This question my friend, Dan McFarland, asked in prayer as he prayed for us at the CornerStone dinner last Friday evening. The question comes from the Bible (Numbers), but we Methodists also associate it with John Wesley, who used this question to reflect on various circumstances relative to Methodism in the 18th century. For one, he asked it when the new City Road Chapel was opened.
Dan asked it in regard to the transition in my life and in the CornerStone’s. I have departed from my usual blog topics and have shared more personal stuff of late. This past weekend was another doozy. After being associated with the CornerStone since 1981 (Joni and I went to Italy under their auspices) and having served as board Chair since 1991 (hence 18 years), I resigned. This past weekend was my final board meeting. What a weekend.
As I wrapped up our meeting yesterday, I told the board members once again something I’ve said many times: “CornerStone is nothing like anything else I’ve ever experienced.” From the first time Joni and I met with the board as they considered us for service in Italy to Saturday’s final meeting, that sentiment holds rock solid. I told them that I don’t have adequate words to describe my sense about this group, but let me try.
I think that it comes as close to pure Christian community as anything I’ve ever experienced. The CornerStone is a mission organization. We receive candidates, screen them and send them to various fields of ministry. CornerStone is tiny by comparison to the better-known mission organizations, but we have staff on five continents and in some of the most “on the ground” places in the world. Many of the ministries combine acts of mercy (medical work, orphanages, working with AIDS children) with sharing the Gospel. Every board meeting we receive reports from our missionaries and the stories are always touching and convicting. (See www.cornerstoneinternational.org.)
This description sounds pretty much like any mission organization any of us knows. It’s the community. In large part because we’re small (our board numbers less than 15), everything is personal. We share our hearts with one another. We pray with and for one another. We look each other straight in the face and speak hard truth sometimes. And underneath it all there is a fundamental conviction that each person is a trusted and valued member of the group, a brother/sister in Christ.
A couple of the members of the board talked about how I had helped them and the organization grow up. (We’ve gone through a couple of major changes in the past fifteen or so years.) At least, that is what I understood them to be saying. But when I look at the years and how I changed because of associating with them, it’s really the other way around. That community of expatriate Christians in Italy helped me to become a pastor. I was just a kid trying to follow Jesus and they – in part because of circumstance – took me in. When the organization was floundering, I became the board Chair. In so many respects, CornerStone helped to draw out and develop my leadership gifts.
I will forever be in their debt.