By April Yamasaki

The date of Easter changes from year to year, but since my first Sunday as a pastor was Easter Sunday, that’s become my marker. Another Easter, another year of ministry.

This past Easter marked 25 years of pastoral ministry with my congregation!

In that time, I’ve seen a lot of growth and change. Babies have grown into young adulthood. Seekers have become baptized members of the church and active volunteers in ministry. Some older folks have become more frail, and some have passed on.

Our physical space has changed too, as we’ve added a gym, renovated the kitchen, and created some new office space. Two of our members gave my office a makeover with new carpet, lights, paint, and curtains.

Our church staff has also grown with the addition of a pastor for our Vietnamese church-within-a-church, plus part-time music, seniors, and worship ministry coordinators.

As I look back over these rich years of ministry, I’m amazed and grateful for all of the growth and changes that God has worked in our lives. The same Spirit that blew me by surprise into ministry has sustained me and sustained us in wonderful ways.

I’m also very aware of how much I have changed too.

When I was first called into pastoral ministry on an interim basis, one of the members of my congregation was already ill with cancer. “Please don’t let him die while I’m here, Lord,” I remember praying. “I won’t know what to do.” I had never expected to be a pastor, had never gone to seminary, and knew I was ill-equipped for pastoral care.

Yet some months later, when his wife called to say that her husband had died peacefully at home, as I drove there to pray over his body and to be with her and the rest of the family, I suddenly realized that yes, I could do this. My relationship with him and the family had developed over the months of his illness as we had visited, read Scripture, and prayed together. I had learned a great deal from pastoral care training offered at a hospital in the city. God had graciously prepared me — changed me and grown me — as a pastor.

Now I sense God’s Spirit blowing me in a new direction, to invest more deeply in writing and publishing while also remaining open to ministry in a new setting. This has been a growing conviction for me over the last more than a year, nudged by speaking and writing opportunities more demanding than my current time allows, confirmed in prayer, and affirmed by a circle of support that gradually expanded until I shared my conviction with our council and congregation.

At this point, I don’t know all of the changes that lie ahead — by God’s mercy, none of us can know all of the changes that will come to us. But I know that God goes before me to prepare my way, and will sustain me through to the other side. That’s true for all of us.

So may God be with you in all of your changing and growing, and give you a deep and abiding peace. Amen.

April Yamasaki serves as lead pastor of a mid-size, multi-staff congregation. Her next book is Four Gifts: Seeking Self-Care for Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength, which releases this September by Herald Press. For more information or to connect with April, please visit aprilyamasaki.com where you can sign up to receive a free copy of How to Pray When Prayer Seems Impossible.


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