M and her family are missionaries in Africa. Their life has been characterized by moves and shifts, encountering the most broken people, and utter reliance on the Lord.
She didn’t finish her degree at Bible college and is in the process, after almost 20 years, of completing her last two semesters. Because, hey, there was no money, and then they got good jobs and had kids, and then they moved overseas where ministry happened. Now she walks into brothels and shares the Gospel and rescues babies from their pimps and brings them home.
We were eating dinner at Dr. G’s apartment, and I was fascinated by her story. Her husband’s business is what completely supports her ministry to these women, and because of his connections, he’s been able to get them out of trouble on many an occasion.
She said, “What God redeems, he uses.” Her husband’s terrible childhood and exposure to the seedy side of the business world has enabled him, after meeting Jesus, to be a pretty awesome missional businessman.
I have struggled with my judgment of other believers who come to Bible college with a heart to do ministry and then end up at Starbucks for five years because they needed money and “couldn’t find a ministry job.” I nod in fake empathy as I think in my head that they just didn’t try hard enough, because it’s not like God doesn’t lead or give us desires to minister for no reason.
It seems lame to me. Like you failed.
That’s awful to think about a sincere brother or sister in Christ, and that is why I must confess it. But I hear so many times about people who come with a fire for overseas missions and then get married at 21 and can’t make money so they work in a random business sector and then end up back at my Bible college because they needed the money.
Dear God, I don’t want that to be me! I want to do real, hands-on, vocational, direct ministry! I want to teach women about dignity and your Word in a formal setting and get paid for what I love, like the amazing women at the conference I just came back from!
And yet I know that there are seasons, and that sometimes our ministry calling is fulfilled in indirect ways that look far different from what we thought. I know M’s ministry to victims of rape and forced prostitution couldn’t have happened if her husband had stuck with youth ministry and hadn’t opened up his business. That is a God-ordained, Spirit-led ministry in itself.
I know I will need to make money when I graduate. I know that I have other skills and job experience that I might need to call upon later. But I just can’t seem to break this judgmental heart that I will do better than the Starbucksers, I will do actual ministry, I am not going to crawl to an office complex with my tail between my legs because I couldn’t get a job and my degree will only ever apply to my middle school Sunday school class of three girls who don’t care.
Vitriolic thoughts, because the other half me knows that A), those thoughts are prideful and consumed with self and money, and B), sometimes God does lead us to other places. He takes us through things like Bible college, and we think we’re going a specific direction, but then he has other plans. Because, well, what if that secretary in the office-job cubicle next to yours needs to know that there is hope despite her adulterous husband’s lies? And what if the Lord takes you to a Subway for a year in order to hammer the doubt and mistrust out of your heart before you move to the mission field? And what if he does provide a fantastic ministry position in exactly what you studied in order to show your unbelieving grandma that the call on your life is real and he is, too?
I’m praying for Christ to help me. M has an incredible testimony and ministry, but it didn’t happen for 12 years. David was anointed as king but had to endure some crazy stuff before ascending the throne to his appointed task, fifteen years later. Paul went to Tarsus for a few years before beginning his travels and missionary work. Jesus was a normal-Joe carpenter for 30, being human and growing acquainted with human suffering.
Maybe I won’t go into women’s ministry right away. I would like to, and the Lord knows this, but there could be some detours and wilderness testing first. Even if there is, that doesn’t mean my call and desires aren’t valid or real. I trust, but I need to see.
God, forgive me. Help me. Bolster me. Soften my heart with your empathy. I don’t want to worry about money/calls/careers. Because I know in my heart that you will validate and use and be sovereign, even if that doesn’t look the way I think it should.