It was a pleasure in late August this year to host Pastor Kaspars Simanovics, current lead pastor at Luther’s Church, in Riga, Lativa, my old hometown (http://rigasluteradraudze.lv) . He and his wife, Ilze, were guests of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Marion, Iowa, and Zion.
The opportunity to serve as hosts for Kaspars and Ilze brought opportunities for two pastors from different countries to talk about ministry and exchange notes. I really benefited from the exchange on a personal and spiritual level. Kaspars reminded me of the many things we share in common as pastors. Things like visiting the sick, teaching classes to new, young, and maturing believers, doing weddings, funerals and baptisms. Sure there are differences, like volume (his church is bigger than mine), technology (he needs to get on Facebook, blog), etc. His own experience and his way of pastoring served to stimulate and challenge me. It was a great exchange. We were able to share ideas, joys, and frustrations.
His visit also reminded me of a dream I once had many, many years ago. My wife and I were leading mission trips yearly to Jamaica to a partner church where we had been for several years. The pastor, Glenn Stoddart, and I had developed a good friendship over the years. We had long talks in his cool, dark, breeze block office while our congregations worked on various construction projects and did a children’s ministry together. Together we discussed the art of pastoring, and talked about spiritual things that transcended our different contexts and situations. Our conversations were so encouraging and up-lifting that we dreamed together about how wonderful it would be to be able to work together for half a year in each other’s congregations, just for the shear pleasure of combing our two different sets of experiences and backgrounds for the furtherance of God’s kingdom. We realized that living in the US had shaped me to be of use in some things and that living and serving the Lord in Jamaica had prepared him for other things, but that together, we had a wealth of experience. We each had different resources, different solutions, different approaches. We realized we had much to offer each other and therefore much to offer our congregations.
Glenn and I posited that understanding a different culture may lead us as pastors to have more patience and a better understanding of our own culture and congregation. It would help us both to think “outside the box” about doing mission and facing challenges in our congregations. Not to mention one of the best gifts of such an exchange: a better sense of what it means to be part of a global church.
I hope one day that our dreams come true. I hope one day it will be possible for pastors, who love and respect each other, to work together in each other’s countries and contexts, in order to further develop our Christian leadership skills and build up and mentor and encourage one other.