HEINEN HAPPENINGS – August 2018

Email newsletter of the Heinen family: Brian, Leah, Rebekah, Victoria and Maria

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. (Philippians 1:3-5 ESV)

We pray for our friends and neighbors!  How can we pray for you?  Send your requests to my email address listed below.

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!  Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits… Ps 103:1-2

We have much to bless God for…

–Leah had a good report from the doctor, showing no further damage to her kidneys.  Her diabetes is under control.  She recently had to go through some tests for her heart, which all turned out well.  She has a stress test this week.  Please pray for her struggle with pain and exhaustion.

–Rebekah starts her MSW internship next week.  Please pray for her health, especially her hypothyroidism.

–Victoria continues to be involved in various leadership positions in her church.  She loves the girls in her small group!  She starts her senior year in college next week.

–Maria had a great start to her senior year in high school.  She is involved in the small group Victoria leads and also in the church where Brian is preaching.

–Brian is enjoying his part-time opportunities with hospice, with his denominational district, and with the small church where he is interim pastor.  It is amazing how many wonderful opportunities to share the love and truth of Jesus arise.  Please pray for his neuropathy in his hands and feet to be healed, as well as the wound on his foot, which has been an issue for many months.

–While we are thankful for the opportunities we have to bless our neighbors, we feel that God brought us to this neighborhood for a purpose.  Pray that we will have the time, health, energy, resources, and opportunities to reach these special people with the mercy and grace of our Savior.

The entire family has been blessed by the encouragement, generosity, and prayers of so many friends.  Y’all have been conduits of God’s amazing grace to our lives.  We love you and appreciate you!

–The church, the Appleton Cumberland Presbyterian Church, is very responsive to the ministry of Jesus Christ that is taking place.  While the number of people in the congregation is very small in number, the hearts of the people are deeply devoted to Jesus.  Rebekah and Maria are making a real difference among the children who attend.

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Brian Heinen 802 East 23rd Street, Russellville, Arkansas, 72802
479-886-0765 brheinen1@gmail.com
Follow my journey on Facebook and Twitter.

Being Poor

When you are poor, you feel incompetent.  You are told to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, but if you were capable of that, how did you end up poor?  You feel incredibly weak as you see so many others so strong and successful.

You feel incapable.  You feel like you can’t do what millions around you are already doing – being successful.

You feel inferior.  Those millions of successful people who surround you are living the American Dream.  Many of those millions believe that the American Dream is real.  Their favorite athletes and entertainment stars remind them daily that everyone can live the Dream – just believe in yourself enough and you can do and be anything!  The question then becomes, what is wrong with you if you can’t live the Dream?

You feel unlovable. People you thought were friends disappear.  Many are ashamed of you and at times are ashamed to be with you.  When people do talk to you, they treat you as a charity case to be pitied rather than a friend to be valued.  (See “you feel inferior.”)  Thank the Lord for the true friends who sometimes appear out of nowhere to truly be a support.  It is surprising to see friends fall away, but it is even more surprising to see true friends rise up.

You feel like you have no choice.  After all, beggars can’t be choosers.  When people are in the position of offering you help, there is often a sense of superiority that arises on their part.  And to get their help, you better listen and do everything they say or help in the future may be out of the question.  You must accept any job, any place to live, any schedule forced on you, or you look very ungrateful.

You feel blamed.  Just as most in America hold to some form of the American Dream, most Christians have a little “prosperity doctrine” in them.  In other words, people wonder what you must have done to cut off God’s blessing from your life.  Don’t faithful children experience the Father’s love and provision?  What did you do?

You feel like you must share your story with anyone who asks.  You share your story of failure constantly as you appeal to churches and agencies for help.  Everyone has questions to ask and forms to fill out.  Many times, you have to provide proof of income (a record of your failure on paper for all to see) to get a loaf of bread.  Even if you don’t want to ask for help, you are forced to.  You lose all privacy and dignity.

You lose all respect and integrity.  As you share your story, people are automatically suspicious of you.  The assumption is from the beginning, you are trying to take advantage of their generosity.

You feel dumb.  Those offering help sometimes treat you this way, acting like they need to school you in all kinds of matters, mostly unrelated to why you are poor.  Everyone you talk to feels like they have the right to offer you advice (and you better listen!).  You feel like you always have to listen to those who are in a position to offer you help. And you quickly learn that there are always strings attached to gifts.  There truly is no such thing as a free lunch.

