Dear Bent Tree Friends,
Maybe it’s my age, but lately death has played a big role. We have had ministers within our group suffer great loss at the hands of wicked people, frowning providences, and the overwhelming effects of the fall on one’s body. As many of you know my wife is currently a cancer survivor, I use the word “currently” because once you get cancer you have a 1 in 3 chance of it coming back. That is like walking around with a cocked, loaded gun pointing at your head all the time. We pay lip service to the idea that we could be called home at any time, but until it is experienced in someone close to you there is no way to know the weight of that idea. One of my high school friends just died this week. It was too early by most people’s calculations, but his health had declined to the inevitable point of death. I’m thinking about going to our 40th high school reunion this fall simply because the small class I graduated from is populated with quite a few people I’ve known since pre-school and our numbers are diminishing. Why tell you all of this? Because the pastors who benefit from Bent Tree and those who need to benefit from this fellowship traffic in death, either personally or with their parishioners, on a regular basis. Let me illustrate how we help them in this massive task and privilege by telling you about our spring training event this past April.
I want to introduce you to eight amazing individuals, starting with Karen and Chris Hodge. Chris is the senior pastor at Village Seven Church in Colorado Springs. He has been through a lot and the folks at that church get to benefit from a battle-hardened saint that leads with compassion. His wife, Karen, was one of our speakers a month ago at our spring training event. Karen is the director for Christian Discipleship Ministries Women’s Ministry. She gave the 36 pastors and pastors’ wives that were there a great vision for women’s ministry in the local church. We also had the honor of listening to and learning from Nancy Booher, who is also a current cancer survivor a few times over. She heads up Mission to North America’s, (MNA) English as a Second Language Ministry. Her husband Ron is indispensable to the execution of this ministry. And then there was Ashley Belknap, the director for MNA’s ministry Engaging Disability With the Gospel. Her husband John was at home taking care of their three children, two of whom are on the autism spectrum. And finally, Paul and Laura Miller, a current cancer survivor herself, with MNA’s prison ministry, Metanoia. Every one of these presenters, not to mention the people listening to them, have been through the ringer. But their heartbeats are for serving the church and evangelizing the lost. They are the embodiment of “walking in the valley of the shadow of death,” but because of God’s rod and staff they fear no evil. They breathed life into a group of folks that left energized and ready to serve others via one or all of the ministries presented. The temptation in the valley is to run, hide, or simply endure. And most of us have done or currently are doing just that. But there is a better way: we can walk through it because Jesus walked through it for us and came out on the other side. We can sit at a table prepared before us in the presence of our enemies, death being foremost, because resurrection life is on the menu.
Please continue to pray for us. Our Fall Training Event will be this September, this time for pastors and ruling elders only. We are already halfway full and would love to add space for others, so please pray and encourage your pastor or elders to sign up. If they need extra motivation, we have a man, a retired Black Hawk pilot, who is a gourmet cook that volunteers his time and cooks for us, which is awesome in three ways. One, the food is amazing. Two, the cost is significantly cheaper than eating out and the food is way better. Three, the time spent around the table with these guys eating good food and, if inclined, drinking good wine is worth the price of admission.
Director For Bent TreeP.S. I would be remiss if I didn’t make you aware of our current financial situation, not that you would give but that you might encourage others to participate in this ministry, especially your church. We are currently in a 90-thousand-dollar deficit, we are able to keep the lights on because of some significant gifts from 2021. The best way for churches to feel confident supporting us is to have me speak at the session meeting or preach or teach a Sunday School class or all three, so maybe you could suggest they extend an invite. Please pray for God to provide for us through the gifts of his people.