If you are looking for something to share with your pastor for Pastor Appreciation Day or just a special occasion, check out my post 8 Things I Wish My Pastor Knew
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
From left: Pastor Don Gifford of Mulberry, Fl, Pastor and Sis. Jones of Coeur d’Alene, ID, and Pastor and Sis. Luke of Auburn, WA. Not pictured: Pastor Stephen Kelley of Kamiah, ID.
“Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.” -I Timothy 5:17
October is the official Pastor Appreciation Month and, more specifically, the second Sunday of the month is Pastor Appreciation Day. I just want to take a few minutes to honor the ministers God has placed in my life.
Most people don’t have a list of pastors like I do but my biological parents moved a lot. It seems like moving churches a lot would be hard–and it was–but the plus was that I can say I’ve had several great influences on my life growing up. Here’s a quick snapshot of the churches i went to and when:
I was blessed to be born into the Apostolic church. Word has it that my mother went into labor during a Sunday night service in Rialto, CA. When I was three I moved in with my uncle, Steve Aguilar, who pastored a Spanish work just outside San Diego. We moved to Idaho when I was six and started going to Stephen Kelley’s church and then, at eight, moved to Florida and went to Don Gifford’s church. After a year and a half we moved back to Kamiah and stayed at Bro. Kelley’s church until the year before middle school. My biological parents divorced and backslid and that left me out of church for a while until we moved to Coeur d’Alene, ID where I started going on my own. Finally, this past February, I relocated to Auburn, WA and started going to Pastor Michael Luke’s church.
Pastor Stephen Kelley – He was the first pastor I ever remember having (outside of vague memories from my uncle’s church). Under his leadership I first learned what it truly meant to be loved of God and really, that there are people in the world who have no obligation to you that will love you. I never fully understood it as a kid but now that I am older I realize just how much he impacted my life. I had a very difficult upbringing and realized (way later than I wish I had) that he had done everything he could to protect me and my siblings.
My fondest memory of him was from when I was nine. I had come down with a horrible migraine and was left home alone while my father and siblings went to church. I was led to believe by my father (who genuinely believed it) that the reason I had migraines was because I was sinning and that God was punishing me for it; I awakened later that night after church had gotten out to my father and Pastor standing by my bed. I thought, in my childish mind, that he was there to punish me for whatever I did to get sick. Imagine my surprise when he started praying for me and told me God loved me and that everyone gets sick but God would heal me. It was one of the very first times in my life I felt safe and protected. He probably doesn’t remember that night but it stands out to me like it was just yesterday.
Pastor Don Gifford – This man had an impeccable ability to make kids feel important at church. It seemed that there was always something going on for the kids. One time he got up behind the pulpit and, feeling like kids needed their own worship song too, led the congregation in “If You’re Happy and You Know It”. At his church I first understood the power of prayer. Every Sunday I would find myself at the altar praying and he would always come over and pray for me to get the Holy Ghost. He baptized me in the name of Jesus on April 14, 1996. It was under his leadership that, at eight years old, I first understood that I needed God and wanted to serve Him with my entire being. Elder Gifford and his wife passed away several years ago and I cannot wait until the day I get to see him in Heaven!
Pastor Buddy and Sis. Jana Jones – These two, whom I eventually called my parents after they took me in as a teenager, impacted my life more than anyone I’ve known to this day. Everything I learned as a kid but lost during my biological parents’ divorce and backsliding I regained at their church. They gave me a home, a family, and every opportunity I could ever hope for to be used of God. They taught me just about everything I know as far as service and leadership. They helped me become who I am today (only God knows where I’d be if it weren’t for them!)
I have so many great memories that picking one would be hard! Ministry wise, I’ll never forget the day we were at the fair doing a church event and this man who was mentally disabled came over and started talking to my pastor. Upon seeing that the man’s shoe was untied, he knelt down and tied it for him. As a teenager I remember being really embarrassed at first (why I have no idea!) but as I saw him kneel before this man images of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet ran through my mind. It was at this moment that I understood what true servanthood was. I saw this kind of servanthood in Sis. Jones, too. It never failed that she was helping someone. Whether it was taking someone to a food bank, bringing me dinner and a coloring book when I was sick (haha yes even in my twenties), or telling people about Jesus in line at Fred Meyer, she was always showing the love of Christ. They taught me that the ultimate goal in this life is to love God and love people.
Pastor Michael and Sis. Paula Luke – My current pastor and pastor’s wife, they’ve been the ones leading me into this next chapter of my life. I don’t think I have yet to meet a more gentle and wise couple than these two. Moving away from my family was really hard for me but they have been so great at making me feel welcomed here and helping me navigate life as I follow God in this present and the future. They are so giving of their time, energy and resources and if you spent just five minutes at the church here and talked with people you would see just how much they are loved!
I have Sis. Luke (along with Sis. Jones) to thank for this new chapter…they were always on the lookout for someone to marry me off to haha. The August before last when she first mentioned Daniel, who is now my boyfriend, I cynically said to her, “Uh-huh. These things never work out. In fact, if this one worked out I’d give you a thousand dollars!” Well, here I am now living in Auburn, still with Daniel, and about to be out a thousand bucks!
I would encourage everyone–not only during Pastor Appreciation Month but throughout the year–to think about the fond memories you have of your pastor (and his wife if he is married). Let them know how they have impacted you. Their work is very tiring and sometimes they wonder if they’re making a difference. Let them know they are. Bless them (both verbally and financially or with gifts if you have the ability). They give so much of their time, energy and resources to helping people and oftentimes put others before themselves.