Jennifer DeBisschop

Micah 6:6-8



The Right Place

Have you ever felt like you were in exactly the right place at exactly the right time?

When I entered divinity school in my early twenties I naively thought that because I was answering God’s call to the ministry that God would put me in exactly the right place at exactly the right time ALL the time.  Joke was on me.  I have been in ministry in one capacity or another for 5 years now, longer than some…nowhere near as long as many.  I have worked in various churches leading youth groups, interning, covering sabbatical for pastors.  I have worked with non-profits, delivering supplies to people in need, providing safe space for children after school and during the summer, teaching team and group-building.  I have done mission work in places like Chile, Appalachia, and Philadelphia.  At very few moments in ministry, however, have I felt like I knew that I was in exactly the right place at exactly the right time.  Perhaps in reflecting on experiences later I have seen why God put me where I was or in the same place as certain people.  But there was a gleaming moment…an “a-ha” moment, if you will, when I was working with the Good Samaritan mission in the Dominican Republic.  And that is where my story for today begins.


This story becomes less about me being in the right place as about a group of people providing a ministry.  If you can envision an old school bus with hundreds of thousand of miles on it, grown people sitting three to a seat and standing in the aisles, and meringue music blaring over a speaker held together by dental floss, then you can envision the scene this past February morning.  The ride itself took almost 2 hours to arrive at a church in a batey, a sugarcane cutters’ village, just outside of San Pedro.  The group on the bus was a group of medical professionals, pharmacists, and some volunteers, as well as translators.  It was the group from the church that I grew up in along with a partner-mission church from Massachusetts.  The pressure was on as the mission staff member on-site to keep this group of people who I knew and loved, who had spent their well-earned money to provide medical clinics for the sugarcane cutters and their families, happy as we realized that every moment we spent on the bus meant one less patient that could be seen.  They were less than happy to say the least.  My mood turned from one of excitement, wondering where the day would take us, to worry about when we would arrive, to frustration, knowing that there was nothing I could do about how fast the old schoolbus could navigate the dirt roads of the bateys.  With that attitude when we arrived at the door to the small church, we moved of f the bus and went about creating a makeshift medical clinic.  Pharmacy up front, care providers on the benches, let’s get people weighed and seen.  Let’s go…Let’s go…Let’s go…  Just before lunch, about an hour and a half after we arrived…it happened.  My mom, who is a nurse and was acting as a provider for the day, ran to the OB-GYN from Massachusetts, and then came to me.  “Jennifer, this baby needs to come back to La Romana with us,” she said, “We’re not sure how long he has.”  And there he was, Juan Angel, a seven-month old baby who weighed 5 pounds and his mother, who was about 20 years old and small in her own right.      


Suddenly there was a focus.  The focus was not on fixing the problem, on an immediate way to heal this child, knowing that there was not much we could do for a situation this serious that far away from the hospital.  Instead the focus was on providing a ministry.  And I was fortunate enough to watch it all happen.  To see a group of people who had been upset about not getting to work on time, about not fixing enough people, identify themselves as ministers.  To listen as they spoke for a few minutes about what actions they would take to keep Juan Angel alive at the clinic and to get him back to the hospital, the shifts they would take holding and trying to feed him, who would take care of the mother, how we could make sure they were able to get the supplies they needed.  To watch them hold and look after Juan Angel while his mom went back home to gather the necessary supplies for their stay in the hospital, feeding him with a medicine dropper, singing to him, and praying over him.  Watching people who thought we knew what it would take to fix something turn into people who realized that only through God’s grace could we do anything for this child and his mom.  Only through God’s amazing grace could a miracle happen.  And, although I was the one who had to give the okay to bringing Juan Angel back with us that afternoon, I was not there in the right place at the right time to do anything but to watch this unfold.  I was there so God could show me something.  It is amazing to see a group of people who feel helpless become a group of people who are focused on a goal, on ministry, and who realize that in order to achieve that goal what they need is to open themselves up to God and to jump on in.


