Aging parents change pastor's life direction
In November, he visited his parents in Roseville, Calif. He found the 80-something cancer survivors getting along as well as could be expected on the surface, but said something didn’t feel quite right below the surface.
His dad was showing signs of early dementia, he said. And just three weeks later, his mother suffered a major stroke.
Suddenly, both his parents were having to cope with significant impairment.
“That put a huge exclamation point behind that concern,” he said. Suddenly, he knew he needed to give a significant amount of time helping his parents and his life would have to change.
He brought the situation to the attention of church officials. He told them he had a new calling, so he recently held his last Sunday service.
“The church recognized I can’t do both,” Willoughby said. “The Bible is very clear. You have a duty to your parents that trumps everything.”
For Willoughby, it’s been a whirlwind change.
“The church has been very gracious,” he said. “It’s something (members) could relate to and embrace.”
Willoughby has a sister in Roseville, but he doesn’t want everything to fall to her. “I need to step up and contribute what I can,” he said.
The first step was to spend some days in California to arrange in-home care. Like most people, his parents want to remain in their own home as long as possible.
In addition to helping his parents, he is also going to put more focus on his Reach the City Ministries, which works towards bringing various groups together to serve.
“We’re all dealing with challenges and opportunities bigger than all of us,” Willoughby said. Reach the City focuses on building higher levels of brotherhood and community.
It’s something he’s worked toward for 20 years, ever since a senior pastor assigned him to attend a summit with other ministers in the Longview-Kelso area of Washington. At the summit, he said he and other pastors spent over three days worshiping God and hearing from him.
“It was a level of Christianity I had never known,” Willoughby said. “It’s something bigger that kicks in when we’re all together.”
When a 500-year flood event hit the area, he said, that spurred people from 60 churches jump in and take action to help. “We were able to love the community in a moment of crisis and had a great impact,” he said.
In being more active with Reach the City, Willoughby said, he plans to conduct a listening tour, talking with business and governmental leaders in the area. He wants to know the needs and issues and share them to connect people and get things done. He hopes to be a catalyst in creating strategic partners.
“What if we had summits and came together and traded notes?” Willoughby asked.
He said that many times, duplication of services or gaps in needs can be dealt with by communication. He believes that Americans typically tend to do things as individuals and in isolation.
He would like to see more partnerships built between the evangelical and government worlds.
“I don’t have the magic answer, yet,” he said. “My role is to stimulate.”
Willoughby is hoping to raise monthly support for his ministry.
“It’s a step of faith for me,” he said. He plans to have evening coffee meetings where he can talk to others who want to see God rise in the community.
“I’ve seen a lot of decline of faith in the Northwest,” he said. “I want people to see the power and love of Christ.”
Willoughby said he found Christ when he was a teen who had hit bottom.
“He graced me with love and redemption,” he said, and it’s something he wants others to find.
“There’s a spiritual work here of prayer — restraining evil and releasing good,” Willoughby said. “I’ve seen my God do that.
“I’m not strictly humanitarian. I believe we need divine intervention and grace. It enriches to give those riches to us.”
For more information, Willoughby can be reached at 503-560-7923 or email@example.com.