A letter from Eric and Becky Hinderliter in Lithuania
Becky and I were “mission advisory delegates” to the 219th General Assembly. This was our first time at a General Assembly, so we were curious to learn just what goes on at G.A. and what sort of people attend. The theme of the Assembly was Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water (John 7:38). There have already been many reports about what people think are the important things to report: about ordination standards, about marriage, about the new Form of Government, about the Palestinians and their rights. Personally my favorite action of G.A. was the approval of the report Loving Our Neighbors: Equity and Quality in Public Education (K–12), a call for support of public education centered squarely in our Reformed tradition. The report says: “Beginning with John Calvin’s support of free schools, people of the Reformed tradition have always affirmed the value of education and its potential to transform lives and systems. The Reformers considered public education essential — first of all, so that the populace might be literate and thus able to read the Bible (leading to support for primary education); and, second, that persons might read Scripture with understanding (and thus the Reformers’ support for higher education).” And public education is vital to forming good citizens committed to democratic processes and civic engagement. Public education is an act of love.
While these are certainly important issues for faithful Presbyterians to consider, what seems to be missing in these often partisan reports is what really lies behind the overtures, resolutions and reports. The Book of Order says that the church is based on love and trust. This love and trust we found to be embodied in the commissioners, delegates, representatives and observers at G.A. We were strengthened
by the greetings we received from old friends who had encouraged us in mission and sent us on our way. We had time to talk with ecumenical delegates from the Lithuanian Reformed Church and from sister churches in Argentina, Ghana and Zimbabwe. But mostly we were lifted up by the Presbyterians we met for the first time — faithful people seeking to discern God’s Word and to be obedient to their savior Jesus Christ. Friends, Christ’s Church on earth is the foretaste of the kingdom that is coming.
Friends, God does act in ways we cannot understand fully. In the middle of G.A., in the middle of the night, like a fire bell, the telephone rang. It was the expected but unwanted news that mother Ruth Hinderliter had died. Ruth was 90 and had been steadily declining in recent weeks. Her time had come. Yet she was still mother; her death provoked waves of grief. At G.A. there was no space to grieve … or so we thought. At the end of the business meeting on Friday, I was invited to offer the closing prayer for the Assembly. Here’s the prayer offered to the Assembly:
Lord, your son taught us that out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.
Lord, this day remind us about how we came to faith, how we came to be believers.
Lord, remind us that faith is a gift; we do not come to faith on our own.
Lord, we did not choose you; you chose us.
Lord, we remember this day all the saints who have gone before us, who built this church and gifted it to us, who poured out their faith as living water, saints who were your instruments, Lord, in shaping our faith and nurturing our belief.
Lord, we give thanks for those saints in our lives, faithful, true, and bold, who have crossed the bar and joined the church triumphant, and are now within the great cloud of witnesses, those who shine in glory, having poured out their living waters on us:
for mothers and fathers,
for step-mothers and step-fathers,
for grandmothers and grandfathers,
for godparents and foster parents,
for aunts and uncles, neighbors and spouses,
for brothers and sisters, cousins and friends,
for Sunday School teachers and day camp leaders,
for den mothers and scoutmasters,
for teachers who took the time to mentor us
and vice principals who chastised and corrected us,
for ministers and priests and rabbis and deacons,
for colleagues and coaches,
for choir directors and camp directors and youth advisors,
for all who led us to faith.
Lord, this day we give thanks for these saints in our lives, for their living waters that nurtured us in faith, and washed us with cool waters, like love, on a hot day.
Lord, out of these believers’ hearts flowed living water that sustains and refreshes us.
And Lord, this day I pray especially for blessings for your servant Ruth, my mother, who led me to faith and taught me that loves comes from God, and who crossed the bar yesterday to join the communion of saints.
For all the saints who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.
Many people we did not know sought us out to offer words of sympathy. A minister from Florida best expressed what we found: I was deeply moved by your prayer on many levels, and it certainly invoked my great cloud of witnesses into an immediate and personal spiritual presence. I will share your text with our commissioners and plan to use it as the closing prayer for the G.A. information session I’ll lead next week in our presbytery. I want to give the participants a flavor for the spiritual life of the Assembly and not just the business life. What is affirmed is not my words but the love and trust that prevails in the attitude and behavior of faithful Presbyterians.
We can report that General Assembly is composed of Presbyterians seeking to be obedient to the Word of God for us today. Praise God!
Grace and peace,
Eric and Becky Hinderliter
The 2010 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 193