The clock was ticking and change was coming on the horizon…but truth to tell, change was also already happening right there and then on Oak Park Blvd!
When the congregation began to have two services I was still the only full time staff. I loved working in ministry! I was the first one there and many times the last one to leave. It was important to me to have everything in place and ready to go when the first leader or server arrived. I took covering the pastors and congregation perfectly serious. I was flexible and had done everything from mopping after construction issues to teaching bible study. My key chain looked like a janitor ring of keys, lol. I KNEW that building even in the dark. And the sanctuary…well, that was home away from home.
Once two services were in place, I stepped down from dancing. I have missed it…but knew that it was wiser to provide available time for the work increase. I had already said goodbye to serving as a greeter and participating in ladies’ bible study. Working for ministry is not an easy job…but it is certainly a called and exciting God-experience. Many times my work responsibilities were the priority to me and I just had to let go of some of the things previously in my church life. I kept a firm hand on stopping work to worship and receive the Word…and to give just as many hugs as I could while running!
Speaking of experiences, how about I share some unusual experiences? One Saturday I had went to work early to open up for a baby shower. I noticed some bees around the security panel when I went to turn off the alarm. Have I mentioned that I was afraid of bees? I really just plain hate them, lol. But anyway, Danny DeVillier showed up about that time and I said, “Come see these bees…what’s up with that?” He kind of followed a bee trail into the nursery and then he came back and got me. He pointed up to the ceiling in the main nursery play room. A million bees were on the ceiling!!! Well, a lot anyway! I was petrified. Danny said, “I will be right back” and turned to leave. I grabbed his arm and said, “Don’t you leave me! We have a bunch of ladies coming soon – what do I do with this?” He just laughed and we got an exterminator. The bees had entered through a tiny hole in the cinder block walls. Just the thought of a swarm of bees that close to me gave me the chills…and honey or not…there is nothing sweet about them!
Now in my office I had a monitor on my desk that was centrally located in the building so that I could see if someone entered the lobby. One Friday afternoon, I was working and noticed a man that I didn’t know enter the lobby so I got up to connect with him out in the open instead of back in the office nook. We met face to face just as I reached the hall door. He had a very odd look on his face and said that he was a devil worshiper and wanted a pastor to talk to. Did I mention I was by myself and knew no one else would be coming in to work that afternoon? It was a tad creepy… Well, I just was going to have to handle it since he wasn’t in any hurry to leave and had walked there. So, knowing the power of God was always with me, I invited him to have a seat in the lobby and tried to gather information for a message. He had asked for a bible so I ran to get him one – I couldn’t wait till he had one in his hand! Then he wanted to have a spiritual debate and tried to get belligerent about his point of view…saying that the devil was “all that” and that I “better be afraid of him.” He started sharing what all the devil could do to me.
Well, I was not afraid, but I was insulted for my God and the boldness about jumped out of me! I told him, “I am not afraid of him! My God has the power! The devil has already lost and I am covered by the blood of Jesus. I personally know about the power of God and He never leaves me. I think you should open that Bible that you are holding and find out who has the REAL power! God can cast down ANYTHING the devil can do – as well as turn your life around AND save and protect you. You and I never have to be afraid!”
About that time pastor walked in…for real! Just “happened” by…go God! I explained the situation and pastor took it from there. I don’t know whatever happened to the guy…he seemed pretty peaceful when he left and I know seeds were planted for deliverance and love by prayer and through the Word. But it was still pretty creepy…
Another “situation” happened when I was leading the singles and we had a movie night. We had about….hmmm, 40 or so male and female singles with guests there and we were popping popcorn, eating candy and going to watch Paul, the Apostle. We were so excited!!! Now, since it was a Christian movie I just kind of skimmed through it verifying content – not really worried about anything unseemly being in it. BAD mistake. I found out about half way through the movie there were…scenes shocking in mixed company much less in church!!
I truly almost fainted trying to get from the seats to the media booth. My hand was shaking so bad I almost couldn’t hit the fast forward switch. Now, I would like to say that everyone handled it in a kind and quiet manner but in fact, that is NOT what happened. They had a good laugh over it …for a long, long time…still, in fact!
So, as you can see, ministry also entails “life” – funny and scary! As for work, I sincerely sought to serve as if I was serving Christ – knowing that my faithful and sacrificial seed was indeed pressed down, shaken together and running over, as the Bible says. God not only blessed me but took everything I had to give…and used my work as my training ground for needs in the days ahead. Speaking of days ahead…
I don’t think we ever really prepare our hearts and minds for disasters. We do prepare our bank accounts hopefully and our families certainly. But our life? Doesn’t it always seem like that stuff happens somewhere else? And even after Hurricane Katrina when we volunteered at the shelters in the Civic Center, how many of us were prepared for a cloud of wind and rain soon to come out of the tropics named Rita?
A few weeks after Katrina, I remember getting a call from Julie telling me that the family was insisting that I leave with them. They knew I rarely left church early or focused on current events or anything. I didn’t even know a storm was coming! Calling my son…we made urgent plans to evacuate. We were all heading to my brother’s in St. Francisville with a total of 11 animals and 21 people.
The church had been shut down and protected as much as we could. I brought my work computer with me for safe keeping. I had no idea that it would be almost two weeks before I would be back home…in my regular life, if you can call it regular life anymore.
It was the most disconcerting feeling ever. Kind of like someone blowing on a dandelion ball and watching the seeds scatter. The unknown was….frightening. Once I knew that all my family members were safe and accounted for, I began using my church email and cell phone list to try to locate all the families. It was amazing the emails and texts that came in from all over the south. The church email database was born.
The church and so many homes had to be repaired or reconstructed. Families from New Orleans and other damaged areas began arriving. Some Southern Louisiana families never returned. Then after about a year…things were busy, but we were all cruising on our new normal speed, embracing life and seeing the power of God!
And suddenly, in a flash the season changed. You know that you know that God has created seasons for a reason but you don’t always realize what change comes on the wind with them. The next season was more unexpected than Rita. The church was moving to Gauthier Rd. and the definition of church as I knew it just changed!
It was exciting but WOW! I had to remember to close my mouth. I looked at my hands and knew that God had a plan.
Not afraid, I jumped right on in…along with everyone else…and hung on! I was ready for the ride…
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Patti Corbello Archer