are different. God can give grace and mercy to anyone--even if he or she is different. God can make a son or daughter from anyone--even when he or she is different. Through Christ, God can place anyone in His kingdom and use him or her--even if he or she is different!

Should we rejoice when good is done in Jesus' name? Absolutely! Should we pat ourselves on the back? Never! Why? For every good thing done in Jesus' name, someone in need cries for help. Our challenge: be as flexible as God is in meeting needs and encouraging us who are different.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 8 June 2003

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