What is success? What does fruit look like, when it comes to the fruits of your labor or the fruit of ministry work? How do you measure it? I'm all about measureable goals and achievements, but is that always exactly possible? I admit to being ready to give up and throw in the towel on several occasions, for different reasons and in different situations.
Just three weeks ago, I was evaluating my involvement in my quilting group. To be honest, I was weighing pros and cons and the ever-present issue of finances. I mean, I already know how to sew. And Pinterest and I solve lots of problems together when I get stuck. So just how much do I really need to be in this quilting group? Yes, it's true that I got in to the group as a way to meet some new people and to broaden my relationship circle. Everyone in the group is outside of the 'church realm' and not affiliated with that circle at all. I also looked at it as a way to learn about culture from people outside my current circle and current age-bracket. And in all of those ways, it has been a success... I know an entirely new set of people, I have been steadily learning culture in new and different ways, and I occasionally learn new vocabulary. But, as to making real in-roads with friendships or toward conversations about Jesus... it just seemed like it was a non-starter. And I have to pay group dues to attend each month. And fabric is RIDICULOUSLY EXPENSIVE in Spain!!! So, how much do I need to stick with this?
Well, true to form, God usually hits me in the head right after I have gone through a period of working so diligently to weigh out the pros and cons. He usually smacks me with a, "If you would just wait, I'll show up! I always do!" But, as my husband always reminds me, I wasn't in line when they handed out Patience... I was too busy trying to get something done. :)
So the last few weeks have been major ah-ha moments with my quilting friends. For example, one week there was a huge discussion on religion and what they don't like about Spain and the Church (folks, culture learning just doesn't get any better than being privy to THAT conversation!). Last week, one of the ladies got so excited because I said that I like a particular dish that she was talking about making for lunch... then she asked if I would come eat lunch at her house some time after class! Okay - for those who don't get why that is a big thing - Spaniards are very social, but in public places like cafes or on the street, etc. They are VERY private when it comes to their private space of home. You have arrived in the inner circle if you are invited in to someone's home! So, this was BIG! This week, another of the women was talking about how we need to surround ourselves with people we like, who have common interests, who love us for who we are, etc, because sometimes family just isn't like that, so you have to invent your own family. Then she announced that the quilting group would be her 'family', and she specifically reached over and grabbed my shoulder and said she wanted me in her family, too! WHAT?! How did I ever doubt that I should remain in this group!!!??? Then, after our group time was over, the leader (the one who made me cry when I first started this endeavour) started telling me all about baptisms and first communion rituals and weddings and all the traditions that surround them in Andalucia! Again, cultural learning just doesn't get better than personal teaching from folks who live it! I learned about her childhood, the church traditions in her childhood, and how all is changing now. Incredible...
So, that was a glimpse of fruit... not necessarily fruit that I worked very hard for, but fruit that God gave to me for being faithful to going to this group each week and for trying to build relationships.
There are other little things that are evidence of fruit. There is the woman who has always been a little combative in bible study - she really opened up this week and even thanked us for having our class available to her and helping her to understand without judging her. Fruit.
There is the teen girl in our youth class who is always loud, always attention-seeking, always confrontational about major biblical concepts (like forgiveness and grace and faith). On several occasions, she has said that it's all stupid and we are all crazy for believing and she raises her voice to fighting volume. But, over the past few weeks, she has greeting us with huge hugs. She has softened. She hasn't been at war with the lessons. She sits more calmly, she participates, she listens. She even apologized for having a hard time understanding. And this week, she kissed Billy and I both on the cheeks and thanked us for our time with the group. Wow. Fruit.
There is the friend who followed up, days after a bible study lesson, with questions and deep needs to understand more, and spent hours talking about how he was convicted by The Word that week.
There is the pastor who needs a safe place to pour out his worries and needs and struggles without worrying that he is being judged... he came to Billy this week and asked for Billy to be that listening ear and that friend who will hold his cares and walk with him in the hard stuff.
There is the Spanish friend who sends a random text to say that she loves me and is thinking about me and praying for my week and my family... a text that arrived just as I was feeling weary and wondering if anyone cared.
So, when I think of fruit, I also think of God's provision. I think about how most of the fruit that we see is NOT what I would have chosen to measure. But the fruit is in the things that God has given us and allowed us to see where we are touching lives, and where those lives intersect with ours and enrich us, too. I thank God for His provision, and for allowing us to see fruit, in whatever form it comes.
Who am I? In my USA life, I was a teacher in Texas for 15 years. I was also a professional photographer, a Southern Living / Martha Stewart wannabe, a soccer mom, and a short term mission team coordinator / intern director for missions in Mexico... you name it, I probably tried it!
In 2006, my husband Billy and I became cross-cultural workers (CCWs) with TMS Global. For five years, we served in three rural Quechua Wanca villages in the Andes of Peru. And when I say rural, I mean RURAL - like no potty! We have three incredible children... two adult boys who live in Texas, and the Sarah (14) lives with us in whatever country we are serving. I'm still teaching, still taking photos, still leading teams and mentoring, I just do it all in full-time service now! And I'm working hard at giving Southern Living and Martha Stewart a run for their money! I spent my days in Peru learning to live a Quechua lifestyle in a rustic adobe house - cooking Peruvian foods, sewing with Quechua women, raising my chickens and goats and pigs, and planting my gardens. Now I live my life in small town Spain, serving other cross-cultural workers and immigrant peoples, writing, and trying to figure out what life looks like for a Texas girl serving Christ in Southern Europe. Life in His service is AWESOME! I'm happy to share it with you here... Enjoy!