Have you ever gotten to sit in the cockpit of an Airbus A300? Thanks to Rob Camden, my two children and I got to have that experience. We recently spent a morning at the Richmond International Airport where Rob took us on a tour of the FedEx Air Terminal. Rob worked for Fed Ex for 37 years and retired just last month. On our tour Rob showed us the inside of the Airbus A300. We got to sit in the cockpit, check out the cargo holds, and we even got to crawl around in the underside of the plane. It was fascinating! Rob spent a lot of time with us. Spending time with people is something that Rob does exceedingly well and I think that’s the essence of ministry. I remember my pastor, Robert Beasley, once told our congregation that “love” isn’t spelled L-O-V-E; love is spelled T-I-M-E. When I think of that, I think of Rob and his ministry. Rob gave us the gift of his time that day. It’s a gift that he’s given to many others as well, through his deacon ministry and in his pet therapy ministry. In Rob’s deacon ministry I’ve seen Rob praying for people in our congregation on multiple occasions. I’ve run into him when I’ve visited hospitals and I can tell you he really cares about the people he serves.
Then there is Rob’s pet therapy ministry that he was involved with for about eight years. A number of years ago Rob and his wife Mary, lost their son Jeffery to cancer. Shortly after this happened Rob was approached about getting into pet therapy. This is a ministry where Rob took his two dogs Jody and Chief to local hospitals to brighten the day of a patient, or parent of a patient along with the hospital staff. Rob said it was amazing to watch as a child held the dog and their vital signs would begin to improve. Brenda Kagels is a newer member of Bethel and when she began coming to Bethel she recognized Rob. Several years ago Rob brought Jody to see Brenda’s granddaughter who was in the hospital. Here’s what Brenda told me about that experience: “When our granddaughter was 4 years old she was in MCV having a biopsy and bone marrow draw and Rob brought his therapy dog Jody in to visit. It put a smile on her face when Jody jumped in the bed with her. Abbie laid her head on Jody and she seemed calmer by her presence. This was a blessing to our family during one of the toughest times in our lives. What a great mission for Rob to comfort the sick during very low points in their lives, we feel blessed to have had that experience.”
What’s interesting to me is that this ministry, like so many ministries, was born out of the heartbreak that Rob and Mary suffered. As you think about where God may be calling you to minister, it can be helpful to look back at the places of pain in your life. God will often use our places of pain to minister to others. I believe this is but one way our painful experiences can be redeemed.
As I chatted with Rob on our morning out, I asked him what being in ministry means to him. He told me that he looks at each day as an opportunity to minister to someone. He believes that the Lord sends him out into the world and puts people in his path that need a word of encouragement or, most of all, to be shown the love of Christ. That really is our goal: to extend the love of Christ to all people. How do we do that? Rob Camden provides us with a good example. We do it by giving. Giving our time, giving our ears to listen to another, and giving our caring hearts. I would be remiss if I did not note that Rob was quick to tell me he didn’t want any credit or to be put up on a pedestal for his ministry. He knows the source of his ministry is the Lord and he’s simply a humble vessel of God’s love. I really appreciate Rob’s attitude toward ministry and how he looks at every encounter with someone as an opportunity to show the love of Christ. I pray that we can each see ourselves as ministers as we give the gift of our time, listening ears and caring hearts to a world in need. May God bless Rob Camden and may God bless Bethel Baptist Church. Amen.