Pastor leads by example
Tabor Mennonite Pastor Corey Miller practices what he preaches. He preaches volunteering to serve others — a practice that has proliferated through his congregation.
“There is a culture of service at Tabor Mennonite,” Miller said. “Many people have done terms with the Mennonite Volunteer Service.”
Miller volunteered with a different group — Mennonite Disaster Service — the last week of June 2009, as part of his sabbatical, to help repair damage done by hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. He worked on two separate projects in Diamond, La.: Miller helped build a house for a wheelchair-bound man and he helped paint stairs for houses along the Mississippi River.
The Goessel-based pastor sanded and put up a railing for the handicapped man. The man was extremely grateful and would bring Miller and the other volunteers popsicles and soda every day while they were working. When the house was finished, the man was amazed at what MDS had done for him.
“That’s this particular joy,” Miller said. “This is how we serve, helping those in need.”
Helping people in the Great Bayou, by painting 18 feet of stairs that led to their houses, was a learning experience for Miller.
“I’m not a water person,” he said. “Their main street is out on the Mississippi River. To get anywhere out there you need a boat. You think, ‘Who would build a house in a swamp?’ They’ve been there 300 years. That’s home.”
Miller’s spirit of service has spread to other members of his congregation. An adult group went to Mississippi to help MDS. A youth group went to Pasadena, Texas to paint a sister church.
The congregation also works close to home. A care group, Corey and Nancy Miller and three other couples, worked on a house for a Goessel resident. Tabor Mennonite congregants create objects to be sold at Mennonite Center Relief Sale in Hutchinson. The crafts sold benefit charity organizations around the world.
Miller and Tabor Mennonite have been involved with service that doesn’t fit into the normal charity work mold. Through connections with a Mennonite church in Oklahoma, Miller learned that Native Americans were repossessing bones of their ancestors from museums and universities. Tabor Mennonite members built boxes to help provide proper burials.
Miller realizes that he can’t help everyone. Five years after Katrina ravaged Louisiana, there are still people without homes.
While he was helping build the wheelchair-bound man’s house, Miller learned many of the people in the community were unhappy that they were not helped.
“People were jealous of what Mennonite Disaster Service was doing,” Miller said. “People were frustrated that they couldn’t get help.”
However, Miller has witnessed the appreciation of Tabor Mennonite’s volunteer efforts even in the face of failure. The youth group that went to Pasadena was in Texas for two and a half days; it rained both days, making painting impossible.
“That you came to paint was more important than what you painted,” Miller recounted hearing from one of the members of the Pasadena congregation.
The reason Miller values service is that it brings people from all religions together for what is important.
“This is how we proclaim the good news of Christ,” he said. “That’s what Jesus did much of his time in his Earthly ministry. There’s something about helping people that helps us see what’s most important.”