This week Threshold Ministries celebrated what I jokingly call its “Pianoversary”. 88 years ago (the number of keys on a piano) a small band of evangelists began a work here in Canada. This work has continued faithful through those years, generally in obscurity. We celebrate not fame but faithfulness! Faithfulness finds its measure not in obedience but rather obedience over time. First as the Church Army in Canada and recently as Threshold Ministries, this band of evangelists have continued obedient to the call to share by word and deed the love of the crucified and risen Saviour.
Eugene Petersen calls this “a long obedience in one direction”. A friend of mine just celebrated 17 years serving in the same parish. This kind of tenure is all but unheard of these days! Too often ministry is experienced more like ‘short term missions’ than a stable faithful obedience over a period of time. To walk with people over a period of time is challenging. At a certain period we will feel that we have used up all our meagre resources and ought to move on, but this realization is less a call to move on than it is to grow, and to find new resources beyond my meagre ones. This is uncomfortable but it puts me in much the same position of the friends I serve. When they ‘hit a wall’ in life they don’t have the option of moving on to greener pastures.
One of my frustrations with my ‘part-time’ job in the world of corrections is that there is an expectation that I drop people once they have ‘graduated’ from the system. I am glad that I am simply able to put on my ‘Street Hope” hat and continue to walk with folks over the long haul.
When I first met one fellow he was angry at the entire world and bent on revenge. Over the years we have developed a friendship and he has marvellously changed. He is one of the best liked member of the community. When he enters our drop in people stop and call out his name. It kind of reminds me of ‘Cheers”. He has established a life for himself. If we had not been able to walk with him these past few years I do not know where he would be.
Another fellow I have known for years called me the other day to ask if I was licenced to do weddings. I said no but I’d be happy to introduce him to someone. After a while he got back to me and asked if he could go to the court and get married and then have me bless them somehow. What he was saying was that it was important to him that I be a part of this big day with him. He values our friendship. I’m sure I can work out something to be a part of his celebration and we will work together to figure out a plan to see their marriage blessed.
I have had the opportunity to walk with another guy through the years. He has done three ‘bits’ (sentences) in the time we have known each other and we have continued our relationship through it all. Each day now he sets another milestone for the longest time ‘outside’. He is solidly on a path of following Jesus.
If I had not enjoyed the stability of walking with folks for a protracted period I don’t think these stories would have unfolded as they have. Celebrating our Pianoversary has reminded me of the significance of “a long obedience in one direction.”