In summary, when you are poor, you feel inhuman.  Subhuman.  Like you are a different species.  There is nothing so dehumanizing as being poor – other than being extremely rich.

When you don’t feel human anymore, you feel isolated from humans. You become utterly desperate and do anything to survive. You start acting like the animal you are.  You don’t enjoy what humans enjoy.  Sunsets don’t take your breath away because you constantly feel like you’ve been socked in the gut and are unable to breathe​. Music doesn’t lift your soul to another plane.  Food loses its flavor.  Laughter doesn’t come naturally.

I have one request as you read  this: as you help the poor out of the goodness of your heart because our Father reached out and helped you when you didn’t deserve it, please do this one simple thing – treat those you are loving as fellow human beings made in the image of God, just like you.

Valuing Life – A Pastor’s Perspective

I have always valued life – or so I thought.  I remember from my teen years on how I believed the Bible when it said that I was made in the image and likeness of God.  I was thankful that I was “fearfully and wonderfully made” by my heavenly Father and that He had “formed and covered me in my mother’s womb.”  I worked for a time at a ministry in Texas called “Last Days Ministries,” which had a branch of the ministry called “Americans Against Abortion.”   I served in the print shop there, and one of the most popular tracts that we printed was called, “Children – Things We Throw Away.”  Later, when I became a pastor, I faithfully ordered bulletin inserts for “Sanctity of Life Sunday” and preached how as God is the giver of life, He alone decides when our lives should end.  I was a hospital and nursing home chaplain and served on the ethics committee of our local hospital, and often had to help the sick and suffering see that even their lives had great value and that to end their lives prematurely would be a tragedy.  Yet, none of this prepared me for that trip to my wife’s OB-GYN.

We were expecting our second child.  Our Rebekah Hope was 2 at the time, and we had waited 5 years for her to be born.  We went to our 20 week appointment and looked forward to seeing our little one on the ultrasound.  As the nurse midwife viewed the screen, I noticed that she didn’t respond to my wife’s jokes and that her face turned very pale.  She excused herself and ran out of the room.  A few minutes later, she returned with the doctor, an immigrant from Czechoslovakia who was always smiling and pleasant.  He, too, was serious and silent – until he worked up the courage to tell us the news.  They couldn’t find any kidneys in our baby.  As such, the amniotic fluid would not be replenished once it was used up.  Without amniotic fluid, the lungs wouldn’t develop, as the lungs are strengthened when the baby in the womb breathes that life-sustaining liquid in and breathes it out.  He immediately set up an appointment for us at the Ohio State Medical Center.

On our first appointment, we met with two doctors who both assumed we were coming in to set up a time to abort.  They were shocked to hear my wife, Leah, explain that she believed that the same God who gave her baby life could heal her baby, but that even if he didn’t, it was not her right to end a life that He had given.  They explained to her that the baby would probably be carried close to full term but would die soon after birth and that each time she felt the baby kick, she would be reminded that she was carrying a baby with a death sentence.  “Why go through the heartache?” they asked her.  “Why risk your own health?  Why not end it now and try again?”  They introduced us to a geneticist who would “test” fetuses in future pregnancies and could tell us when to abort until we could get one that was healthy.  My wife stood firm.  Over what seemed to be never-ending visits to many different doctors, the professionals realized that they couldn’t change my wife’s mind.  Her courage amazed me.  Her faith humbled me.  We soon became a “teaching” case because of this rare disease.  I looked forward to the hours of ultrasounds, realizing that seeing my daughter on the screen might be the only chance for me to get to know her.

Our little Christina Joy lived one hour after the delivery.  She peacefully stopped breathing in our arms not long after we heard the hospital sound system play the bells that celebrated the birth of a child.  We put her tiny casket in the trunk of our car and drove her ourselves to Wisconsin, where she was buried next to my own brother, who had also died in infancy.  Not knowing if we would be able to have more children, God has since blessed us with Victoria Grace and Maria Faith.  O, how I value their precious lives!  And how I value the courage of people like my wife, Leah, who have the faith and strength to live out their convictions and who stand up and let their voices be heard.

