This past weekend we attended our pastor and spouse retreat in Middlebury, Indiana. If you have never been to this area, it is a wonderful place to spend a few days. It is Amish Country. Middlebury is located in Elkhart county. Elkhart county also happens to be the recreational vehicle capital of the world, and at one time was the musical instrument capital of the world. Some of the best restaurants and antique shops are in this area. Also one of the best bakeries I have ever known is just outside of Shipshewana. I visited the cheese store and other places that bring back a lot of memories. The memories come from the time I spent in this area while pastoring my second church. Syracuse Indiana is just a few miles south of Middlebury. My view of pastoral ministry was largely shaped while living here and I was reminded this past weekend of what an important place it was and is in my life.
My fist Sunday in Syracuse there were 18 people in the service. In hindsight the numbers may have been inflated! The town had approximately 2700 residents in those days. Several lessons were learned in my time spent in Syracuse:
- I learned that God loves small places. My hunch is that most of you have never heard of this town, let alone visited the community. If you look through out Scripture God is not put off by small or out of the way places, ever heard of Bethlehem? Syracuse, Indiana was not only small but in the early days so was the congregation. In spite of what many may imagine, we had some wonderful services where the spirit of God met with us and helped us, and more importantly transformation took place. I learned in Syracuse, to never despise the small places. God still does big things in small places with minimal crowds.
- I learned that you must do your best regardless of the size or place where you are serving. The people deserve our best, the community deserves our commitment to being the best that we can be. If God calls you to a small place, then you need to serve with all your might.
- I learned that God does not lose track of us when we live in less populated places. He never once forgot where I was, and was faithful and I was more than blessed.
- I learned that my call was from God and if He desires that I serve in a small place, then I follow the God who calls me. I learned the beauty of obedience in this small town. I was born in a city and pretty much prefer to live in cities, but if I am convinced that God had called me, therefore I serve where He leads me.
- I learned that ultimately demographics do not define the place where you live, people do, and people matter!
- I learned to love where you are living. If the call of God takes you to a small town or a major city there are people there that will become your friends and family for life.
I learned a lot of things in a small town but i also learned that sheep need a shepherd regardless of the size of the community. Really if you know why you are doing what you are doing, then anyplace God calls you is the right place.
I am rejoicing that this past weekend I got retrace steps from three decades ago. I can testify that God is good!