Pastor Randy’s SOTV Memories (November 2021 Newsletter Article)

Pastor Randy’s conflicting inside voice…

  • “Randy, can you write an article of your SOTV memories for the newsletter?”
  • “But, Pastors Paul and Duane have now written a whole book filled with church memories.”
  • “Randy, you are not Paul nor Duane, this is your chance…and maybe someone will ask for your autograph!”
  • “Oh, goodness, in that case, I’m in!”

I have only begun to read Behind the Pulpit, but I see already it is a well spun story of God’s work through the last decades at Shepherd of the Valley. And this is what impresses me: God has graciously been working in and through the members and staff in life-changing ways that are often behind the scenes. Here is a quick spinning of a few yarns of the Holy Spirit from my memories.

  1. Most married couples go through seasons of marital stress and struggles. Some discover that the ending of marriage is the direction to go. There have been some couples who visit with pastors, who use our referrals for therapists, or attend a marriage retreat, and do the hard work which healing and transformation demands. Later I hear their private comments, “Randy, Shepherd of the Valley saved our marriage.” “For a while our family’s only shared life was sitting together in worship.” And, “It was when we both volunteered together at church that our lives started knitting back together.” Thanks be to God.
  2. It was a Wednesday night of confirmation when a few middle school girls timidly approached. “Pastor Randy? We think we need to tell you something.” I assured them church is a safe place with caring people who are confidential. They explained that their friend had a plan to kill herself. We prayed together and sprang into action. Before the night was over, their friend’s parents took her for an emergency mental health evaluation. It was the starting point for professional support toward wholeness. Thanks be to God.
  3. There are many stories which go like this: a young person in the community tragically dies, through an accident or illness. Students are shocked and numb. Our church youth ministry staff reacts, discovering the connections at SOTV of friend groups and neighbors who are carrying broken hearts. Information is shared with small group leaders, grief is addressed in confirmation, prayers are shared, a prayer shawl is given. Death’s heavy impact lingers, but with the love and comfort of Christ also beautifully present. Thanks be to God.
  4. An SOTV college Habitat for Humanity mission trip traveled to New Orleans as the fifth church-sponsored relief trip to the area. Sitting on the front step with a homeowner as we helped clean her second-generation home in the Ninth Ward, with tears in her eyes she shared the story of watching her refrigerator floating in the kitchen after Hurricane Katrina. Now it was two years later. “You are God’s angels,” she shared. “I’ve been waiting and waiting for help. My insurance company will pay for repairs, but not for flood clean-up. Because of you, now I can start rebuilding!” Thanks be to God.
  5. With this story, I’ll simply quote, with the writer’s permission. “I became aware that I had heart disease and doctors advised that I needed a heart valve repair and double bypass. After months of receiving bad news, I came to the understanding that my life may be coming to an end. Prior to my surgery, I contacted (an SOTV) pastor. We discussed my situation with positive thoughts. Friends at SOTV were very supportive. My trust was in God and my faith well founded. The Spirit of our God and the Spirit of SOTV were always with me! Thankfully my recovery was very successful. (I encourage others to know their family health history, seek medical advice!) Thanks be to God.”

Goodness gracious, so many ‘behind the scene’ stories of struggles, darkness, grief, and doubt. Yet so many stories of hope, healing, faith, and joy.

I have said many times over the years how Shepherd of the Valley is not the perfect church. We are a congregation with flawed pastors, imperfect members, trying our best, and sometimes getting it wrong. But we preach the love of Jesus, we practice forgiveness and bold acceptance, and we get out of the pews and into the streets to reach out with careful compassion to walk with others.

And that is a darn good reason to celebrate our 40 years together!

Thanks be to God.