Good Shepherd lives up to its name

Published 12:21 am Thursday, November 10, 2011

As Hurricane Irene spread damage over eastern North Carolina, the human population was not the only community disrupted.

A stray dog — now affectionately named Esther — wandered into the backyard of Church of the Good Shepherd on Market Street Extension and delivered a litter of nine puppies under the back deck of the church building. She held her own through the elements and several subsequent storms before a few curious souls noticed some of the new additions to the flock on a Sunday morning.

At the time, Esther was in desperate need of food and care, having “laid down her life for her litter.” The church family responded with food and bedding for the puppies.

Mighty Samson, the runt of the litter, is one of nine puppies looking for a home. The puppies were born at the Church of the Good Shepherd on Market Street Extension. (Submitted Photo)

Within three weeks, the puppies were healthy enough to be transplanted to a nearby farm, where they have grown to an adoptable age.

They still don’t miss a Sunday morning, showing up in the back of a pickup truck to get a weekly dose of love from the family of God.

“Essentially, Esther’s arrival is symbolic of the faith journey of this entire church,” said pastor Jay Martin. “She was a stray — nearly broken and truly lost — and showed up on the doorsteps of the church in the worst storm of this generation.

She found nurture and care and love for her family without having any idea of the blessing that would result from her random wanderings.

“Really, the arrival of this mother and pups is like how so many of us wound up out here on Market Street. We came in the midst of storms and found healing — or we came because we love being part of the journey of restoration with new friends who wind up in our midst. But none of this happens by chance. We really believe all things happen with eternal purpose in mind.”

Good Shepherd celebrated its seventh anniversary Wednesday. Martin has been the church’s pastor for three years, but he also continues to work as a local real-estate agent. He finds that this bi-vocational arrangement of real estate and pastoral ministry works ideally for him and for Good Shepherd.

“Being a businessman puts me out in the work-a-day world with this community, and somehow I have become more approachable as a person and pastor than when I was only practicing ministry,” Martin said. “We have had several families come to Good Shepherd who started that journey in The Rich Company office downtown.”

But Martin never expected to wear the hat of “puppy advocate.”

“Honestly, I got my first dog just two years ago. But the Lord uses everything to teach, and this is a classic example of that reality.”

For now, Martin and the entire flock at Good Shepherd want a home for these puppies that will soon outgrow the pen at the farm. Esther is ready for a break, and the sooner she gets Elijah, Ezekiel, Rachel, Ruth, Job, Joel and the runt, Sampson, a home, the more peace she will receive.

Part of the role of the Good Shepherd is to round up his sheep and protect and care for them, and then send them out into the world blessed to be a blessing. This is what happens with Esther’s litter and with the sheep at Church of the Good Shepherd.