By Miriam Ankerbrand
When I was preparing to come work at Joy El almost nine years ago, I spoke with my pastor, Bill Spangler. I was worried because I had never done anything like this before. I’d been a nurse for over 20 years and was taking on a role that involved fundraising, letter writing, and donor relations. Bill looked me square in the eye and told me, “You’ll be doing ministry and it will be hard.” This was not the advice I wanted to hear! He went on to say, “But it will be worth it.”
Bill was right. Over the past nine years, I have sat by the bedside of a long-term Bible Adventure volunteer as she was struggling for her last breaths reading from her favorite book of the Bible to help comfort her. I held her hand as I prayed with her, weeping, knowing it would be the last time I would get to visit with her here on earth.
I have gone to visit a donor to ask for help with project funds to have that visit turn into a discussion about salvation and have them realize they didn’t have a true relationship with Jesus. They took steps to make things right with God.
At our Jubilee, I’ve talked with a grandfather who was raising his grandchildren on a fixed income who desperately wanted to send them to camp but couldn’t afford to. I explained the campership program and they came to camp where the children were taught about Jesus and now one of those children is in the 4.12 Leadership Training Program.
A few years ago, I was asked to help lead the Angel Tree Program to bring more children to camp. That became a ministry in itself. I’ve had my heart broken over and over again by stories and situations of these children. But every year, there is at least one that you know camp truly made a difference for and it was worth all the heart-ache and pain.
During the pandemic, it has been making calls to churches and letting them know we are praying for them and taking the time to hear what their struggles have been. It’s been calling volunteers and donors to check on them and pray with them over the phone.
Many nights, I’ve gone home and shared with my husband about the death of volunteers or donors that I’ve become friends with through Joy El that have made such an impact in God’s Kingdom. He’ll cry too because he knows how special these people are to me.
Bill was right. I’m not just doing fundraising, letter writing, and donor relations, it IS ministry. It’s ministering to people’s hearts, investing in them, encouraging and uplifting them. It’s doing life with them.
Recently, Bill lost his battle to cancer. Most of his life was a life of ministry. Not just at my church, but here at Joy El. He was a past board member, served on building committees for camp, was a Bible Adventure volunteer (and loved his students like they were his own!), a mailing volunteer, a maintenance volunteer and more. He served with love and compassion. At his viewing, his Bible was laying there, well-worn and held together with tape. There was nothing pretty about it. It was evident he read and lived through the Word. Bill lived out these verses in Matthew 6:19-21 – “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
I am so thankful for his years of encouragement he has given me in ministry and for the wise advice he gave me to remember that what I’m doing IS ministry and that it will be hard…but oh so worth it.
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