 

Compassion Fatigue

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV)

I first came upon the idea of “compassion fatigue” when I was working at a rescue mission.  Many times, those who begin serving the poor, marginalized, and wounded because of a true desire to help, after a time become cynical, suspicious, and hardened.  Sometimes dealing with difficult situations involves dealing with difficult people.  Not all those you deal with are difficult, but there are enough out there to make even the most caring grow cold.  Trying to help those truly needy means that others will take advantage of you.  It is easy to justify this “fatigue.”  After all, aren’t we told not to cast our “pearls before swine”?  Aren’t we to be “wise stewards” of our Lord’s resources?

The late Keith Green reminded us that the only way to never be taken advantage of is to never help anyone at all.  Daily, I try to ask the Lord to help my heart stay soft as I deal with people, or I fear I, too, could develop “compassion fatigue.”  And as I pray for my own heart, I am reminded that my compassionate Lord never grows tired of me.

I don’t deserve God’s grace.  When I ask for His help, it is sometimes because I got into trouble because of things I did wrong.  Maybe I didn’t act wisely.  Perhaps I made a serious mistake.  Possibly I am suffering because I sinned against the very God I am asking for rescue.  Yet He hears my cry and redeems.  I don’t receive His aid because I deserve it.  I receive it because He is longsuffering, good, kind, and merciful.

Is it a good (or even spiritual) thing to refuse to help people because they have proven they are not worthy of help?  I can hear the thoughts of some as they read these words.  “We need to be careful to give people what they need, not just what they want or are asking for.”  “If I give this person money, they will spend it on drugs.”  “Maybe this person needs to suffer the consequences of their poor choices so that they learn a lesson.”  These things can be true, and remind us that we need to help wisely.  We need to help them in a way that truly helps them.  Yet, we need to help them – not give up because we may possibly be taken advantage of.

There is even another level to this.  Let’s say that someone is trying to take advantage of you.  Let’s say they will spend what you give them on drugs.  Maybe they are hopelessly addicted because of poor choices and sin.  Do we then not help them?  Do we let them starve?

What if our judgment about them is wrong?  What if like Job’s friends, we see their suffering through the lens of our own faulty experience?  What if they are actually suffering because they are more righteous than we are?

As a pastor, I observed this problem in the church.  Often those who are needy are “put up with” impatiently by the people of God.  Sometimes needy people are helped for a time, but when they don’t experience “instant sanctification” those who are helping grow weary.  When helpers grow weary it is easy to grow distant.  They don’t make phone calls as often to check up on their “friend.”  After a while, the phone calls stop as they focus instead on people and projects that yield quicker results.  We are rightly told to focus on our strengths and not just our weaknesses if we are to accomplish more for God.  Doesn’t this also mean that we should focus on people experiencing success rather than failure?  After all, needy people drain us and take up all our time, and when we share their stories during testimony time or in our latest newsletter, it is not very impressive.  So, we ignore and then forget those who are needy.  And they silently stop attending our churches, and no one even notices.

Similarly, lately I have been contacted by pastors who were in the licensing/ordination process in various denominations.  Because they were dealing with personal or church-related problems, or even when they were faithful but were not experiencing impressive results, their mentors and leaders shifted focus to those charismatic, type-A pastors who were seen as being quite successful.  My now ex-pastor friends stopped receiving phone calls from their mentors.  They faded into the woodwork and seemingly disappeared.  And no one in their denomination/association even noticed them disappear.

I often fail God.  I often live Romans 7: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”  And what does God do?  Every morning, after I failed the day previously, He reminds me of Romans 8: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Why does He do this?  It is because Lamentations is true: “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  Should I not extend this same undeserved compassion that I received from God to others?

 

Thoughts About My Prayer Life

Many of you know that the past 18 months have been a bit challenging for me, as I lost the calling/career that I loved for 30 years.  In addition, I have been unsuccessful in trying to find new employment.  I spend most of my time looking for work.  When I am not seeking a job, I pray.  That pretty much summarizes my life right now.

