In our last issue of Seasons our Board Chair, Fred Schumm, alluded to Nehemiah. In this issue, we also allude to the book of Nehemiah in several places. The Nehemiah example continues to resonate at Fellowship Deaconry Ministries. The book of Nehemiah recounts a stirring episode in the history of Israel. There was a material task to literally rebuild walls and repair gates in Jerusalem, but there were spiritual issues too. After having been defeated by Assyria and Babylon, most Israelites had been scattered to the winds or carried off into captivity, including the priests and Levites. After 70 years, and a partial return to the land, the inhabitants of Jerusalem had forgotten the Word of God, and the joy of His presence. In Nehemiah chapter 8 we learn that after the walls had been repaired Nehemiah and Ezra called for a holy day in Jerusalem. Ezra mounted a platform to read the Word of God aloud to the people. Their hearts were pierced, and they wept, as they realized that they had wandered away from worship, and had broken the Law. But Ezra and Nehemiah admonished the people to not grieve: “This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."
The people were being instructed that it is a good thing to discover they had wandered off of the path that leads to joy. When God allows us to observe (or be reminded) that we have lost track of His Presence in our endeavors, we rejoice that He has intervened to get us back on track. Here at the Fellowship Deaconry, we rejoice that God has impressed upon us to institute Staff Devotions on a mandatory basis: Every Friday, at 10:15, everyone at the Deaconry (including volunteers, part-time employees, regular staff and the Sisters) gather for Bible study and prayer. We structure our work schedules on Friday to make sure to attend Devotions for this hour. Along with prayer for Deaconry needs, this is the time when we, as a group, pray for you, and lift the Prayer Requests that have come into us from you by email, through our web site, or by personal contact. Jesus is at the center of what we say, and we are determined that He be at the center of what we do. “… the joy of the LORD is [our] strength."