By Heidi Regier Kreider
On a recent two-week stretch in January, I experienced the breadth of diversity within Western District Conference. In those 14 days, I preached at and met with committees from several central Kansas congregations; I joined a rural ministry pastors’ discussion group, a gathering of pastors along I-70 highway in Kansas, and a meeting of interim pastors; and I then drove south to visit churches and pastors in Turpin and Clinton, OK, and Dallas, San Antonio and Houston, TX.
In my travels, I relished the beauty of the rolling native prairie of eastern Kansas, and the wide-open space of the Oklahoma panhandle with its flat line of horizon, highlighting the glow of sunrise and sunset. I navigated humming streams of traffic in Dallas and Houston, mesmerized by the surrounding blur of lights, gas-stations, restaurants, businesses, office and industrial buildings, schools, churches, shopping malls, houses and apartments. I enjoyed sharing fellowship with church members while eating chicken and noodles, pancakes, arroz con pollo, baleadas, “hot pot” Thai and Mongolian soup, and chili.
I listened as church members and leaders shared visions of building projects, sabbatical and transition plans, response to the “Rainbow” resolution, stories of interfaith collaboration and advocacy in their community, sadness at the decline in their church or excitement about new members, the importance of leadership education and youth mentoring, church planting and sister-church relationships, questions about how to relate to local economic and social issues, the profound challenges of pastoral care concerns, and the fervent desire to live out Jesus’ call to radical discipleship. I strained to understand conversations in Spanish, music and prayers in Chin, and differences in theological perspectives and Biblical interpretation. Yet in the midst of it all, I could comprehend the language of the heart expressing conviction, hope, praise, prayer, lament, love, hospitality, pain, joy and blessing.
I am grateful for the beautiful and complex mosaic that is WDC, a kaleidoscope of people and places enlivened and connected by the Spirit of God. What a blessing it is to travel among this network of very different congregations, communities and cultures! I look forward to visiting congregations and pastors I have not yet met, as opportunity to continue to discover and learn, to practice curiosity and openness to what God is doing among us.
In one gathering of pastors, I offered these words from Ephesians 1:15-19: “For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” This is my prayer for each one in WDC.