Sheptock, Rudy

Pastor Rudy Sheptock.

I am writing today’s column from Vancouver, British Columbia. I have been here since Thursday, as I finally attended the annual “Hearties Family Reunion.”

Last year’s pilgrimage was a pure disaster and sent me into a deep depression, but I had so many believers praying for me this time that I knew something miraculous was in the making. I am humbly grateful because I can say with tears in my eyes and praise in my soul, mission accomplished.

What is this gathering all about? Those of us in attendance share a common love, passion, and appreciation for the Hallmark Channel’s beloved television series, “When Calls The Heart.” It is about to enter its seventh season, and I have been a huge fan of this faith-based saga from the beginning.

Inspired by the novels of Janette Oke, she writes about a young woman named Elizabeth Thatcher in the early 1900’s, who decides to leave her life of luxury behind and head west to become a teacher on the Canadian Prairie. I was actually on the set of Hope Valley, and it was decorated to the hilt for the Christmas movie that will be aired Dec. 25.

Those of you who know me well understand that I was totally in my element, even if the snow was more movie magic than manufactured by the right meteorological conditions.

I believe God made us to live within a community. Pride has been our pitfall. Our “every man for himself” mentality has caused us to compete against our brothers and sisters, rather than simply complete them.

While greatness can happen when we live to give, rather than breathe to receive, the majority of our moments get muddied by our misguided selfish motives.

Executive Producers Brian Bird and Michael Landon, Jr. believed that our culture was starving for entertainment that feeds the soul and not just bleeds it dry. Like his father before him who gave us “Bonanza,” “Little House on the Prairie” and “Highway to Heaven,” the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

Younger Landon teamed up with Bird, who was mentored by Martha Williamson on “Touched by an Angel,” to give us another family-friendly classic.

There is nothing worse than sitting down with your kids to watch TV together, only to have to hit the remote seconds into the experience because of inappropriate language and less than proper behavior. Kudos to the Hallmark Channel for getting a conscience and sharing something valuable that rewards you for the time you invested with your viewing habits.

Because of the success of the Hearties, there is a lot of excitement about becoming one of the "hopefuls" who are those supporting the newest Hallmark Channel masterpiece “When Hope Calls.” This tale features the ups and downs of two sisters who run an orphanage amid the old Canadian west. It was a spin-off of last year’s Christmas movie, “When Calls the Heart.”

What have I witnessed in the last few days? One of the biggest lessons is that faith isn’t dead on Earth.

I have never been a fan of separating the secular from the spiritual. Life wasn't meant to be lived within compartments. You are who you are all the time, and not just weekends and Wednesday nights.

If you can worship God in a sanctuary, you can still express your devotion everywhere you go and in everything you do. If God isn’t uplifted in what you are working on, then why are you wasting precious time?

Praying for one another is not confined to only religious buildings. Let me illustrate by sharing the following happenings from Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

As I sat down for dinner with other “Hearties” on Friday night, because I don’t wear a clergy collar, my role as a pastor is not always recognized clearly.

The woman sitting to my right looked bewildered and overwhelmed. Jenny had learned that her husband back home in Georgia was taken to the hospital with abdominal pain. Without hesitation, I knew I needed to pray for her, and I did.

I prayed for wisdom for Jenny and healing for her husband, Kent. Before the evening was over, every individual in that Hilton banquet room was also praying for Kent.

This wasn’t a church gathering. This was a Hallmark event, and yet God was invited to play a huge role.

Think about how Washington might get straightened out if the Lord wasn’t kicked out of government, but looked up to in order to lead us to become better people again. I’m not talking about a state religion, but about believers living their faith wherever and whenever God puts them.

Saturday morning, as I was coming up the escalator, I saw one of my new friends, Randi, collapsed on the couch. Surrounded by other Hearties, I was informed that she experienced an anxiety attack. Because I know that ugly feeling, I knelt down and prayed over her.

When I opened my eyes, there was Landon praying along, as he held this young lady’s hand. How cool is that?

Prayer is not a felony. Prayer is a privilege for us to invite God into real life. If I can challenge us, it would be to never be ashamed or embarrassed to pray for someone when God gives you the nudge to do so.

Finally, we toured the actual set of “When Calls the Heart.” I didn’t get to preach, but when my tour group entered into the church building of Hope Valley, a young lady asked me if I would pray for all of us while we were in there together. I used my booming voice to get everyone’s attention and shared that I would like to pray for everyone, and invited them to join me.

I knew God was with us in that room. I knew God was knitting hearts together as we were on this field trip. Once again, I was blessed because I didn’t shy away when I was encouraged to shine bright.

If you can’t be a Christian 24/7, something needs to change. God is an all the time faithful Father. Shouldn’t we be all the time obedient and trusting children?

I came back to Cape May County Oct. 7. I am not an actor, nor do I play one on TV.

I am a learning, active follower of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I am a disciple. I am hopelessly devoted to Jesus.

I met the casts of these awesome productions. I broke bread with the fellow fans of the shows. I laughed, cried, and lived.

God is not about building organizations. He is putting together a family made up of the hodgepodge of broken humanity. Redemption will always be the center of how God moves.

Let’s use our hearts more than our brains and become a community, not just on paper, but in practical ways. The heart is calling and hope is the answer, so the next move is up to us. Don’t ignore what we need if we will ever be inspired.

ED. NOTE: The author is the senior pastor of The Lighthouse Church, 1248 Route 9 South, Court House.