It has been a long time ago since I first met Rhett Thompson. As he neared graduation from Davidson College in North Carolina, he applied for a scholarship to the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. While on campus for an audition, he saw a notice on the bulletin board that Bright Star UMC was looking for a part-time youth minister.
After a phone call and a couple of conversations, I hired Rhett to work with the youth of our church on weekends and during the summer. He stayed with us for the three years of his studies at seminary. He was a wonderful gift to our congregation in Douglasville and to me and my family. I gained more insight about being Christian from him during those three years than he could have learned from me in a lifetime.
Rhett had been nurtured by his family and the Canterbury UMC in Birmingham, Alabama. He had the ability to be at home with all people. His humble spirit and gentle soft spoken manner communicated the Gospel very effectively.
After graduation from seminary he went to Costa Rica to learn Spanish while he awaited an assignment from the General Board of Global Ministries. He has been a missionary to the Republic of Panama for about 25 years and currently serves as pastor of an Evangelical Methodist Church in Panama City.
In addition to his pastoral duties, Rev. Thompson coordinates efforts of the church to strengthen its outreach into the surrounding low-income neighborhood. Rhett also serves as the National Coordinator of Volunteers in Mission Program in Panama, helping mission teams with construction and medical services projects.
In his March newsletter, he tells how a bridge built in 1989 was swept away by a flood in 2007. This bridge was a vital link for the Ngäbe school children who used the bridge daily to get to school. Once again the children had to swim across the river to get to classes as they had before the bridge was built 18 years earlier.
Since the flood, the only way across when the river was high was by way of a precarious "tree-bridge" or a basket suspended from a cable. Through the cooperative efforts of volunteer teams--from churches and Rotary clubs in Alabama, Canada, and Panama working together with the people of the local communities--the government of Panama, the Methodist Church of Panama and The United Methodist Church in the U.S. the bridge is finally rebuilt.
In his March newsletter Rev. Thompson shared the following prayer attributed to Archbishop Oscar Romero: "A Prayer for Workers, Prophets and Ministers & All Those in Outreach Ministries."
It helps now and then to step back and take the long view beyond our efforts, even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No program accomplishes the church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
But this is what we are about:
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and do it very well. It may be incomplete, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own. Amen.
[Taken with permission from "Monday Morning in North Georgia," 3/26/12, North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.]
You can read more about this project and other ministries that Rev. Thompson is involved in at http://rhettthompson.weebly.com/index.html