December 8, 2018
On Saturday, December 8, 2018 we celebrated the many individuals who collaborate to improve the health of our community including clergy, local nonprofit leaders, faith community nurses and health ministers.
This was our first year recognizing a Clergy Champion awardee. We received numerous nominations and are blessed to have supportive church leaders across our region. Supportive clergy are essential to health ministry -- they are visionaries, leaders, supporters, and partners.
This year’s Clergy Champion Awardee is Pastor Mike Slofstra of Sonlight Church in Lynden.
From his nomination,
“Pastor Mike chairs a pastoral care team meeting each week. We, Faith Community Nurses, are part of this team. As confidentiality permits, we share the needs of those we are caring for. Pastor Mike then can access and refer to other appropriate ministries so that our members are well cared for. Pastor Mike is a true inspiration with a great heart for people and their needs.”
While Pastor Mike was honored to receive this award, he was not able to attend the event because he was preparing for Chemotherapy treatments for Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. He provided the following letter in his absence.
Letter from Pastor Mike
Greetings to you all, and thank you.
I have learned a great deal about the work of care in the midst of suffering from the example set forth by the Faith Community Nurses in our community. The faithful and compassionate care they provide is a shining example of very practical love. Over the years I have had the opportunity to work alongside them in a caregiver role. There, on the edge of a hospital bed, I’ve witnessed a deep understanding of how the love of God can be made visible. Their care is drenched in mercy; compassion for humanity like the Fathers.
So often I’ve aspired to reflect that same kind of care in others. I’ve longed to be faithful in showing compassion. But the depth of my heart has a shallow limit. Sure there are times when circumstances mean compassion comes naturally. There is no need to summon a will to serve when you’re in the home of a mother who's lost a child. The limits of my heart to care shows quickest in the routine care of His people. The phone calls, the visits, the proactive care of the habitually needy. Here is where the measure of my heart’s depth proves my own inadequacy.
And so these past months have brought me a new kind of perspective. I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in early October and find myself the care receiver now. My wife and five children have had to embrace the role of the needy. At first, I tried to will myself to escape the state. But the reality is I can not. I am reduced to dependency on others. Surely this has always been my reality; it’s only recently that I’ve come to embrace it.
Which leads me to my closing remark regarding the depth of all our hearts to serve. If, as caregivers, we are not to become weary in doing good we must find a sort of strength to remain faithful in showing mercy to others. I would contend that we can only do so by seeing ourselves first and foremost as care receivers. Surely we’ve all had a season of life like the one I now walk in. And this perspective may help us. But there is a sort of care we’ve all been shown that far outshines that of the ones I now receive at the edge of a hospital bed. That care is the love of the Fathers.
He sought me out when was lost and helpless. He’s faithfully mended my heart when I was too quick to give to over to other things. It is the love of the Father that rescued me from the depth of my own hearts depravity. You see we, before the foundations of the earth, have been the care receiver, in the hands of the God of mercy and compassion — the great caregiver. It has been my joy to see how he does not grow weary of doing good because he is love. Love is not a discipline of his heart that he wills himself to demonstrate. Instead, love is the very essence of his presence in our lives. And so my strength to not grow weary does not come from my own heart. Instead, it comes from the heart he is making new within me. It comes as I look upon the cross and see the limitless nature of his love for me — the infinite nature of his love for all of you. With eyes to see His beauty, the power of the Gospel becomes the transforming agent for my shallow heart.
Praise God that he found me - the habitually needy. Praise God he did not just speak of his Love for me, he showed it. Praise God I now have a heart to live from that he has filled with the sight of his Love for me.
Thank you for all that the Heath Ministries Network does to equip people to live well from the Heart that God is forming in each us!
Pastor Mike Slofstra
You can learn more about Pastor Mike’s illness and prayer requests by visiting his Caring Bridge site: https://www.caringbridge.org/public/mikeslofstra