“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”
– Meister Eckhart, 1260-1328
While this statement from a medieval German theologian and philosopher may be ripe with hyperbole, it is hard to find a more fitting summary of what is in my heart as I write this, my final annual report as lead superintendent for EFC-MAYM. It is in this spirit, then, that I offer the following words of heartfelt gratitude for the many, many blessings I have experienced during my eight years in this role:
- Thank you, first and foremost, to my precious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As I pause to reflect upon this most recent season of life and ministry, I find myself once again completely overwhelmed by the boundless grace and mercy of our great and mighty God. I have been immersed in his passionate, relentless, unconditional love from the moment of my birth, but I never cease to be amazed by the fresh expressions of love that he continues to reveal to me on a regular basis. It is by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ alone that I have been saved, it is by his grace alone that I have been set apart as a minister of the gospel, it is by his grace alone that I have been able to fulfill my responsibilities as a regional superintendent, and it is by his grace alone that I will one day stand faultless before his throne, dressed in his righteousness alone, to take my place among the “great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9).
- Thank you to my family, beginning with my dear wife and faithful ministry partner of nearly 40 years, Carol. By his grace, the Lord has seen fit to shower me with many extraordinary gifts over the years, but there is none greater than the gift of my family. Without the constant encouragement and sacrificial support of Carol and each of our six children – Josiah (and Shelby), Sarah (and Gabe), Jeremiah (and Wendy), Hannah (and Seth), Jasmine (and Troy), and Jessie – there is no way I would have made it to the finish line. I have no words to express the joy it brings to know that all of my children not only love Jesus but love the body of Christ as well and have chosen to invest their lives in the work of Christ and his Kingdom. Spending lots of time with my twelve grandchildren has helped me to remember the things that matter most in life, and to keep my sense of humor along the way. With the Apostle John, I can truly testify that “I have no greater joy than to know that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4).
- Thank you to my faithful friends and colleagues, including our entire yearly meeting leadership team. Our Ministry Center office staff – currently comprised of Thayne Thompson, Tony and Stacey Wheeler, Jesse Penna, Randy Littlefield, Janet Penna, Kristina Davenport, Sarah Hancock, and Carol Williams – have been among the most loyal, reliable, humble, trustworthy, hard-working, and highly skilled men and women I have ever had the privilege of serving alongside. I have also been blessed to work closely with a long list of many other faithful servants during my tenure as lead superintendent, including our yearly meeting elders, area superintendents, board chairs and ministry team leaders, as well as my fellow superintendents and co-workers from EFC-NA, EFCI and EFM. As the Apostle Paul once wrote to one of his dearest friends and colleagues, “I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers … your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, [brothers and sisters], have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people” (Philemon 1:4, 7).
- Thank you, last but not least, to my fellow pastors and local church leaders. You are the main reason I said “yes” to this job from the very beginning. I have no greater joy in life than to know and love you, to be known and loved by you, and to partner with you in the ministry of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. During the interview process back in 2014, I told those who were part of the search team, “If you are looking for a gifted administrator, you will be deeply disappointed and I won’t last long, but if you are looking for someone to serve as a pastor to pastors, I believe I could do that quite well and I would be honored to serve in such a role.” By the grace of God, and with your close cooperation and companionship, we have done our very best over the past eight years to honor the Good Shepherd by loving, serving and caring compassionately for each of the respective flocks that have been entrusted to our care. As we all know, tending sheep is a messy job, to say the least. Our calling is tested on a daily basis. But those of us who are truly called continue to get up every morning and go back to work with the words of our Lord Jesus himself ringing in our ears: “If you love me … feed my sheep” (John 21:17). At the end of the day, when all of the accumulated ecclesiastical and bureaucratic dust settles, it’s really that simple, and it’s really that hard. But it is also really that worth it. As the Apostle Peter would remind us: “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away” (1 Peter 5:2-4).
Sola gratia, sola Deo gloria! (By grace alone, for the glory of God alone!)
– David O. Williams, Lead Superintendent