My prayer life has gone through a few changes these past months.  Here are a few things I observed:

  1. Prayer is truly a conversation. In fact, it is the conversational part of the most important relationship I have.
  2. I don’t ask for much anymore. I still ask, but most of the time is just spent in conversation.
  3. I pray a lot more, but I say a lot less. I spend most of the time listening.
  4. When I do talk, I mostly pray Scripture. Most of the words I use now are not very original.
  5. When I am not praying Scripture, if I am talking, I normally ask questions.
  6. While I ask a lot of questions, God does not give me many answers.
  7. When Jesus does give a response to my questions, He normally answers with another question. As I read the gospels, this is what He often did.  It is amazing how often Jesus does not answer people’s questions, but instead answers with a question of His own.  Sometimes He just changes the subject to talk about what is really important.

I am not sure what this says about my prayer life, but it reminds me that Jesus values the health of my soul more than the things I normally ask for.

A letter about the next phase of my ministry

Family, friends, and colleagues,

I wanted to update you as to how our Great God is leading me and my family as we continue to grow in His grace and knowledge daily.  God has blessed me with many unique life experiences and ministry opportunities over the years.  I was quite discouraged for some time, trying to fit how God was leading me into ministry templates designed by others that fit their context, but not my own.  Through intense times of seeking God combined with the input of godly counsel, the Lord has confirmed that I am to pursue a different type of ministry that He is putting together, tailor-made for my calling.

After three decades of pastoral ministry, including planting churches, acting as chaplain, serving as a children’s/youth worker, leading as camp director, and shepherding existing congregations, I am now beginning a private ministry that will serve pastors and local church fellowships.  Details can be found at bheinen.com.  Many pastors, especially those serving in smaller congregations, often need people to come alongside and encourage them and assist them with duties that they don’t have time to fulfill.  The foundation of this new ministry is prayerful dependence upon our mighty God, and I will take every opportunity I can to personally pray for my pastor friends, and hope to participate in various community and church-based prayer events.  My family remains committed to praying specifically for our neighbors as we reach them with the love and truth of Jesus Christ.  How can we pray for you?

To exalt Jesus, I will focus on three main areas:

  1. Communicator. I hope to give pastors a needed break by providing church pulpit supply.  I also am available to speak at camps and conferences.  I am a trained FaithSearch Discovery presenter, and encourage your church or group to host this wonderful evangelism/apologetics seminar.  Check out what FaithSearch is all about at org.
  2. Counselor. Many pastors just don’t have as much time to invest in biblical counseling as they desire.  I will make myself available to help busy pastors out in this area.  I am now a SYMBIS premarital assessment facilitator, and would love to do premarital counseling for those whose pastors are too busy to do so.  I am also a certified Fresh Hope group facilitator, and hope to lead support groups all around our community for those with a mental health diagnosis (and those who love them).
  3. Coach. The role of a life coach is to help people decide where they want to go in certain areas of their lives and help them get there.  The Christian Life Coach helps people discover where Jesus Christ wants them to go, and helps them get there by the power of the Holy Spirit.  I would love to help individuals and groups be all that Christ wants them to be.  My special areas of interest are Spiritual Formation, and equipping people going through transitions in life (such as the homeless).  If your church is transitioning between pastors right now, I would love to “coach” your entire church family by making myself available to serve as an interim pastor.

Jesus Christ is my life, my everything.  I want everyone to know Him.  To borrow words from the apostle Paul, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28 ESV).  This is my desire.  Would you help me?

I need your prayer!  Only the Holy Spirit can change hearts and lives.  I simply want to be His instrument.  Contact me to be part of our prayer team.

I need your financial partnership.  Would you prayerfully consider giving a generous gift to help me get started?  How about a monthly gift?  I hope to make all my services available for whatever people can afford.  This means I will need supporters like you to supplement what clients can give.  Right now, until we become a 501c3 organization, donations will just be considered gifts and are not tax deductible.  You can give by sending a gift to our home address or by visiting bheinen.com.

I need you to use my services and refer them to others.  How can I serve you?  Your group?  Your church family?  Please let your friends know I am available.  I can’t wait to share my incredible Savior with you and your friends.

Please contact me if you have any questions or if I can help in any way.