The goal at the beginning of that day was to see at least one hundred people in the clinic, but God had bigger plans for us, and they came in the form of a little child.  Sound familiar?  And isn’t it just like God to change our plans, to open our eyes to new things, to give us the resources we need, to call us into action.  Due to changes in society everywhere we look there are people who are in need of ministry that we as a Christian community can provide.  God gathers us in, teaches us, and then sends us out to serve.  Jesus’ idea of ministry had everything to do with the idea of being sent and serving.  Just as Jesus was sent to us by God, he sent out the disciples, and for ages new people have been and continue to be sent out to teach about God’s power, God’s grace, God’s love…to show those things through action, to meet people where they are and to serve them.  What a responsibility we have as Christian people!  It can be a little overwhelming at times…especially when we are not sure if we have what it takes, if we are properly equipped for the job at hand.  Do we have the training that it takes to go out into the world and to serve people, to jump on in?


As far back as the 8th century BC, and even before then, we have training in the words of the prophets, like Micah.  What does the Lord require of you?  To do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.  Doing justice, doing what is right, acting out our beliefs, helping those in need.  Loving kindness, treating others with the kindness and respect that we wish to be treated with.  And walking humbly with our God…remembering that it is really God and not us who is in control.  God leads us in ministry.  God equips us with the passion, the gifts, the talents for ministry. 


This coming Saturday we will hold the Yankee Fair.  We will open ourselves up to this community.  We will share with them information about this place, its programs, and invite them to be with us, either just for an hour or for a longer period of time.  We will try to raise as much money as possible in order to reach out to the community and the country through the Brookfield Social Services Emergency Fund or through our donations to Hurricane Relief and Back Bay Mission.  We will raise money in order to work on this place and to continue with the ministries that take place here.  The money will not just go to fix up a building, but to allow us to have a safe space in which to carry out youth programs, adult education, and fellowship activities.  The money will not just go to an emergency fund, but will hopefully help to feed people, to heat their homes, to help rebuild homes and lives.  What we are about here is the business of providing ministry. 


The challenge, though, is to continue to keep the energy and involvement that we feel and share this coming weekend and to carry it throughout the year…to channel each of our passions and translate them into a goal, into action…to take our ideas conceived of faith and make them concrete, to make a difference.  We are not simply the church in the middle of Brookfield.  We are the church in the middle of Brookfield that is full of creative and energetic ministers, people who are able put their faith into action.  People who do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.  People who know that through God’s grace miracles can happen and lives can be changed.


The truth of the matter is that we are in the right place and this is the right time.  In fact there is no better time than the present to set goals, ones that can lead us in action and that we can achieve.  Instead of feeling like we need to make momentous strides we can do a little at a time.  The Spirit is alive and well in this place.  Now it is a matter of allowing it to tell us that we live within a power greater than our own, one that won’t let us fail if we listen and follow the plans that God has for us...if we jump on in. 


In the final hymn that we will sing together this morning are the following words:

“When we act alone hope is difficult to feel.  Together as we labor God’s compassion to reveal, we will fill the world with love.  With a vision in our minds of how this world could be, and the fullness of our hearts from the suffering we see.  Let us hesitate no longer in our doubt and our dismay.  There’s a power at work within us that has promised a new day.”  The truth is that we don’t need anything special, any special super powers to change situations around us that we know should not be.  Instead we just need ourselves at this time, in this place, and a goal, a focus for ministry.  The group at the medical clinic in the DR in February was a group of people just like you and me.  They set their minds on ministry.  And with a little bit of medicine, a little bit of coaching on a pacifier, some much-needed supplies, and a whole lot of love and prayers Juan Angel went back home, where he lives with his mom, his grandma, and his cousin.  Two days before I left the DR to come back home to the States in May I had a chance to get back out to see him.  And there he was, not so much bigger than he had been three months before, but a whole lot healthier….a real baby who smiled and held himself up…a baby with a chance…a recipient of some heartfelt ministry…a miracle.  Amen.