“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21).
“Steve, why are you pursuing a career in structural steel design rather than construction?” I asked one of my engineering classmates many years ago. Naively I thought he would explain why he liked that kind of work better. Rather, he tersely replied, “More money in it!” I would hope money would not be the sole consideration in such an important decision.
Contrast Steve with a couple I met this past weekend, Dan and Barbara. Dan pastors two churches 20 miles apart in Montana. Both are so small that together they can pay only a part-time salary.
So Dan works as a high school teacher and football coach. His wife runs a small day care.
Our Tennessee Baptist denomination is forging a partnership with some of our churches in Montana. They are urging our Tennessee churches to take mission teams there for a week or so to help Montana churches with everything from outreach to VBS to building repair. Therefore, Rev. Lee Ray and I made a brief visit to Dan and Barbara to view their work and needs firsthand.
When Dan and Barbara came to Glasgow to pastor Calvary Baptist two years ago, they left a good salary in a thriving area of Texas to settle in this town of 5,000, located over four hours from the nearest Wal-Mart. The tiny parsonage was not in good repair, and the congregation did not have the money to fix it up. Dan appealed to the church to sell him the house. “That way,” he explained, “I can put my own time and money into improvements, and the church will be freed from that obligation.” The congregants agreed. I wondered how fancy a home they left behind in Texas.
I did see pictures of the grown son and daughter they left in Ft. Worth. “That’s what we miss the most, living up here,” Barbara said, “visiting our kids.” Ft. Worth is a long trip they cannot afford to make often. I noticed a brown-paper package on the counter in their kitchen ready to mail. It was addressed to their daughter Amber. In the return address Barbara identified herself and Dan as “Mom and Dad.” On the side of the package, she had written, “Happy Birthday! We love you!” My heart ached for them.
But Dan and Barbara radiate joy. They love the people of Glasgow and nearby Hinsdale, the location of the other church. They are now part of the fabric of the community. As we arrived in their area on Saturday, Dan was preaching the funeral of a young high school graduate he had coached the year before. They young man was killed in a tragic traffic accident. The parents looked to Dan to conduct the service.
But Dan would like to give up the teaching and coaching and serve the churches full time. As he showed us the 90 year old house the Hinsdale church meets in and its myriad repair needs, he lamented not being able to drive the four hours to Billings more often to visit his congregants during hospital stays. He’d like to lead the people personally in more outreach. And he’d like to start a new church 20 miles away in the tiny community of St. Marie.
But what really humbles me is his attitude towards us. “If you send a team here to help us out, we intend to send a team back to Campbell County to help you with VBS or anything else you need.” It’s obvious that Dan and Barbara’s treasure is with the Lord and His people.
“I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35).