You Don’t Get to Choose by Tammy Abee Blom

Stuck, stymied and stalemated. That’s how I feel when I serve on some ministry teams. I like synergy, shared ideas, and community. I like connectivity. I like for our ministry to be stronger as a result of working together. When all this coalesces, serving on a ministry team is a joy. Yet, there is a flip side. And when I am on a team where words are twisted, intentions misconstrued, and mistrust reigns, I am miserably frustrated. The risk of serving on ministry teams is some people have clear ideas about how to do the ministry and they don’t match your ideas at all.

Out of her experience as a director of a food bank in San Francisco, Sara Miles in her book, Take this Bread, shares, “You don’t get to practice Christianity by hanging out with people who are like you and believe what you believe. You have to rub up against strangers and people who frighten you and people you think are misguided, dangerous, or just plain wrong.”

Oh the aggravation of rubbing up against people who are not like me and don’t believe what I believe, or worse, people who don’t want to do ministry the way I like to do it. The frustration overwhelms me and makes me want to declare the other person just plain wrong. Sadly, I am not in charge of who God calls to ministry and how she/he lives out that calling. There are times when I would think it much easier if I got to decide whose voice counted and whose did not.

Sitting in a food court with an experienced (my way of saying “This is not her first rodeo”)  minister, I made the comment, “When I am in charge, I am going to make this ministry the way I want it.” She smiled and asked, “And do you realize there will be a person coming along in ministry saying the same thing about you and the way you do ministry?” Her words jolted me because in that moment I realized that my way doing of ministry must frustrate the daylights out of some people.

When I am engaged with someone who doesn’t do it the way I would or who could be declared, “just plain wrong,” I remember I am just plain wrong to others. It is challenging and humbling to strive for unity in ministry teams. However, we don’t get to choose who God calls to the table.

Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, regular contributor to BWIM’s blog, mother of two amazing daughters, teacher for children’s Sunday School, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.

Keep Moving Forward by Sara Robb

I may as well have been born in a church building. It is where I have spent the majority of my life. I grew up on the mission field in a loving, Christian home, attended a Christian university, and could not wait, after graduating, to set off to Mexico, to be a missionary.

Life did not go as planned. Every opportunity for mission fell through, and what I thought had been God’s plan for me became a wasted dream.  I blamed God. I became mean, depressed, angry and isolated.

Life happens. It’s  just one of those things. There will be times in our lives of inexplicable joy, and there will be other times of inexplicable pain. In the joy, it is easy to praise and be thankful, and to share God’s love and the joys of life in Christ with others. In the pain, we have a choice: to let our circumstances get the best of us, and lose sight of our joy, our calling, our God; or, to keep moving forward and trust that God has a higher purpose.

Adoniram Judson and his wife, Ann, chose to trust. Both were interested in foreign missions, so two weeks after marrying, Adoniram and Ann left for India. After a four-month ship voyage, they arrived in India and later headed to Burma. Hardship was there, to welcome them to the mission field: the premature birth and subsequent death of their first child, the birth of a son who died eight months later, the arrest and nineteen-month imprisonment of Adoniram, the death of Ann and, six-months later, the death of their daughter, Maria .

Some time after the deaths of Ann and Maria, Adoniram found healing from his losses and new meaning for life; as did I, when my “wasted dream” of mission in Mexico was revived in the summer of 2009. I am now in the process of creating a free counseling program for migrant workers,which I intend to oversee from here, with periodic trips to Mexico.

Adoniram Judson is an inspirational figure in Baptist missions.  He was dedicated to his calling, trusted God, and knew, as Paul did,  and as we do, that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Sara Robb is a student at McAfee School of Theology, Atlanta, Georgia.