Rev. Brian Heinen

802 E 23rd Street    Russellville, AR 72802

(479) 886-0765    bheinen.com    brheinen1@gmail.com

My Unique Job Search

For the past sixteen months, I have been looking for new employment. (See Desperate for a New Start in the New Year, Fiery Trials, and Grief.) It has been quite a journey, filled with disappointment and wonderful opportunity to seek God. I lost count, but think I applied for about 1,500 jobs. In addition, I post my resume on employment and ministry websites. I contacted every district in the denomination in which I serve multiple times. I did have some success, earning my insurance license, and going off to training to sell health insurance supplements. I attempted to sell insurance twice (see Selling Jesus), failing miserably and losing lots of money. In between those fiascos, I delivered pizza and did dishes. I enjoyed this job, but the tips and salary from twenty hours per week didn’t do much to support my family and pay for the $1,500 in car repairs I incurred. I ended my delivery job to make lots of money in the insurance world (see above).

Throughout this search, I am constantly asked by family and friends the same questions. Rather than answer each of them individually, I thought I would write them down and put them on my blog where people can access them. Here are the questions:

Why can’t you find a pastoral position? I gave my answer in the blog post, The Pastor’s Unforgiveable Sin.

Did you try ______? I heard they were hiring. This is very common. I am so thankful for the input of so many caring people. I pursued EVERY lead I was given, but to no avail.

Have you tried chaplaincy? Yes! I apply to every prison and hospital chaplaincy job in the state (and several out-of-state). I also apply to hospice chaplaincy openings within driving distance. Despite serving as hospital/nursing home chaplain for four years, I do not qualify for hospital chaplaincy because I don’t have the required Clinical Pastoral Education credits. For about one year I pursued an opening in a chaplaincy residency program in Little Rock where I could earn CPE’s, and finally had a terrific interview, but was turned down.

Why not become a substitute teacher? I went through the thorough background checks and training to be a sub, but only received one call in two months to come in, which happened to be on a day when I was not available. I needed something which would better provide for my family, so I went off to sell insurance (see above).

Are you being too picky? I apply for EVERY job opening I see, both part and full-time.

Do you apply for jobs not in Russellville? Yes, but to move it would have to be financially well-worth it. Our current mortgage is cheaper than any rent we could find. Not having income for over a year has resulted in us not having any money to move or pay security deposit and first/last months’ rent. We can’t afford to move. Besides, our girls are at home here.

Have you had anyone teach you interviewing skills? Have you had anyone review your resume? I had experts look at my resume, which is adequate. The problem is, about 95% of the jobs I am applying for require an online application, not a resume. I also listened to critiques of my interviewing ability. I interview well. The last interview was described as “excellent” by the interviewer.

Does Leah get disability? She does not qualify. She does not have enough work credits. We applied several times and have gone through the appeal process. We also sought advice from a law firm that is one of the top disability firms in the state.

Do you receive unemployment? I do not qualify.

Did you receive job retraining? I continue to check into this. My aptitude for welding isn’t very good, so I didn’t go through welding training. Ditto for auto mechanic. My bad eyes, arthritic fingers and shoulder, and feet with non-diabetic neuropathy don’t help. I am attempting some online computer training and all I can say is, “ha, ha!”.

Have you worked with any employment agencies? Yes. I also talked to people at the nearby university and a community college. I often seek help from our local Workforce office.

When I answer these questions, people do not understand why I can’t find a job. This is especially true when companies have signs out front telling the world they are hiring. I don’t understand, either. To be honest, I am tired of explaining my journey, and often feel blamed for what is happening. Obviously, I must be doing something wrong! And I agree with that sentiment, and go home at night battling depression, shame, and feelings of failure. When I talk to people, sometimes I feel I must defend why I can’t get a job! But I don’t have any answers or defense.

This is especially true when I hear of the homeless, addicted, or recently incarcerated finding jobs within three or four months. One teenage girl I know found four jobs in twelve months! I don’t understand.

One thing I learned – More important than your skills and experience is who you know.

Some told me to follow my passions. I still desire to live a life sharing Jesus with others. I am pursuing certification in biblical counseling and life coaching. But I do not see any open doors to walk through to serve in this way at this time.

What is God teaching me? One simple lesson – my identity is not found in my reputation, my education, my background, my vocation, my position, or my ministry – it is found in Christ and Christ, alone. I taught this for years, but now must live it. I don’t have any reputation anymore. My education makes me overqualified. My background doesn’t mean a thing. I currently have no position and no ministry. I am now a nobody. But I have Jesus. And He is enough.