Robert E. Drury
The immediate revelation that is my ministry is that it is not “mine” in the sense of something that I own or I have earned or that I am in some way entitled to. My calling is a gift from God which I celebrate in my unworthiness and that reveals God’s glorious light as well as the illusion of my own darkness. I have come to regard myself as a recovering victim of false liberation. That is to say, the so called modern “Liberation” movements which clearly amount to nothing more than slavery to one’s own worldly fears and desires. My true liberation comes by way of willing submission to our Father God, who redeems my past, gives meaning to my present experience and secures my future for eternity. God, through his Word, allows for my enlightened obedience rather than my blind faith – which I am incapable of in the first place.
Any definition of my ministry needs to begin with my testimony of coming to Christ, which is really the account of Christ coming to me. It is necessitated by the revelation that I am to follow The Wounded Healer and embrace my mortality with nothing but hope, and experience my suffering as the womb of compassion. And compassion is difficult because it requires me to be with others in my weakness, my loneliness and my brokenness.
I was raised a Roman Catholic and went to Catholic grade school and high school. I rebelled early on and eventually hitched hiked out to Berkley California after high school where I won the tear gas canister toss contest in 1969 (against fierce competition, I might add). I should note that street fighting, demonstrating and rioting were popular spectator sports at that time in Berkeley. I returned to NJ and was a drug addict for several years before cleaning up. I went back to school, got my Bachelor’s in Counseling and my Master’s in Business Administration and I became quite successful in business and my professional life. I received accolades and obtained positions of prestige in the field of Human Services and I enjoyed some success in real estate. But I was never content nor did I have any form of peace of mind and so I drank heavily for years. After experiencing symptoms of chronic liver disease, I stopped drinking but eventually resorted to drugs once again. Ultimately, I wound up losing everything; friends, family, profession, reputation, self respect and even my freedom. I wound up in the county hospital after trying to take my own life and there I looked upon the faces of the geriatric patients and saw the face of their total abandonment by the world and I saw my reflection as well. I knew it was time to surrender completely to God, but I lacked the courage to do so. It seemed as if all I could do is to yearn for God desperately and, in my desperation, He came to me in a very direct, upfront and personal manner. In my darkest hour, I was filled with a complete sense of peace and purpose and well being such as I have never known...
Unlike any "feel good" or "peak" experience, this had a distinct sense of permanency and authenticity to it. I somehow "knew" in a more certain way than I have ever known anything that I was going to be OK, that I was OK and that I was always going to be OK, for the rest of this life and for all eternity. At the exact same time, something else was occurring … I was filled with an intense craving for the word of God. (It was obvious to me that it was no accident that the only thing I owned in this world was a bible that had been given to me by a Gail Sanford, a member of The Life Christian Church and of my Life Group, both of which I had sporadically attended.) Now, I have had strong cravings in my life but this was beyond anything I have ever experienced (and continues to this day, incidentally) So, seemingly without rhyme or reason, I was driven to read...and the words came to life within me like flames warming my soul; "There is surely a future hope for you and your hope will not be cut off", "Your heavenly father knows what you need. Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all things will be given to you as well," “I am the way, the truth and the life", ”and whoever lives and believes in me will never die”, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light," "Don't be afraid; just believe," "I will never leave you," "surely, I am with you always."
I was also filled with an overwhelming sense that "This is just the beginning” and that my journey would continue for eternity and that eternity begins here and now. Oh, I am still subject to the same temptations that I’ve always been, it just now that there is a different, “new” man being tempted. A man who was giving a glimpse of the face of God and now can never settle for less.
That was in 2001 and even while hospitalized, I was able to participate in a small Life Group by mail (I would write any revelations I experienced while reading the Word of God and my Life Group Leader would read them to the group who would, in turn, pray for me.) And Tom Riley, also a member of my small group, would pick me up every Sunday and take me to services (It was the only place I was allowed to go, so you can imagine how closely I paid attention to the message) He and his Mom would also see to my material needs. This sustained me and encouraged me during my spiritual infancy (Might I be considered a toddler now?) Well, in any case, no longer a spiritual dwarf, incapable of growth.
That was two years ago. I am pleased to share that my circumstances have changed. I have an income that supports me, a lovely home with a big backyard that I share with Gary the groundhog (He's a whole other story), a nice car and I lead a great Life Group as well as ministering to the homeless. And now, I give people rides to church, Life Group and PATH (Peace over Addiction Through Healing) group. But of infinitely more importance than any change in circumstances, is the experience of no longer being at the mercy of my circumstances. You see now I am delightfully dependent on the living, loving, and promise keeping God who has told me personally that He's got me covered … all the way. Praise God! Finally, I experience overpowering joy and a tremendous sense of purpose when I reflect on the opportunity to, in however small a way, bring someone to the Peace of Christ. It is He who calls, but His Holy Spirit uses believers to deliver the message and just realizing that I may be used in that fashion brings rich meaning and deep sense of serenity to my experience of being alive! ... And nowhere do I have this experience any greater then right here, in The Life Christian Church … A far cry, my friends, from not having any reason to go on living. God is good! God bless you all.
At present, my ministry involves; leading a weekly life group that focuses on the bible and the application of God’s Word to our daily living, co-leading the weekly PATH (Peace over Addiction Through Healing) group which focuses on the Twelve Steps for Christians program and the natural compatibility of recovery and redemption, and participating in a monthly street ministry which involves bring food and the good news of the Gospel to the homeless.
The Life Group give me opportunities to grow in God’s Word and Spirit, encourage others, bring others closer to Christ and utilize God’s gift of my teaching ability in serving his good purpose. Co-leading the PATH Group allows me to share the hope that is in Christ with those who have been deemed hopeless by most others and often by themselves. The Street Ministry gives food to eat, water to drink, garments to wear and shelter in the storm as well as the bread of life to “The Least of these brothers of mine”(Matthew 25:40, NIV) so as to give to the Lord. Authentic ministry begins with the willingness to recognize the Lord’s face in the least of his brothers.
It also involves sharing the “Good News” to many for whom it is neither good nor news. Whenever I can regard my irrelevancy as a source of empowerment from the Holy Spirit, I must rejoice in his mercy and loving generosity.
My ministry is grounded in creative weakness, learned ignorance, challenging self-doubt and in the notion that “Love not only lasts forever but also comes about in only a second.” My ministry is filled with the expectation of the unexpected as “Christianity is dead in the street when nothing new is expected”. My ministry beckons myself and others to share in the risky and intimate fellowship of the weak and demands “suicidal trust” in the Lord. My ministry is energized by the realization that my self-gratifying endeavors lead to a compulsive and overly emotional investment in what I do, what I have and what “they” think of me. My ministry delights in the gift of true freedom (i.e., “Then you will know the truth and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32, NIV) that is revealed through service and in the wisdom of giving up that which I cannot possibly keep for that which I cannot possibly lose. Best of all, my ministry actually has very little to do with me.
The only “Me” that is in my ministry is the me that was brought to his senses and led out of the foreign pig pen, placed on the road home and whose Father, who was waiting, saw him and ran out to great him, calling for a ring, a robe, and a fatted calf to celebrate the return of his son, who“…was dead and is alive, who was lost and is found” (Luke 15:24, NIV)
“Preach the Gospel at all times … if necessary use words” (Saint Francis of Assisi)