You’ve got a friend…and the music fades away. The thought lingers in our minds. We all want a friend who will be there for us winter, spring, summer or fall; all you have to do is call. Carole King’s lyric expresses a deep need in the human soul. Everyone longs for that kind of connection with another person. But experience proves it difficult to find. So what does this classic song text have to do with the opening image of my friend, Pastor Alberto and the previous post?
Friend: Closer Than A Brother
You know that line. But you may not remember that it comes from Proverbs 18:
One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Ultimately, that truth is realized in the Person of Jesus Christ. He calls all who believe in Him His friends. But what about our earthly relationships? Answering the question, Who is my neighbor?, Jesus gave us the parable of the Good Samaritan. And I don’t think it does any disservice to the text if we equate neighbor and friend. The verse in Proverbs makes a distinction between acquaintances (unreliable ‘friends’) and those who will walk through tough times with you (friend who sticks closer than a brother).
Those tough times are responsible for this post. They provide an opportunity for us to prove ourselves as neighbors and/or friends. And I share those difficult circumstances with a heavy heart.
Friend: Yea Though I Walk…
I’ve known Pastor Alberto since 2008. He serves the church in Batey 7 near Barahona, Dominican Republic. He was part of the first graduating class of the Mathes Pastor Training School. Word of his situation reached me a couple of days ago. Pastor Alberto has cancer and the prognosis is not good.
We had some technical issues with the website and those are resolved. So until today I could only have one-on-one conversation about Alberto. I have made contact with other friends in his area in order to get the latest information. Calls were made to friends here in the U. S. who know Alberto. Some of those friends are doctors and nurses who have ministered in the medical clinic adjacent to Alberto’s church. I have asked everyone to pray for Alberto and his family. That is the first thing I am asking you to do.
Efforts are underway to connect Alberto’s doctors with doctors here at home. We want to confirm diagnoses. We also want to know any and all possible treatment options. So pray for those connections to be made. Conversations/consultations like that are not easy, but they can be done.
David’s famous Psalm noted the journey through the valley of the shadow of death. Our opportunity is to walk with Alberto through a difficult time. It may end with him going ahead of us. And if it does, there is another need.
Friend: For This Cause…
I also know Pastor Alberto’s family. His wife and children are delightful. They took the Biblical paradigm of marriage to heart. I’ve been in their home and watched them interact with each other and with many mission volunteers. It’s not hard to see they left all others to join their lives together in ministry. Like many pastors, Alberto has to be in view of others even though he is a quiet, humble person. His wife is equally at home sweeping the church, the medical clinic, or serving the needs of people in the Batey. And honestly, my thoughts are full of questions about how to minister to her and their family. We will know more over the next hours and days. And if they have to face that part that says, ‘Til death do us part, then I know you will want to pray about that as well.
Many Friends: One Face
Our next mission team will be on the ground in Barahona in about 10 days. It will be my privilege to be the ‘face’ of ministry to Alberto. I will personally look in on Pastor Alberto, the family, and their church. And I want to be able to tell this family that I get to represent many others who are willing to walk through difficulties with them and pray for them. And as First John 1 reminds us, it’s not enough to minister with words. We are to minister in word and deed.
Right now I have at least as many questions as I do answers. But I know some things that we can do. As details come to light I will share them. Due to the short space of time before our departure I am going to make a donation page available. We put it together in a hurry, but it works.
Actions Of Friends
Possible items to fund are medical treatments. We don’t know yet. But if there are treatment options available where Alberto is (or here in the U. S.!), then resources will be required. How great would it be for us to learn that a treatment option is available and recovery is possible? Pastor Alberto would quickly agree with the Apostle Paul:
For me to live is Christ. To die is gain.
And whether or not treatment options exist, a family must go on. Alberto does masonry work in addition to being a pastor. Our teams often hire Pastor Alberto for construction projects. The latest picture will tell you the likelihood of him doing that kind of work.
So if you want to help, please use the donation links in this post. I’ve explained all I can right now. And I will be posting updates. If you can’t help in the next few days, this will be an ongoing effort. My goal right now is to learn as much as possible and help as much as possible when we arrive in Pastor Alberto’s home.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Note: The featured image is about 4 years old. It was taken in front of their house. If you look in the bottom right corner you will see one of Pastor Alberto’s daughters. So yes, they still have children at home.
This post was hard enough! When I saw the pictures of ‘flat Carol’ it was just too much. We walked this same valley with Carol. And Alberto was one of many who prayed for Carol. All that came flooding back as I saw the pictures. So we see again that what really ministers to all of us, whether we are walking with a friend or going through the valley ourselves, is prayer. Please engage often!
BIG P.S. –
These posts about Pastor Alberto and his family have been tagged as part of this year’s Giving Matters series in order for people to include this family in their Christmas giving. Make checks payable to Mission: Hope. Mail to:
Keith Burnett Ministries, P.O. 803, Scottsboro, AL – 35768