Scenario 1: Imagine you’re a megachurch celebrity pastor preaching ear-tickling feel-good sermons to massive audiences on-site and online, with a gigantic screen behind you magnifying your stature manifold. You are the focal point of mass adulation and hysterical giggles. Being such a somebody, you have literally no time or interest in personally pastoring your flock. Isn’t it enough that you sprinkle some divine dust to your ravenous crowds each Sunday?
Scenario 2: Imagine you’re a small rural town pastor who faithfully ministers to a handful of congregants day after day, week after week, year after year. Each Sunday, you’d be lucky to have 30 people on the pews, for the remote sparsely populated town has only about 100 people left and many of whom are elderly, frail, and bedbound. You spend most of your time at bedsides, counselling the sick and their carers, being with one person for hours on end as they struggle with despair and sorrow, wrestling with God and their faith.
Which kind of pastor would you rather be? A celebrity who leverages his church for personal branding? Or an unknown nobody loving people as Christ loves him?
By God’s grace, I had a taste of being a nobody in a small rural town 25 years ago when we moved to Australia. I was the sole occupational therapist in a satellite rural town serving about 32,000 people across a huge geographical radius. On the margins of that radius was a tiny remote town with about a hundred or so people (if I remember rightly). The town was hundreds of kilometres away from my clinic at the hospital. It took me about three to four hours to get there. Home visits were essential for rural folks without means of transportation. At least I had a shared hospital car to get to my patients.
My entire day was spent attending to one patient with a disability and his aged mother. Clinical assessment done, we sat down for a yarn over tea and cookies on a cold and wet winter’s day. We talked for nearly two hours, punctuated by many pauses of silence. It was heartwarming and poignant at the same time. After the visit, I drove back to my hospital for three to four hours. That was my whole day. It was still raining. And cold. Colder, actually.
The world and its standards of efficiency would judge me as “inefficient,” “low tech,” “time wasting,” “lazy” and the like. I most certainly would not win any healthcare awards. But I pray that in God’s eyes, I’d been faithful to his people in giving as much of my presence as I could to a disabled person and his elderly carer, even if there was not much I could do with my clinical knowledge and skills. I do not remember much of other events during my OT stint there. But this one is etched in my memory.