Welcome to the 9 month mark folks. It is still hard to believe how much things have changed in my life since a year ago today. It has been such a whirlwind, and I have no idea how it has already been 9 months.
You know, though I’ve been here so long, I still frequently get asked the question, “what do you do exactly?”
Now I could tell you all, again, how being a missionary is answering God’s call to work in his mission, and that that could look very different depending on needs and suchness. I could say that the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist church affirmed this call and has commissioned me and sent me forth on my journey. Also, I could give you the run down of the organization that I partner with and give you all kinds of statistics.
These things I’ve done from time to time over the course of this blog.
I still find, however, that I still have a hard time with all of these descriptions of what it is that I do, and what it is that I feel like I’m called to do.
New World Outlook, a publication of GBGM, is using part of a former blog post of mine for an upcoming issue of their magazine–I’m gonna be famous y’all! For this they asked me to give them a photo of me ‘engaged in ministry’. I frequently get asked for these photos, and each time they ask, I roll through the bazillion photos I’ve taken since I’ve gotten here, and decided that none of them are of me ‘engaged in ministry.’
The thing is, as I was looking through the photos this time, I realize, that certainly I am ‘engaged in ministry’ in most of my photos, but that I am finding them inadequate because of what I think the world categorizes as ‘engaged in ministry.’
Seriously, take a second and make a picture in your brain of what that looks like to you. I’ll wait.
Did you see someone helping orphans? Someone in stoles preaching? Someone giving medical aid? Someone praying?
All of these fall under that category, absolutely. This blog is not meant to disparage that good work, and I do plenty of some of it myself here. This view of engaged in ministry, however, I find strangling.
So I have a new answer to the questions of what I do, what it means to be a missionary, and what it looks like to be engaged in ministry.
A good friend, Meg, led the Duke team back in March, and she told me that she reads my blog to see what being a missionary is like. She told me that she felt like this missionary thing was more of a way of life than a job. It’s a style of living. In her wisdom, she gave me this answer months ago, but I just wasn’t listening quite hard enough…
I have the unique privilege of being engaged in the life of this community for a year and a half. I take part in the highs and the lows. Attend birthday parties, staff meetings, and visiting people in the hospital. I shop at the same markets, walk the same streets, ride the same trams. I absolutely pray, preach, give guidance, argue about points of view on the Bible, engage in small groups, and all of the other ways that one might consider one to be ‘engaged in ministry’.
Some of my favorite moments here have been life filled moments. Moments that prove that these boxes that we build to separate us from them, be it race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or politics, are completely ridiculous and made to be smashed. We are all human at the end of the day. We are all made of flesh and bones, and are beloved by our Creator. These affirming life moments thus include, booty shaking lessons in my apartment, fighting with my incredibly too large for my apartment Christmas tree, hitchhiking from a village back to town, enjoying water day by busting out the water guns, cooking adventures, and so many more. My heart is full of the life of this community, and the blessing it is that I get to not only witness it but partake of it.
So no, I probably won’t be sending in any photos of me praying or preaching. None such photos exist in this world. But there are photos of me dancing, being silly, loving on people, picnicking, walking, babysitting, and just living here in Ukraine among all the people I get to work with. Because I think at the end of the day, that is what all ministry is–life. Whether you’re a campus minister or a lay leader, we are all engaged in life with one another.
I know personally, with my campus ministry experience during college, we were SOOO engaged in life with one another. We shared ups, downs, and sideways turns with one another. We jumped off bridges (literally) and got our ears pierced. We engaged in life.
I am so thankful that my vocation just happens to be engaging in life. That is what being a missionary is, that is what ministry is. Engaging in life. For those of us, who are lucky to do that for their full time job, dude, we’ve hit the jackpot. I truly believe, at this young age, that there are few things in this world that could be as rewarding as being engaged in the life of a community…. engaged in the life of the body of God.
For the past few years I have held, strongly, the belief that we are made to live in community with one another. That God created us to not only live with each other, but to engage, challenge, and love the other humans on this Earth. That is part of why I love what I do so much, I get to do live in the richness of community. This life that my work is, is deeply connected to the idea of community, and I love that. My hope for everyone, is that you would get to engage in life with not only those that you love and are obligated to live with, but with those that challenge you, and help push you to being a better person. To engage in life outside of the comfort of your office and living room. Because there’s nothing quite like it.