by Martin Schlomer
Reading Steve Kearns’ Last Word last week brought back some fun memories. He got me thinking about my past 16 years at Elim. In September of 1993 I sent my resume to a little church with a strange name located in a place I never heard of, Puyallup, Washington! What followed was a wild journey of faith for the Schlomer family and the Elim family. Following a series of phone interviews with the search team and an “in person” interview in early January of 1994, Elim called me to candidate and voted to call me as Senior Pastor on February 13, 1994. They took a huge risk on a young man with little experience.
My first official day was April 1 (Yes, it was April Fool’s
Day :-)). It was a bit surreal. I had never served as a Senior Pastor before. The expectations I placed on myself were huge. They were only surpassed by my fears. I spent the first few months asking God, “What have I gotten myself into?” Our journey here is one of grace. The fingerprints of God’s grace are everywhere. When the challenges exceeded my giftedness, God always filled the gap. God gave strength, wisdom and encouragement on a daily basis. He provided friends for our children and friendships for my wife. He provided an incredible place to live on 88 acres in Graham. When I was told I wouldn’t be able to afford to buy a home in the foreseeable future, God provided one within 9 months.
The fingerprints of grace were present through God’s people. The people of Elim have always been gracious to me. They have been patient as they waited for God to mature me as their pastor and forgiving of me when I made mistakes. They have always prayerfully supported God’s vision for this Body.
There are many individuals who come to mind who were like dispensers of Grace. Art Nissen would often drop by my office just to let me know he was praying and to tell me, “Pastor, don’t forget to preach the cross!” Larry Joecks would always write notes with various words of encouragement accompanied by passages from Scripture—I still have those notes! I am still moved by the many times of intercessory prayer that were held in the home of JC and Diane Williams (now the home of the Shorts), then in the home of the Hills and more recently in the home of the Prices. While there were only 5-7 people who would attend, many more were impacted through their prayers!
Over the years I have experienced great joy in working with the many men and women who served on the elder board and various ministry teams. I have many memories from the many retreats, outings and family camps that still make Kim and me laugh! John V., remember when you dared me to try to throw you off of the tube as I pulled you behind your boat?
Elim continues to be a place of grace. In the midst of God’s grace we have learned to laugh together in the good times and we have learned to cry together in the hard times. We have had to say farewell to those who have gone home…Anna Davies, Art Nissen, Larry Joecks, Norm and Muriel Spann…. In those times God’s grace has and will continue to be our joy and our strength!
Most recently, you are living out God’s grace and support to the next generation. We have an INCREDIBLE group of high school and college & career adults who have grown up at Elim! I LOVE this group of people. They have passion for Jesus and a commitment to His Body. They serve everywhere from nursery to worship! I am blessed to see Nate Champneys and Elissa Hirschfelder leading us in worship; Noah Messick and James Hirschfelder playing piano and keyboard…. I could go on and on listing those young adults who serve Jesus in this Body but space is limited! Just know that this kind of involvement and heart to serve is rare in this generation but not here! The older generation has graciously empowered the younger generation and because of this, future generations will be blessed and God will be glorified!
I close with a personalized version of Paul’s heartfelt words to the Thessalonians:
1 Thessalonians 1: 1 To the church of Elim in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you. 2 I always thank God for all of you mentioning you in my prayers. 3 I continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
May we continue to be dispensers of God’s grace to all we come into contact with.