Ministry means never knowing what the next phone call will bring. A complaint? A word of praise? Or soliciting? News of a birth, wedding plans, or a death? You never know. That's the nature of church ministry. We recently had two ministry-defining calls back to back.

One day I switched on my cell phone, and it immediately buzzed with an incoming text message. It was from my wife: SAD NEWS ABOUT MISSIONARIES. CALL.

That's when I learned that two of our long-term members, Warren and Donna Pett, had been shot to death in Uganda. I was stunned. Just a few weeks earlier Warren and Donna had stood before the congregation, explaining what they would be doing during their next term in Africa, and then we prayed for them.

A few days later, we gathered for their funeral, the two mahogany coffins shipped from Africa at the front of the church. Two coffins for two 49-year-old people. It is always shocking with more than one casket at a funeral. Usually it's because of an auto accident. This time it was because some utterly wicked people aimed their guns at two of the nicest people I've ever meet.

In some ways a church can never prepare for such a moment. Every tragedy is different. The people involved are different, their connections in the church are unique.

In other ways, however, the church is the one place where we prepare people for the unexpected but inevitable moments of tragedy.

The real story Since I was out of town when the news came, it fell to other leaders to react and respond. One pastor went immediately to spend time with the children and parents of the slain couple. Our worship leader worked with several of us to determine how to handle this in Sunday's worship service; we all decided that night to change what had been ...

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Fall 2004: Keeping Conflict Healthy  | Posted
Crisis  |  Death  |  Pastoral Care
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