Sometimes My Heart Breaks

I love ministry.  My life has been changed forever by the saving grace of Jesus and since the moment of my salvation, ministry is all I’ve wanted to do.  How could I keep the gifts contained in the Gospel and the life changing experiences of following and serving an awesome God a secret?  Service and giving has never been a burden on my heart, these things, which I believe are central in the lives of a disciple, are the greatest blessings I can imagine.  Watching Jesus use his followers as tools for his rescue mission to the lost is awesome.  I have been blessed to be able to serve and lead with some passionate people, and I love it!

I have always served on a volunteer basis and worked a normal job as a locomotive engineer.  I have been an engineer for over 14 years.  Anyone in the railroad field will tell you, it can take over your life.  The hours are extremely demanding.  Trains do not stop running on the weekends or on holidays.  As a railroader, day and night really have no meaning, it is a 24 hour a day career, 365 days a year, with no set hours or schedule.  We are chained to a cell phone and must be prepared to leave town for 24-48 hours with only about 2 hours notice.  It’s difficult for anyone, and even tougher for a guy with a large family (wife, 5 kids, live-in father-in-law), and practically impossible for a guy with a large family who wants to lead or be involved with any kind of ministry.

Up until this point I have juggled (not always successfully, but mostly) my career and service.  I have to miss quite a bit of work so that I can lead or attend a meeting, church service, or event.  A railroad career requires that I be available for work 90% of the time (quick note; 40/hr work weeks are 26% of the time, railroading is not a 40/hr/week job), I have managed to maintain an average of about 75%.  This week, in a meeting with my boss I was informed that I must improve my attendance or else face some rather uncomfortable consequences.

It’s a tough position to be in.  I am honored to lead an awesome team that has planted a small church inside a prison facility.  We have been graced with the support of Granger Community Church and have seen our little group grow both in size and maturity.  We’ve seen lost men meet Jesus and be baptized.  We’ve watched once hard and broken guys invite others to church.  We’ve been able to love and serve men who have never known such a thing.  Jesus has used us as his hands and feet in a dark place and it has been wonderful.  And it looks like I am going to have to disconnect from it all.

My heart is broken.  I know that my family needs me to work and that I am extremely blessed to have a career.  I never want to appear unthankful to be able to go to work and support the ones I love when so many in the world do not have that opportunity.  I am blessed and I know it, but as a consequence of this world I must work at something that feels selfish and unfulfilling (making money) instead of at something life-changing, Jesus infused, and passion-filled.

I do try to take Jesus’ mission to the railroad with me.  I know that we as disciples are to be on mission wherever we go and that the work place is as good a mission field as any, but it’s not the same.  Bill Hybels, a pastor in Chicago, talks about a “holy discontent” in one of his books and I know exactly what that feels like.  There is a pull on my heart that aches to do more than what is possible while sitting on a train.  There is an aching for the lost outside of my locomotive window.

I have always said that I care about reaching the lost, not just the lost in prison where I serve now, but the lost as a whole.  God put some guys behind the walls of a prison in my path during this season of my life so they are who I am serving.  As the seasons change, maybe those in my path will change as well.  It’s hard not knowing, but that is where my beautiful savior steps in.  I know that Jesus is leading me and that ultimately he is in charge and I am not.  I pray that wherever he takes me that I will be a good and faithful servant.  In the end, that’s all that matters anyway.

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