Faithfully yours - Four weeks of gratitude, part four


By Neil Strohschein

Neepawa Banner & Press

Today, I offer the final three items on my list of things for which I am grateful. Items 10 through 12 reflect where I am at this point in my life. Of all the things I list, next to my family, these are the ones for which I am most grateful.

10) Friends—those who think I’m a good egg even though I’m somewhat cracked.

During my college and seminary years, I was told that ministers should never have close personal friends in the congregations they serve. “You must treat everyone the same,” my teachers said. “You cannot allow your objectivity to be clouded by a personal friendship.” Over the years, I have seen the wisdom of those words and have been very selective as to who I welcome into my life as a friend.

However, several strong friendships have been formed. These people have helped keep me sane and stable during times of crisis and by their prayers and words of encouragement, have helped me find healing and wholeness. Some are here, some are far away, some are in heaven. But I thank God every day for every one of them.

11) Community—those who welcome, value and provide opportunities for immigrants.

I consider myself an immigrant; even though my home town is only 1,200 km from the town in which I currently live. When I moved from Alberta to Manitoba 22 years ago, it was like moving to a different world. The politics were different. The temperament of the people was different. So was the education system. It took a while to adjust; but I did and I am now proud to call myself a Manitoban.

This community has allowed me to do things that I could never have done in any of the other places where I have lived—things like speak to the community at Remembrance Day services, get involved in television and mass media, become a better writer than I was 18 years ago and for the last nine years, work at a job that, had I not been called to ministry, I would have chosen as my career.

Along the way, I have met many wonderful people who, like me, have a deep love for this part of rural Canada and for those who live and work here. I cannot think of a better place in which to spend the years I have left. Nor can I think of a nicer group of people with which to spend them.

12) The Community of Faith—diverse, yet one in Christ.

Of the 42 years I have spent in ministry, the last 18 have been, by far, the most fun, the most effective and the most rewarding. I have, in those years, driven the equivalent of two trips around the world at the equator, in five different vehicles, to lead worship and preach in 25 churches of five different faith traditions in 12 different communities of south-western Manitoba.

I have learned two things from this experience. First, the family of God is as diverse as any family can be. But we agree on the two things that matter most. We believe in God and we acknowledge his son, Jesus Christ, as our redeemer and king.

Second, we may do things differently when we gather for worship, but we share a common purpose—to declare our faith in God and offer our praises for the things we have been given—abundant life today, new life in Christ and eternal life after death.

This is my gratitude list for 2018. What’s yours?