Today has been insane and it is nowhere close to being finished. Today was my day to lead the women’s discussion at camp. I was super nervous all morning because of this, which is just so silly thinking back because this is what I was called to do!!! My calling in life is to bring hope to women. Figuring out this calling has been a very painful and difficult process that has taken years, but I am finally here and I am striving to fully embrace it.
God has been teaching me a multitude of things on this trip about life, love and ministry, and I desperately feel the need to share these lessons with you.
Lessons About Life:
I never thought I had a “the whole world revolves around me” mindset, but I have been so humbled on this trip just to double and triple check and even quadruple check that I really do know that the world does not revolve around me. *cough, cough* Thanks, Jesus. What I mean by this is that I have a pride issue that was hidden. *gulp* Did I really just admit to the entire world that I am prideful? Yes, I did. Admitting things like this in church seems taboo, it seems scandalous, because then the whispers seem to start. “Did you hear that so-and-so struggles with such-and-such?? And they are in ministry? They are a leader?” Now please hear me out with this, I know that not all church members are like this, but I also know from experience that just as many are, and yes, I will be the first to admit it, I have done this too. We all do it. But here is the thing- THE CHURCH SHOULD BE THE FIRST PLACE YOU GO TO ADMT YOU HAVE AN ISSUE. It should be a safe place to discuss such things. You should feel liberated and you should experience freedom when you admit your struggles. Because contrary to popular belief, WE ALL HAVE SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET.
But unfortunately, that does not seem to be reality.
We live in a comparative society. We compare our deep dark secrets, the worst part of ourselves, to other people’s “picture perfect” lives. We look at social media and we see edited, exagerated pieces of someone else’s “perfect” life. We think that life would be better if we could look like this person (even though they took 20+ selfies and spent 30 minutes editing that picture to get just the right filter), or if our family did what that family does (even though just after that perfectly staged picture, the three year old started throwing a temper tanrtum), or if we could have the glamour of moving to or experiencing a new culture (even though the culture shock alone makes that person want to move back home and never leave their comfort zone again).
And I believe this is the sneakiest tactic the enemy uses.
We are taught that we need to be better than other people, but we continually feel like we are incapable of being “as good as” the next person.
I say all of this because I can relate to all of these things and admitting it takes a lot of humility, because of my pride issue. Yes, I said it again.
The Lord has been teaching me a lot about humility over the last 11 months. One of the things I have been working on is being on my phone less. I expect people to not be on their phone so they can be fully present with me. But I realized I can never expect someone to do something that I am not willing to do myself. I want to be more fully present when I am around people. I want to be more intentional with those around me, so I have been trying to be on my phone less when I am with other people even if they do not have the same goal; I want to strive to make them feel important and not like I am bored with them.
All that to say, when I came to Greece, I kind of lost that mentality. Here is where that “the world revolves around me” mindset comes into play. I thought I needed to be involved and aware of what was going on back home. I thought I coud be present both places, but boy was I wrong. I was so caught up in everything happening back home that it was nearly impossible for me to be present with my team at the start of this trip. I am not on my phone now as much as I was at the start of the trip, but I also know that I could still be better with it. I know that Haviland does not need me to function properly right now; but my team here does. Because if I am not present, then our team is lacking in ability and talent. And I firmly believe that God brought all five of us here for specific purposes at this specific time…together. We need each other to be present to be able to take away from this trip what God intended.
I am learning that walking humbly means recognizing that the world does not revolve around you.. But not just recognizing it, reminding yourself daily and then taking actions to be fully present with those around you.
Lessons About Love:
In learning about life and ministry, I have seen an absolutely beautiful picture of love since I have been in Athens.
The two greatest commandments are about loving God and loving others; the Great Commission is making disciples of all the nations. It would make sense that the two shoud coincide, right? Ministry is hard work; there is no doubt about that. I do not want to downplay any of the ministry work I have seen in America. I have witnessed and experienced passionate and transformational ministry in the States, but I have also experienced ministry work that was completed simply to check it off a list and that is absolutely not acceptable.
Since we have been in Greece, we have been so incredibly blessed to experience ministry full of love. Despite how frustrating a situation should or could be, each person we are serving beside serves with love and grace and it is so very evident in everything that they do, and beyond that, it is beautiful to watch happen.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres
1 Corinthians 13:1-7
Every person I have served alongside or that I have watched serve others over the last two weeks is rooted deeply in love and I have learned so much from being a part of the process.
Love in ministry is…
-being patient when a child throws a water balloon at your head
-showing kindness to the meanest people that you encounter
-not jealous because someone else is being recognized more than you
-not bragging about all of the things you do just to impress people
-respecting every person that you encounter
-building others up
-not blowing up on someone because they messed up
-beautiful, raw, and vunerable.
Lessons About Ministry:
Over the course of the last five years, I have built up this sort of expectation about ministry and how I think it should work. I came to Greece with those expectations in place without being aware of it.
Before I came, I asked a lot of people what the best advice they had for a trip like this was and I heard over and over to come in with zero expectations and let God blow my mind.
