One to Ride the River With

 
Tony & Disa Kitchen -1.jpg

Today is my beloved’s birthday. How old? It’s not for me to say. But I can say, most people think she’s at least 10 years younger than the calendar. Thank you, Mary Kay!


Not much is written about the role of the pastor’s wife, let alone the role of the church planter’s wife. But most in church leadership agree that a pastor’s wife plays a huge role in his success or failure in vocational ministry. I for one, testify that without her, I’d be sunk.


There’s no question that any success I’ve had in various ministries is because I have a wife who is also called to ministry. While she’s been very successful in her business life, that has not been her true calling. Instead, she saw her business as a means to support our “ministry habit.”


One of the reasons I was attracted to her in the early days was because of her desire to “marry a preacher”. I knew God was calling me into ministry, and I knew that I needed a life partner who felt the same. We met, married and began to write an amazing story. After almost 40 years of ministry together, in six different states, leading established churches, planting churches, raising up and sending out leaders, it is clear that we were called to serve together.


Space doesn’t allow me to tell you about the lives she has touched, the neighbors she’s lead to Christ, and the babies she’s blessed in her arms. How can I describe the numerous times that Disa joined me at all hours of the day and night, dropping whatever she was doing to race to a hospital to console a distraught family who was caught in the midst of an unexpected tragedy.


As I pen these words, I remember numerous times that Disa joined me as we raced to be with those who were reeling from the agony of suicide. Instead of trying to answer unanswerable questions, my beloved would just pull out a Kleenex and “weep with those who weep.”


Some of you don’t know that she has served while suffering from chronic depression. Like the Apostle Paul’s thorn-in-the flesh, she embraced this debilitating mental illness as a means to experience Christ’s strength, sharing her story in both church and business settings. She bravely allowed me to publish her story in my book, Crazy Life, admitting that it’s hard to be so vulnerable to the world. Because of that, hundreds, possibly thousands of people who’ve heard her testimony have been encouraged to face their own disabilities with faith and hope.


I wouldn’t have lasted all these years in ministry without her. I would have dropped out, burned out and walked out years ago and done something else. But with her at my side, I was able to run the rapids and not get swamped. Yes, there were times we bailed like crazy, but by God’s grace we were always able to keep rowing until we hit smoother water.


As my favorite western writer once said about a character in his book, I say to you, my Disa, “Babe, you’ve been one to ride the river with.” I’m glad that you were born and that you are mine. Happy Birthday.


Love you more,


Tony







 
Jonathan Schuler