How was 2009? It was just fine. Compared to last year it was fairly un-dramatic for me, in a good way.
But of course serving the Lord never lacks excitement. It was the year of The Article, the year we learned that persecution actually grows a church. It was the year we moved to the Michaleks. The year of the gum grafts, so everyone got to see how anxious and obsessive I am. The year Neil took Perspectives—always a dangerous move. And the year we took our second stab at buying a house, but couldn’t.
Probably the biggest change for me was moving to the Michaleks. It was such a great decision, I can’t believe it took us so long to make the move! So thank you Dar for suggesting it, and Mark and Diana for having us! I would definitely recommend “married ministry houses” to anyone with the space. Or even if you don’t quite have the space, which is probably how the Michaleks feel, squished into the top story of their house with a baby—no, a toddler! It’s probably how my spaghetti feels, too.
Living with others revealed my sin, as I expected. Diana indicated she felt like I judge her. I wanted to ask, “Why do you feel judged by me?” But I caught myself as I realized the answer: because I was judging her! As much as I loved living with her, I couldn’t help thinking she was doing everything all wrong. It was stupid stuff, and I had to learn how to let it go and realize there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Apologizing to her and talking about it brought us closer, though. I’m not judgment-free, but it always helps to recognize it and remember how sinful and irrational I am, and how God graciously saved me from worse judgment than I know.
What I really love about living there is getting to hang out with Diana so much. For the most part we get a running commentary on each other’s lives, and I love it! Whenever we get back from a meeting or just hanging out with someone, we can share what happened. We always mourned that we didn’t get to live in a ministry house together but now we had this awesome opportunity. It’s also fun on the rare occasion that all four of us are home and get to talk. Now I’m glad our last house deal fell through. Seven-tenths of a mile is close, but eight doors down will be way better!
This year also taught me to let indigenous leaders lead their church. I should’ve caught the idea after stepping aside in the Michalek home church a year and a half ago, to their great success. But I must be a slow learner, as I was still micro-managing Word like we did back when they were in junior high. A word of advice: when the students start complaining about activities, it’s time to let them take over. We also allowed only a select handful of “experienced” students teach home church, and a swarm of a dozen adults hovered over their meetings.
With the help of Lina, Keith, Rolland Allen, and the students we slowly realized it was truly the students’ ministry. It never was ours and never would be. Still, it took a minute for the implications of our revelation to penetrate. We made a few attempts at delegation and succeeded in bringing on more students leaders, but we finally got it when the students decided to have home church every week, plan their own activities, and decrease the number of adults per meeting.
Next thing we knew, the home church was seeing forty or more students each week. We decided to split, at least for a while. Roland Allen says, “The wind blows where it will” (wind = Holy Spirit as per John 3). We never know where he’s going to take us next. No matter what home church you’re in, one of the best lessons you can learn is that it’s never really your ministry. It’s the Lord’s. We refer to it in first person possessive for simplicity’s sake, and that’s fine. But it’s never really ours to control, ours to grow, or ours to take our identity from. So think about where the Wind is blowing and how you can cooperate, and give others the chance to participate, too.
In related news, Neil took Perspectives class this year and we went to The Journey Deepens missions retreat. We didn’t conclude much, but I did learn a lot about my fleshly willpower. Keith confronted me about it (while I was trying to have an infantile argument with him). I always sort of thought my strong will was sort of a good thing (although I knew some drawbacks). I knew if I was accomplishing things because of my will and not God’s power, it was worth nothing, but I don’t think I really believed it. That I can function through tasks and get ‘er done isn’t actually a strength if I’m not relying on the Lord, because “when I am weak, then I am strong.” So my will needs to break, is what I really learned from our missions inquiry. We’re still on our “journey” to discern God’s role for us in missions, but we’re not charging ahead at breakneck speed anymore, and I’m content.