Heart Matters: Mrs. Bateman’s Pressure Cooker

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Some time ago, Reverend
and Mrs. Bateman invited my wife and me over for lunch. When we
arrived, set before us was a huge meal and more than a dozen other
people from our church for a little, “light” lunch. That’s the way
the Batemans did everything. “Whole hog” wasn’t an impolite
description when you were around this couple. Whether it was lunch
for a few friends or a church dinner for a few hundred, the
Batemans were always up to their knees in potato peelings. And did
I mention that they were both 89 years old when we had lunch?

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That day was kind of a celebration for Mrs. Bateman. She’d just
finished her canning for the year. When we commented on the
enormity of the task, she said something that had me laughing then,
but has since had me thinking. At 89, Mrs. Bateman said she did a
double batch of everything because it was probably her last year
for canning. Why? Because, in her words, “You don’t want to put a
90-year-old woman in the same room with a pressure cooker!”

We moved before the next summer’s canning season, but my guess is
that Mrs. Bateman did a double batch the next year as well because,
after all, you don’t want to put a 91-year-old woman in the same
room with a pressure cooker.

The Batemans had been living in pressure cooker situations their
entire lives — and thriving in them. They never waited for a
better time to do anything. Now was always the right time. They
looked at ministry the same way. Things needed to be done; age had
nothing to do with it. And when they saw a need, they did literally
anything — from changing a diaper to laying bricks to “putting
things by” for those in need. The pressure cooker was never the
reason to slow down, back down, or quit. It was always the reason
to get it done now.

When I think of the Batemans, I’m encouraged…and a little
ashamed. Encouraged because, while I sometimes feel like I’m in a
pressure cooker in children’s ministry, I realize that’s where
things happen. Ashamed because at 40 years younger than the
Batemans, I often allow the pressure cooker experiences to give me
an excuse to slow down rather than press on in children’s
ministry.

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But the pressure cooker of children’s ministry is where things are
happening. That’s the place to be — not watching from the
sidelines. That’s why we do it, after all: There’s a precious
harvest to be taken, a pressing need for hands to do this important
work.

I’ve passed by many apple trees full of fruit rotting on the
branches because there was no one to harvest it. I’ve seen tomato
plants loaded with tomatoes, ruined from the first hard freeze
because there was no one to pick them. Jesus says, “But I say, wake
up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest. The
harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is
people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter
and the harvester alike!” (John 4:35-36)

Your dedication to your ministry children is really an extension
of God’s hands, gathering his precious crop. Sure, children’s
ministry may sometimes feel like a pressure cooker, but just like
the Batemans, God is in the room with you, right there where the
pressure cooker is. So tighten your apron strings, and let’s join
him there.

Tim Miller is a children’s pastor in Hamburg, New
York.

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