Blown Away

John Wesley famously wrote of his heart warming experience, “In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans.”  I currently serve on 14 agency boards and/or Council of Bishops committees/task groups.  This does not include various committees, task groups and leadership teams within the Central Texas Conference.  Most of these entities are about good and even godly work.  Some (7) relate to Council of Bishops assignments.  (The Council of Bishops has responsibility for worldwide oversight of the church.)  Taken together, I could have a full-time job on these assignments alone without ever entering a local church.  I think I am about average in assignments for bishops in the United Methodist Church.  Thus it is that I often go “reluctantly” to a board meeting, even when the ministry is exciting and worthy of my time. Last week I went reluctantly to a Board meeting for the Methodist Children’s Home in Waco.  I am on this Board as the representative bishop of the five bishops in the state of Texas (Bishops Bledsoe, Dorff, Huie, McKee, and myself).  The Methodist Children’s Home (MCH) is a stellar (!) outreach ministry of the United Methodist Church in Texas and New Mexico for children, youth and their families.  MCH provides services to more than 1,400 children and youth daily through residential care, foster care and other services. There are 12 Family Outreach Services offices located across Texas and New Mexico.  MCH is both a leader and a pioneer in the field of care for children and youth. I enthusiastically commend it to all people of good will and especially to Methodists across the region.  It is worthy of our enthusiastic committed support. All that being said, I still went reluctantly.  One more board meeting is one more board meeting in my life.  I wanted/needed (still need) time in the office to catch up on the myriad of items that come across the desk of the bishop.  Nonetheless, the passionate love and high commitment to and for children and youth overflows (even in a normal board meeting dealing with budgets, employee policy, and program decisions).  It is incredibly refreshing to go to a board meeting that is passionate about its ministry, explicitly Christian and unapologetically United Methodist! After conducting our regular business, we heard an address from Dr. Karyn Purvis (Professor of Child Development at TCU and Director of the TCU Institute of Child Development) who works in conjunction with MCH on trauma informed care.  Trauma informed care looks at the well-being of the whole child: neurological, behavioral, and spiritual. This is cutting edge research that is a marriage of science and theology.  She spoke about functioning in the way that a “sovereign God intended” us to; about being whole and especially working with the kids from “the hard places in life,” as Dr. Purvis refers to them.  I was blown away by the intermixing of the best of scientific research with a clear faith witness.  Phrases like “the intent of a sovereign God” and “touching the heart of grace” filled the conversation.  Biblical stories and references were sprinkled throughout the presentation.  It was not pushy nor was it exclusive of other faiths; rather, it was a grace-filled clear witness to faith in Christ reaching out for children and youth from the “hard places.” I went into the meeting tired and wishing for a day off; I went reluctantly and was blown away.  At the end of the her address, I leaned over to Rev. Steve Ramsdell (Sr. Pastor at First UMC, Waco and a fellow Methodist Children’s Home board member) and commented, “her talk was worth the trip by itself!”  Repeatedly Dr. Purvis spoke glowingly of the Methodist Children’s Home as one of the pioneer institutions in this vital ministry of trauma informed care.  One of our major mission emphases as a larger United Methodist Church in recent years has been children and poverty.  Methodist Children’s Home is reaching out in a focused ministry that shares with the last, least and lost in a Christ-serving, God-honoring way.  I was humbled to be in the MCH Board meeting that day.