I’ve been involved with a lot of different ministries over my lifetime. I’ve enjoyed providing a meal for a family that’s recently had a baby, helping serve food at a homeless shelter, painting a building for a ministry, teaching English overseas and so on. I’ve also been involved in long-term ministry where I’ve had to commit my time on an ongoing basis, had to learn another language and culture, or had to take my time building relationships with someone who comes from a very different place than I do.
Most of these ministries that I’ve been involved in have been valuable, most have been exciting and fulfilling. But, the times that I’ve found the most fulfillment, and learned the most from my experience, have been those long-term ministry opportunities.
Long term ministry opportunities come with many challenges. I can get bored or burned out over time, and let’s face it, our society has programmed us for quick results and lots of change so it’s hard to stay in the journey when change or results seem slow coming. And I have to point out that most of the long-term ministry opportunities I’ve taken part in are messy. When I go in and serve a meal one time I can get in and get out quickly, saving myself from getting in to deep. But when I have to get to know someone, which can take much longer than I would like in my hurry up and tell me who you are life experience, things begin to get messy.
Now I run the potential for hurt feelings, misunderstandings, shock of learning about someone else’s trauma, and frustration that I can’t just fix someone. But, then sometimes, I stick in there long enough to truly know someone and to be known, to listen well and be heard, to find that I can no longer judge those who have walked a very different path than I have because my relationship with them won’t allow me that stance. And then my heart becomes tender to how God sees others, and how he sees me. And I learn that this messiness is worth the journey, it’s really what God intended. It’s learning to value those He created in His image in the same way He values them. It’s realizing what I thought was truth, what I wanted to believe of those across the way, is a lie meant to keep us apart and keep us all from truly knowing one another. Truly knowing the value of staying in the journey.