I Need an Outlet for Ministry
I wrote this in 2013 when we lived in Pennsylvania. I had no idea then how much my life would change in less than one year.
This twitching, this uneasiness had been growing in me for some time. I needed an outlet, something that I could call my ministry. Before I was married, there had been no end to opportunities for ministry. I taught school for several years, including in a foreign country; I taught a class of urban teen girls one evening a week; I helped with urban church planting and evangelism on the weekends. My life was full and overflowing, almost to the point of exhaustion at times.
But now I was married. I had no job outside the home. We attended a large Mennonite church in a larger Mennonite community. My neighbors were Mennonites. The grocery store where I shopped was owned by Mennonites. What opportunities for ministry were there for me?
I did have one outlet for ministry. My husband and I served as staff coordinators for the Bible Discoveries class in our neighboring city. Every Thursday evening young people gathered and collected urban children for a time singing and studying the Bible. It was one small window I had to maybe make a difference in someone’s life.
One night my husband and I were talking before we drifted off to sleep. “You know,” he said, “you’ll probably have to cut back on how much you do on Thursday nights once our second baby is born.”
I lay there in rebellious silence, not rebelling toward him, necessarily, but at life and its responsibilities. I loved working with urban children and I felt like the noose of home responsibilities was tightening around my neck, squeezing all the life and creativity from me.
But I knew he was right. We wouldn’t be much good on the bus if we each had a child of our own to look after. I did a lot of substitute teaching, and it worked great—my husband took care of Tasha. But he would hardly be able to care for a baby and Tasha, and he for sure couldn’t feed the baby.
I changed the subject. “Ummm, honey,” I started carefully. “Do you think we could go along on street meetings next month? I heard they need more people, and it would be a great time for us to go. Tasha does well at a babysitter, and I’m not too pregnant yet that I couldn’t enjoy it.”
He sighed. “There’s no way, Dear. Not with school. I have way too much work. I could never take off two days and be gone for the weekend as well.”
School again. Every time I suggested we do something interesting, school came up. I knew he was busy. Actually, far more than busy. Swamped was more accurate. After teaching 6th & 7th grades for four years, he had switched to teaching grades 8-10. He had more than doubled the amount of students and the books were a challenge to conquer.
School came up when I suggested evening plans. School came up when he was asked to help with our urban outreach on Sundays. School, school, school.
“I need a ministry,” I told him.
“I’m your ministry,” he said.
“Harumph,” I said.
Keeping house for my husband is not a ministry. One of my friends drives two hours to New York City each Sunday to help with services there. She has numerous city people she relates to at church, and then they sing and hand out tracts in the subway stations after the service. That’s ministry. Someone I know moved with her family to Africa. She counsels young women who have no mothers while her husband organizes an orphan aid program. That’s ministry. One woman I met has Bible studies with a Muslim woman in her home. That’s ministry.
The evening after our conversation a young man who’d been in China smuggling Bibles gave a presentation at our church. How exciting! How worthwhile! He spoke of the great need for Christian workers in China. Maybe Davy and I could move to China and be part of an underground church.
The speaker asked us to sing a hymn that had meant a lot to him while in China. As we sang “Channels Only,” one phrase in the chorus caught my attention. “Flowing through us, Thou canst use us every day and every hour.” God can use me and wants to use me now, not when he finally reveals what great ministry He has for me.
If that was the case, what ministry was God asking me to do? Several years ago when my husband asked for my hand in marriage, there was no doubt in my mind that’s what God was calling me to do. And why did God create marriage? So that man would have a help meet, which is simply someone to aid him.
For the first time it became clear to me. I am to minister to my husband quietly behind the scenes while his ministry is the visible one. Oh, my proud flesh hates that. It wants to be working somewhere people will notice and comment. “You do such a good job relating to the town children.” “My child loves having you for a teacher.” “Wow, you live in that poor, dirty country?!”
No one notices as I scrub orange dust from the baseball diamond off my husband’s socks. No one comments on the unending pile of long-sleeved dress shirts I iron. No one commends me for trying to be cheerful and keep Tasha happy when Davy gets home late for the third evening in a week.
But it is my place of service. When I sang, “I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord,” I was really picturing somewhere in the tropics, maybe. That would be my choice. And if God wanted me to, I’d be willing to go to Russia and brave their long, cold winter. But I had also sung the verse, “There’s surely somewhere a lowly place in earth’s harvest field so wide.” Could this be my lowly place?
One evening after I put Tasha to bed, I joined my husband on the couch. “You were right,” I said. “You are my ministry, and I’m going to accept that and do my best to serve you.” I proved it by massaging his tired shoulders.
“Hon, you do a great job at ministering to me,” he said. “I’m a much better teacher since I married you.”
I sat up straighter. “Really? You never told me this.”
“Of course. I come home and bounce ideas off you. You help me think through a lot of discipline problems, especially girl issues. You help me with my school work sometimes, and then of course, there’s everything you do here. I appreciate it more than you’ll ever realize. I don’t need to worry about things here at home because I know you have it covered.”
“What’s this?” he picked up a clothespin bearing the name Katie and tossed it into the basket of laundry still waiting to be put away.
“I wrote the women’s names from church on my clothespins so I can pray for them as I hang out laundry,” I said.
He gave me one of those seldom-used but much-needed scolding looks. “And you thought you didn’t have a ministry?”
Well, maybe I do have a ministry. Several of them. It was just time I recognized them.
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