As a term on the mission field comes to a close (only two months left) my heart is focused on seeing family and friends, but the mind looks back over the last two and a half years in Melbourne. It’s a time to remember what God has done then praise Him for His blessings. A time to review the lessons I learned while serving in Melbourne and with the Lord’s help create new responses. A time to dig up the humiliating or discouraging experiences which are covered by mountains of emotional dirt so that the Lord can speak to you through them.
The Lord while preparing for September’s furlough reminded me about one of those digging experiences which I wrote a post about on my birthday March 12, 2010. It’s a good reminder that while digging up painful experiences can be excruciating it helps us grow more in the Lord.
March 12, 2010
As I sit at my kitchen table on the morning of my thirty-fourth birthday my mind goes back to what had happened last year on March 12, 2009. Birthdays have always been an opportunity for me to sort of evaluate my life. It’s a chance to see what I have done well in the last year, and possibly things that I could have done better. Usually this is a pretty healthy exercise that allows me to focus on learning from my past mistakes, but last year it became a source of discouragement.
I was finishing the last six months of my first term on service on the field of Australia (lasting two and a half years). So this was a chance to not only evaluate and meditate on the past year, but also what the Lord was able to do through me during my first two years in Australia. As with many missionaries during their first term there wasn’t a lot to be encouraged about.
Coming to Melbourne on January 10, 2007 my mind was filled with dreams of what the Lord would do through my ministry, two years later none of those lofty dreams had been accomplished. Most of my ministry involved relationship development and some behind the scenes work at Churches, as well as some work with teens. Today I can see that relationship development was a huge part of ministry in Melbourne, but by March 2009 part of me was discouraged because of those unaccomplished goals. That discouragement and some frustration came to a head on my birthday in 2009.
Two coworkers who were pastors of local Churches took me out for lunch in honor of my becoming thirty-three. As we drank cappuccino’s the pastor of the Church I was attending began asking me if I was truly happy there. Knowing that a part of me wanted to have more opportunities to become involved in he encouraged me to pray about joining a new church plant. It was about a year and a half old, and led by the other missionary who took me out to lunch.
As we continued talking about the possibility of my changing ministries the frustration I had kept inside began to come out. Discouragement over the lack of ministry opportunities and the idea of moving to another Church at this late stage brought tears to my eyes while eating a gigantic piece of carrot cake. But that conversation was a turning point for my ministry that allowed me to be used by God in the city of Melbourne.
Since that birthday the Lord has allowed me to do many things in the Church plant Cornerstone Baptist Church and become involved in my community through a number of volunteering ministries including teaching Religious Education classes at two schools. While there is always more room for growth this year I celebrated my birthday with friends and praised God for His goodness instead of crying into a piece of carrot cake.
While ripping the emotional band aid off these wounds isn’t fun looking back at my birthday three years ago is a reminder of God’s Grace, and how he uses those painful situations to draw us closer to Him.