Rev. Mel West is kind of like Jesus. Everyone loves the thought of him – at a distance. But if you get too close, he’s likely going to suggest that you do something that makes you a little uncomfortable.
If you tell Mel you love the work he’s done with the PET Project or Rainbow Network in Nicaragua, he’s probably going to suggest you get involved as well. Remember in Luke, chapter 18, when the guy approached Jesus and told him he was a big fan of his work and wanted to do what he could to earn eternal life? Jesus started with the soft sell, and rattled off his five favorite commandments. The guy smugly said, “No problem. I’ve been doing those all my life.” Then Jesus said, “Well … there is this other thing. Sell everything, give the money to the poor, and follow me.”
The guy didn’t jump at the challenge. He didn’t even promise to pray about it. He just got sad. Selling everything was a tall order because he had a lot of stuff, which piled up to be a big everything.
So that one was kind of a miss: one guy knocked back from arrogant to sad but not much else changed. But, in the very next chapter Jesus scores a win: the tax collector Zacchaaeus offers to sell half of his stuff (he also has a lot of stuff) and give the proceeds to the poor before Jesus asked him to do anything, just because he was happy about Jesus wanting to come to his house to see him.
Mel has lots of stories about hits and misses. I don’t know what his shooting percentage is, but it doesn’t really matter because he shoots so much that he scores a lot. He might be asking you to put up a peace pole, support international mission work, do something for the people in poverty in your midst or try out a church he is involved with. He’s always asking someone to do something. And, sometimes they do it. Mel himself has also benefited from pastoral prompting. This year he received the Robert & Martha Marble Mission Award, an annual award presented in the Missouri Conference for outstanding mission work. In accepting the award, Mel noted it was appropriately named in that it was Robert Marble who prompted him to go into ministry to begin with. Mel had gone to school for agriculture and had a Grade A dairy farm. Marble reminded Mel that if he quit the dairy business there was little danger that the country would run out of milk, but he recognized in Mel a passion for mission that was running dry in society, and needed tending so it could grow, his own version of Matthew 9: 37 – there’s lots out there to be harvested, and not many willing to do it.
On page 20 of this issue, you can read a lot more about Mel and how his ministry of cooperative efforts grew to do amazing things in a diversity of ways, as well as stories of other award recipients who likewise sowed seeds that are bringing about the transformation of the world. Each award recipient is a great example of someone willing to put in the hard work on their own but also doing a good job of recruiting others to join in the harvest.