“Another week is over. Praise God for Sabbath!” the bubbly worship leader announced. “Can I get an amen?”
“Amen!” the group agreed exuberantly. But for the first time, the woman next to me remained deathly quiet.
Until that moment, she’d been an enthusiastic participant—nodding vigorously at various points of the presentation, singing heartily and bowing her head in fervent prayer. This sudden silence drew my attention. That, and the tears starting to well up in her eyes. I tried not to stare but my curiosity had been aroused.
As the final prayer was said, the participants began to disperse and the woman started to gather her belongings. I felt a strong compulsion to talk to her.
“Excuse me,” I blurted out as she started to walk away. Fortunately she turned and looked at me curiously.
As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I mentally kicked myself. What would I say to her? If only I’d given myself a couple of extra minutes to formulate a speech or say a little prayer. Then again, in those extra minutes, she could easily have disappeared into the crowd.
“Is everything OK?” I asked tentatively.
Her face crumpled. “No, not really.”
“Would you like to talk about it?”
Although I’d made the offer, I was stunned when she nodded.
“But not here,” she said warily, glancing around in a furtive manner.
I followed her outside. We found a relatively quiet spot amidst the hustle and bustle that generally erupts close to mealtime. We proceeded to exchange first names and various pleasantries before she finally opened up.
“My husband’s a pastor,” she said frankly. “Sabbath has never been a rest day for our family. Actually, it’s the busiest day of the week. There are times when I really resent that.”
A little more than a year ago, my colleague Maritza and I planned a video for Pastors’ Appreciation Month. We invited pastors to our studio to be filmed, speaking about their greatest struggles in ministry. Then we surprised them by showing them footage of their church members thanking them for their hard work. Later we posted this video on the Adventist Record Facebook page so that other people could be reminded to appreciate their pastors too.
We were blown away by the response. Many noted that the video had made them cry; others tagged their pastors on the post and left their own encouraging messages. And it may or not be a coincidence, but this year, the General Conference designated the second Sabbath of October to be Pastors’ Appreciation Day.
I’d like to suggest we take it a step further and also recognise the partners and families of those in full-time pastoral ministry.
To many congregations, the pastor’s spouse is no more than an unpaid volunteer.
They are the ones who minister behind the scenes yet seldom receive a reward or accolade. They are the ones who share their partners with the church at any time of the day or night. They are the ones who are most vulnerable to congregation gossip and criticism. Yet they continue to serve faithfully regardless.
One day, God will reward many of these ministerial spouses with the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
But until that day, we should also give them the appreciation they deserve.