Monday, April 15th, 2013
Our Bethlehem family blessed us last night with a grand recommissioning service and celebration marking the end of our 33 years as a pastor’s family and the beginning of our next chapter.
My words to our brothers and sisters there touched on the parallels between Bethlehem’s growth and our family’s.
In 1980, Bethlehem’s Sunday congregation fit well in the old Sanctuary, with elbow room to spare. That summer, we Pipers arrived as a family of 5—2 parents and 3 sons.
You who were part of Bethlehem then, I thank you for making this an easy place to become a pastor’s wife. I don’t recall any times when someone expected me to be or do some certain thing because that’s what a pastor’s wife does.
Instead, you offered me options for ministry and were willing to let me pray and talk it over with my husband and then tell you yes or no. You gave me freedom to be wife and mother and to be involved as I felt God leading me, both within the church and elsewhere. I hope that all of you now will bless Cara in the same way.
As Bethlehem grew to multiple services and built a new sanctuary, our family grew too. We added another son and a daughter and so we were a family of 7—2 parents and 5 children. The same year we adopted our youngest child, we also gained our first daughter-in-law—the beginning of the years of sending our sons one by one to their own homes with their brides. And Bethlehem was sending more of its sons and daughters to their new homes, all around the world to spread a passion for the supremacy of God through Jesus Christ.
When Talitha was a first grader, Bethlehem’s old sanctuary came down. That year while the new education building was going up, there was no Sunday school. So we used the Children Desiring God 1st grade curriculum at home—the ABC’s of God. Talitha still remembers rearranging the letters of one long word until she got incomprehensible—however much we learn about God and no matter how well we know him, there is always much more.
That education building completed the downtown campus as we see it now. And Bethlehem has multiplied from that one campus to three. Our family has multiplied too, from 5 of us at the beginning of our time at Bethlehem to 23 now—we 2 are rich with 21 sons and daughter, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren.
Bethlehem’s building with its changes is a symbol that touches just the surface of how much our lives have been interwoven with you brothers and sisters for these 33 years.
I have a gift for you, Johnny. We know that the best gift a person can give often is one that person would also like to have. So this gift to you is to go over our fireplace so that we both can have before us reminders of our life here.
Dear friends, no one but God knows what a treasure your prayers for us have been all these years. Now I ask you to pray that we will be—as Mary Schmuland said to me a few weeks ago—“Retired? No—refired.”
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