December 2, 2019

Thank you, Pastors

Pastor Appreciation Month was established in 1992 by a group of pastors and church leaders to honor those who serve in ministry. They grounded the celebration in Paul’s words to Timothy: The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching (1 Tim. 5:17). In honor of our pastors, I’d like to share a story about how they ministered to our family last summer in a way we will never forget.

Our 21-year-old son, Michael, loves surfing. When the north winds blow down Lake Michigan and the waves begin to swell, you will most likely find him in St. Joseph [Michigan], with a whole community of surfers from northern Indiana and Southwest Michigan. 

After surfing one July evening last year, Michael called home to let us know that he would be late because he was replacing a broken leash on his surfboard. Around 12:30 a.m., our landline phone rang. My wife, Becky, heard Michael slurring his speech and having trouble communicating. She eventually understood that he was in his bathroom on the other side of the house in need of our help.   

Becky found Michael lying on his bathroom floor, breathing with difficulty, sweating, vomiting, and complaining about the pain in his head. Becky yelled for me and, as I called 9-1-1, Michael became unresponsive.

At the hospital, doctors immediately ran a CAT scan and discovered a small brain bleed. Over the next few hours, the brain bleed nearly quadrupled in size and they immediately took him to the operating room for brain surgery. It was during this time that two of our pastors, Dwight Nelson, senior pastor at Pioneer Memorial Church, and Skip MacCarty, a retired Pioneer pastor, visited to pray with and support us during the entire four-hour surgery. 

What I never imagined was how Michael’s hospitalization was an opportunity to minister to his surfing friends, most of whom aren’t familiar with the Adventist church. Two other Pioneer pastors, José Bourget, with help from Ben Martin, organized a prayer service in the hospital garden. The Third Coast Surf Shop placed the invitation out on their social media pages and many from the surfing community joined Michael’s other friends in prayer. Some of the surfers didn’t know how to pray but prayed anyway. As we look back, we can see how God used our pastors to not only support us, but also to witness to this surfing community. 

One Sabbath, Pastor Dwight stopped by to pray with us. He leaned over Michael and said, “Michael, this is Pastor Dwight. Can you hear me?” To our shock, with eyes closed, Michael nodded his head. This was the first time in two weeks we had seen Michael respond at all. Pastor Dwight then asked, “Michael, can I pray with you?” Once again, Michael nodded.   

At the end of one month, Michael left the hospital and spent one week in extensive therapy. We praise God for saving and healing our son, and for the support of our church pastors. God ministered to us through each pastor in a unique way, and we appreciated their creativity in ministering to Michael’s friends as well. When we think of our pastors, we share in Paul’s proclamation: I thank my God every time I remember you (Philippians 1:3 NIV).

Bryan and Becky von Dorpowski are the head elders at Pioneer Memorial Church on the campus of Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Mich. 

Photo credit: Claudia Davisson 

Caption: Michael von Dorpowski’s surfing friends gathered at the hospital for prayer.