I thought that is where I was. However, I became incredibly discouarged very early in the trip because I was most excited to be a part of women’s ministry in a new culture… But I felt utterly useless with the language barrier. I was at a point where I was basically yelling at God asking why He brought me here if I was not capable of doing anything for the women. Why was I here to see women’s ministry if I was working with children?
I want to share part of an entry from my journal from last week:
When I woke up this morning, I did not want to move because I had a nightmare last night that kept me awake from 2-5 this morning. I was pretty overwhelmed, but did not want to miss the shower day for women.
As we arrived at Helping Hands and the women started to come in one by one, I was getting more and more overwhelmed. A few kids trickled in, and Hannah was right at home playing with them as I awkwardly sat there and watched.
Finally, a few came to me to play with the kitchen stuff and it was super awkward at first. But slowly, very slowly, it became less and less awkward for me. When I started to feel more calm about working with the kiddos, I started to slowly become more aware of what was happening in the room around me.
I was in the area where the kids were was very chaotic, but there was a weird overwhelming sense of peace over the place, so I began to look around and what I saw, took my breath away.
I immediately began to feel like I was a part of something far bigger than I could ever understand. As I looked around I saw that nearly all of the women were surrounding a couple of different tables, and they were being pampered.. It was the most beautiful thing. They were either having their hair braided or their nails done; some were making jewelry, some coloring, some laughing and some were simply resting. There were so many things happening and everyone was so content and full of joy. It was utterly beautiful.
I was part of something far bigger in those moments than simply being force fed plastic food by children. I was just exactly where I have been praying to be for months. I have been praying not that the Lord would prepare these places of ministry for me, but that He would prepare me for what He has already been doing.
And He did just that.
I desperately wanted to be a part of womens mininstry in a new culture and at first I thought I was just a small part of the childrens ministry here..and I was bitter about that.
But then I remembered my prayer and God reminded me that playing with the kiddos is one of the most crucial pieces to make womens ministry happen. Women need to know their babies are safe so that they can fully engage in what the Lord has before them. And when He revealed this beautiful truth to me, I was so humbled to be a part of the process.
I thought that was all God wanted to teach me about ministry, but I was so incredibly wrong. This week we have been working at an Iranian and Afghan believer’s camp and our team was selected to lead the discussion groups…and in case you were unaware, NONE OF US SPEAK FARSI. *Cue anxixety here.* Thankfully we were going to have translators with us. Hannah led two days ago when I stayed home with a migraine and she was also amazing and led the group yesteday as well because I was too awkward to do it. But today was my day.
Moment of honesty.
I was not looking forward to leading at all. After being a part of yesterday’s discussion, I was again frustrated with God and my purpose for being here. I began to question the purpose for short term trips to do ministry because my passion for relational ministry kicked in and I felt incapable of being able to lead authentic ministry for these people I do not know. I do not know their stories, I do not know their names, I do not know the first thing about them; but I am expected to lead them in a discussion to show them more about Jesus?? I have a hard time when someone walks into my life and tries to tell me how to live my life with no intention of staying long-term…so why do I think I can do that to someone else?
All morning I was praying that no one would come or that there would only be a few so it woud be less intimidating. Hah. God has a funny way of working those things out, it seems. Because I am pretty sure there were more women here today than yesterday.
All the sudden it was discussion time. Yikes.
The lesson today was based out of Ephesians 2, so that is what our discussion questions were based on. The discussion started out a bit slow and I felt like I was a horrible leader or something.
But all the sudden there was a switch.
And things got deep and raw and vulnerable in a mere moment. The fact that everything was being translated no longer mattered to me. The fact that these women were bearing their souls to me and everyone else took my breath away. These women began to share about depression and mental health and it was heartbreakingly beautiful to experience.
And then I felt the Lord gently tugging on my heart to get deep and raw and vunerable. So I shared some of my darkest moments, my battle with depression and struggle with suicide, and was able to relate to them through a common struggle. Because of that, I was able to offer hope to these hurting women.
I have known for a long time that my purpose in life is to bring the same hope and freedom to other people’s lives that transformed me. Over the last few years, I have been able to do that through my form of relational ministry.. But today God reminded me that He knows no limits. That He still uses the most unlikely people to do His work. That He has a plan for me that far exceeds my expectations and I am so thankful for that because I would sell myself short far too much if it were up to me. He reminded me that He is continually working behind the scenes to orchastrate moments like this so that as He is transforming others, He is transforming me as well.
Sometimes ministry is…
-playing with tiny humans who want to force-feed you plastic food
-dancing to the cupid shuffle in front of a room full of people you do not know
-feeling out of place
-awkward because you need a translator
-making bracelets with people you do not know so that when you leave this place and wear the jewelry, you will remember to pray for them
-confusing and frustrating
But here is the thing:
MINISTRY IS ALWAYS WORTH IT.
Until Next Time,
PS- today was the best, most transformational, challenging, and rewarding day I have had on this entire trip.