Thursday, June 19, 2014

If the Germans aren't getting off the boat, go fishing!

For the last six months, I have been working on my master's degree in my hometown with a population about 600. After five and a half years in the field of ministry, it was nice to be home with my family for a while. I was able to go back and remember my German heritage. I enjoyed Lenten suppers at my home church, substitute taught at my grade school and my high school, and spent time with my aging grandparents. During this time, my home church was in the process of calling a pastor. My grandfather, who has Alzheimer's and now struggles with daily routine, sat in the church pew and asked, "Does this pastor have an interest in school ministry?" Even in his aging years, Lutheran schools are still important to him.

Lutheran ministry goes back in my family for generations. My great-great-uncle was a pastor in Minnesota. My grandmother was a graduate of River Forest and taught grade school. Both my mom and my aunt are Lutheran school teachers. I have wanted to be a Lutheran school teacher since I was seven years old. However, I must admit that the Lutheran school career that I have is far different from what I may have imagined.

As a girl from a small German Lutheran community, the schools that I taught in were very different from the ones where I taught. I had been teaching for three weeks when one of my second graders came up to me and said, "Miss Engelhard, why does that snake talk?" I was floored. By the time I was in second grade, we had memorized the basic Bible stories. Yet, my students were questioning me about creation. My principal had told me that this school required skills in outreach ministry, and she wasn't sure if I had that gift. Now, I have a bit of a bad habit. When I am told that I am not very good at something, it almost naturally becomes my personal mission to improve in that area. That was how the story began.

To this day, I can no longer count the number of students that have learned about Jesus for the first time in my classroom or in those of the teachers I have worked with. I remember many Friday afternoons working in childcare with a little boy who loved to sing Fishers of Men slightly off-key. There was the fourth grader who constantly questioned how we went to heaven - good works or faith in Christ. The fifth grader who had read her Bible more times than myself. The second grader who could loved all things about Jesus in every aspect of her day at school. The best part - not one of those students was brought up in the Lutheran church.

In Lutheran schools today, we have an opportunity to do something truly great. Students learn about the love of Christ in our classrooms each day. However, it does not stop there. Those students go home each night and share the faith in their homes. That is done in their words and in their actions. Let's take a look at Matthew 4:18-22:

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Here is my question to you for the day: If the Germans aren't getting off the boat, how can you go fishing?