Part of the sinful nature of cults is that they bind member's minds so that they cannot really leave, even when they are no longer in the group. It takes a large degree of help, therapy and re-orientation in one's understanding of the world in order for a person to truly escape the manipulation of a cult community. She received that in the Kalispell area, but her children needed help to be free, too. She shared that Flathead Lutheran Bible Camp helped to provide freedom through the Gospel of Jesus Christ for her children. There her children were able to hear words of forgiveness and grace through the Bible instead of the fear and manipulation that they had endured the rest of their lives. At camp, her kids were able to make friendships with people on their own terms and live into the social freedom of just being themselves - a right never given to them before. All of this was made possible through the camperships (scholarships to camp) provided by donors who support the camp. The power of the Gospel at work through the institutional church.
I share this as a reflection on how the church is actively at work in the world. Many people in our country today question the efficacy of supporting churches and other institutional ministries that seem more concerned with self-interest and survival than actual mission and outreach. They think that financial support is better given directly to causes than institutions and organizations like the church because institutions care more about their own survival and serving the world. Sometimes, this is clearly the case. I can think of dozens of churches that have a clear vision of how important it is to put all their money into making an altar look nice, while turning away those begging for help in the streets. Yet, skeptics of this sort fail to see the importance of supporting ministries in our midst that can respond to needs as they arise. I must admit that I have dabbled in this sort of skepticism myself from time to time, but my experience of being a pastor thus far has informed me of how wrong I have been on the issue. Our church has been able to support and minister to all sorts of needs in our community precisely because we have a door for people to come to. We have helped people with meals, trips to the doctor, and insured that children and families are fed. We have supported partners in global mission abroad and worked to make sure people stay warm through the winter here at home. We have raised money to help people who suffer from malaria abroad and minister to patients at St. Luke here in Ronan. All of these things are marks of the Gospel alive and active through the institutional church here in the Mission Valley. By supporting the church, we do more than just provide for our continued survival - we also continually respond to the call of God by making a way for the hungry to be fed, the sick to be visited, the cold to be warmed, the isolated to find fellowship, and those who feel forsaken to find the love of God. The mission of God is truly present in our church - an institution worth supporting long into the future.