Sent Home to Serve

Twenty-five years ago, I wrote for Faith and Fellowship regarding the Grand Forks, North Dakota flood of ’97. Our church building was greatly damaged, and the church suffered as well. 50,000 people had been evacuated; the largest evacuation FEMA had dealt with up to that time. My family took refuge in Wisconsin. On a Sunday morning there, after speaking about the disaster, I was approached by other families, people I didn’t know, but who had also fled the rising waters. It struck me at the time: it was as though an invisible hand had scattered 50,000 people across the Midwestern US, but they would all in their own time return home.

Our 2022 CLB Convention reminded me of that analogy, only in reverse. People from most of our CLB churches in the US and Canada, as well as several missionary families from great distance, gathered in Fergus Falls, Minnesota for a few days. It was a time of reunion and celebration, particularly after the 2020 Convention’s COVID-cancellation. But now it’s over, and the invisible hand has scattered us back to our respective homes and ministries.

A second memory from 1997, was that after the physical flood cleanup, the Billy Graham School of Evangelism held a special session in Grand Forks to benefit local and area pastors and spouses. One of their expert speakers, who understood the trauma associated with disaster experiences, made a prediction that shocked the audience: “80% of you will be gone within five years.” He was right. One by one, my colleagues moved away. I lasted just over three years. Two of our church’s key elders left town at the same time as I did. I’d like to think my moving (and theirs) had nothing to do with the flood, but was instead about opportunities we couldn’t refuse. But only the Lord knows. The expert’s point was that the emotional and spiritual drain of that disaster and recovery experience, and trying to shepherd a congregation through it, would take such a toll that we would eventually need to go.

Even before the Convention, I had been wondering if the COVID experience, with all its renditions of shutdowns and masking and vaccination controversy, has taken a toll on us, on our churches. It’s over, we think. We’ve been in restart mode for quite some time. But can we simply pick up where we left off in March 2020, as if nothing has changed? Or have we been changed?

This is where the Convention comes in. We need times of refreshing, renewal, and revival. A CLB Convention serves that purpose for the delegates. But our churches need it too. We have a desire to call, partner, unleash and multiply in mission for our Lord. To begin, we must go to our knees, because we need the Lord more than ever.

Rev. Brent Juliot is Contributing Editor of F&F magazine and Pastor of Living Hope Church in Menomonie, Wisconsin.

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