Random reflections on 6 years in service to the Iowa Conference:
When I started with the Conference back in 2007 I had no idea what the job of Associate Conference Minister entailed or how to do it. I still don’t, but it’s too late. My work here is (almost) finished.
When the only tools you have in your bag are an axe and a hose, all you can do is put out fires. I think one of the primary missions of the Iowa Conference has been to provide local church leaders, both clergy and lay, with other tools that will help them stop fires before they ever need an ax or a hose. Ultimately, we would like to be in a place where the only smoke you smell is from the fires of our burning zeal to serve the Lord. We’re still a long way from being there, but I like to think that we are much closer now than we were 6 years ago.
Ambiguity is not such a bad thing. I learned and practiced my prior trade in a world where there was no gray. There was only that which was good for my client and everything else, and everything else was evil. I have learned that the world is not really like that, that it is a rare story that only has one side. It’s been an invaluable lesson and one that has literally reshaped the way I look at life.
It’s a tough world out there, especially for those who are struggling to do the right thing. I am constantly amazed at the way people in the Iowa Conference cling to their faith and continue to try to do the right thing when anyone with a lick of sense would have said long ago “The heck with it. Let’s go play golf.” Maybe there really is something to this whole Holy Spirit thing.
I know that it may not always seem like it to everyone, but the staff of the Iowa Conference really has your best interests and the best interests of the churches in the Conference at heart. It’s what motivates all of us to do the work we do. Heaven knows, we’re sure not in it for the money.
Iowa is a really big place. You have no idea how big until you try to cover a morning meeting in Calumet and an evening meeting in Fort Madison—the second time. Who knew just how big 56,000 square miles could be?
Along the way, I have met some of the most wonderful, gifted, faithful people I have ever known or had the pleasure of working with (and 2 or 3 really miserable old crabs, but that’s a story for another time). I am going to miss you all and I will be forever grateful to the people and churches of the Iowa Conference for giving me the opportunity to practice this ministry.
May God continue to bless you all.
“Retiring” Associate Conference Minister Tony Stoik