If Christmas is a time of promise, I suppose the week of Easter is a time for realisation. I last wrote to you to share my frustration that things had been held up, that I couldn’t be where I knew I was called and I had no idea why. I was angry that the door hadn’t yet opened, that I was languishing in my position and felt altogether useless. It was more than a little embarrassing.
In those hard days I spoke with friends, the praying and wise sort, and they wondered with me whether this delay was some sort of plan. I don’t think God expects anyone who he calls to be perfect, but for some reason each time my ticket over seemed to be in reach, it would be delayed in some way. To my mind, there is only so many times this can happen before one wonders whether there is a reason. Not that I’m the superstitious sort, I hope you know me better than that.
The time I’ve spent working in a bar has been trying. It has shaped me. When I first began I was the image of a perfect servant. This is to say, efficient, silent and cool. I was there to do a job and walk away. I discovered that this sort of facade can only be kept up for so long, especially after relentless weeks of 10-hour days, finishing after 11 each night. There comes a point where the presumption of the professional becomes too much effort to bother with. It crumbled away, yet much to my surprise everyone preferred the cantankerous, cynical, funny, oddball, real person beneath. In fact I was given more responsibility and more shifts.
I learned that I don’t have to be anyone else to love others, to serve the world and participate in God’s work. I’m allowed to be myself.
This was such a relief, because I assumed that I had to become some sort of empty vessel for God to ‘fill’ before I could do what he had called me to. It was pure grace to realise that God had already made me the person he wanted me to be.
So I re-evaluated what I was supposed to do with my time in America, accepting that the person I am could be what the church wants. You know what? Suddenly all those awkward moments where I asked the wrong question, or said things which made leaders uncomfortable, or made everyone have to go back and re-think the plan weren’t embarrassing. They were a testimony to the person God made me.
I’m a question-asker, a listener and a reader. I like to learn and help others learn. I like to see people bring what they have learned to their experience and practice. I like to see Christians transformed by the renewing of their minds. I want to see churches serve their cities and towns with wisdom and care.
And after I shared this with Pastor Joey and a few mentors, their response was an overwhelming ‘Of course!’
And the real surprise was that after I figured out what it is that I can give, then it dawned on us that there is a way for me to join in the work of the church in Annapolis despite visa trouble.
I will be applying for a 12-month visitor’s visa. Though the length is not what I envisioned, this is the door which has opened for me. On reflection it seems that 12 months would be more appropriate if this is indeed the purpose I’ve been called to.
That is, to share in ministry, to ask questions and to study the church in it’s mission.
I want to respond to this realisation for the benefit of not only myself and my ministry, not only Downtown Hope and their ministry, but to share those insights with others who are asking the important questions of mission and ministry in the contemporary world. I might be able to build a bridge into the community of Clarences, but surely it is better that every church learns how to do it for themselves? Maybe that’s the gift my ministry can give. I hope you’ll continue to walk with me as I flesh this out.
I’m excited to share this with you, and look forward to preparing over the coming weeks. The usual process for getting a 12-month visa usually takes a couple of months, so at the moment I’d estimate that I will be in Annapolis in September.
Thank you for your prayer, encouragement and support. Thank you for holding me when I thought I was useless and deluded. Thank you for showing me that this was never true at all.