When we are talking to people in The States, we get asked this question often. It’s a good question, but it can also hard to respond to, mostly because of culture and vocabulary.
First of all – let’s define what we are even talking about. Because for a lot of people, the word ‘ministry’ equates to a specific church program or task or goal that has very specific desired outcomes. Yes, and no. That is what our North American church culture and society have made the word to mean. But the word actually means a service. It is a service that you do in God’s name. In ancient times, a minister or administrator (see the minister root in there?) is someone who is caring for the business of the Kingdom in the name of the King. The King couldn’t be in all places at all times and oversee his lands and the well-being of his people personally, so he would appoint ministers or administrators to care for things in his absence. The minster would have to know the King’s mind and heart so well that he would be capable of making daily decisions and acting in the way that the king himself would act were he personally present.
So, when you take the word out of our modern church cultural definition and look at in in the original form, it’s easy to see that any time that I care for anything that belongs to the King (Jesus), and I do it in a way that would be consistent with the heart and desires of the King (Jesus), then I am doing ministry.
My work as Director of Training and Formation is to prepare global workers for the lives they will lead as they go out to into the world and share the love of Christ with their neighbors. Currently, we have cross-cultural workers in 36 countries on 5 continents. Those workers are reaching hundreds of different people groups and language groups. I make sure they receive the training and preparation they need as they learn to live in cross-cultural settings. Billy’s work as a care specialist for global workers is similar. He prepares people for the differences and the transitions they will face as they live cross-culturally and how those differences will effect their families, their relationships, and their own well-being. When things are difficult and they need extra support and counsel, he comes alongside people to help them navigate the rough patches and understand what cultural factors may be in play.
While those things are definitely a ministry, we don’t see our work (training and caring for cross-cultural workers) as a full picture of the ministry we are involved in. Truthfully, the way we live our life is ministry. Living daily in our neighborhood in Spain is ministry. Having people over for meals, stopping on the street to talk with a neighbor, sitting with a friend as they tell about a problem they are having at work, walking through a transitional season with a neighbor who is recently retired… those are the daily examples of what we feel ministry looks like. When I live out my life in a manner that exhibits the heart and desires of Jesus, then I am a living ministry. When I care for my elderly neighbor by sitting with him and listening to his stories, I am caring for one of God’s children – someone who is living in the Kingdom of God with me. When we have coffee and listen to a friend who is struggling with some hard situations at his workplace, we are caring for him and allowing the Holy Spirit to give us eyes to see and ears to hear so that we can respond in a way that allows Jesus to be in that conversation. When people in our community see us confronting tough situations with grace and love (which is countercultural to the normal shouting, arguing, and escalation that is typical for conflict here), we are living out how the King (Jesus) would react to that same situation. By seeing our normal, everyday lives, our neighbors are seeing something ‘different’ and it is naturally interesting and attractive to them. It causes people to wonder and to come closer and to desire something different for themselves. It naturally leads to deeper conversation and to people asking more about our lives and why we live and love like we do. And that’s the real deal… that’s what ministry looks like for us.
Just this morning, our neighbor (Paca) came to the door and asked if she could bring a friend over to see our patio. My neighbor’s son (Diego) recently did the tile work for us when we needed a major repair, and she wanted to show her friend. She told her friend, “They went out of town for work and they just gave my Diego their keys! Can you imagine!? They just gave him the keys and let him do the work while they were gone!”
The friend was stunned. Billy replied, “It’s because we trust Diego. He’s a great guy and the absolute best at what he does. He’s a great neighbor. Very trustworthy. Of course, we gave him our keys.”
Paca’s eyes were teary and she said, “That gives me goosebumps. To know that someone trusts my son that much. That’s special.”
In a culture where trust is rare and loving your neighbor is a concept not easily won, our trust of Diego is something different and a testament to who we are and what we believe as we live out our faith.
Our life is our ministry – living out the love of Christ with anyone and everyone that God puts in our path. It’s a step by step, day by day walking out of our understanding of what it means to know the heart of The King.
“The training that we experienced last summer saved our lives. It changed the trajectory of everything for us. We were tired and burned out and so discouraged before we came to that training. It was transformational, not only for our ministry lives, but for our personal life, our family, and our marriage. It truly saved us. If we hadn’t changed direction and experienced this, we definitely would not be in ministry today, serving our neighbors and spreading the Gospel.” -*Lisa and *Wes
Please join us in prayer for the upcoming training event at Asbury Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. We will be training many cross-cultural workers, as well as hosting several guest trainees from other ministries and organizations. This year, we will have trainees in the room who will be launching to live and serve in a dozen different countries. Some of those countries are highly sensitive, security risk areas. Please pray for this training to transform lives, both the lives of those in the room and the lives they will impact as they go out to serve the nations. Pray that they are empowered to go forth and be ministers in their neighborhoods, sharing their homes and their tables, listening to the stories of those around them, and sharing Jesus as they go. May they know the heart of the King and care for his people and his creation as they live out their lives in His service.
I just returned from 23 days of spiritual retreat walking the Via Podiensis (France) route of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. Normally, I’m leading a group of men as they walk the Camino, but this time, I walked for myself. It’s very different being a leader of a group versus walking for your own time of spiritual growth and reflection. When I’m in leader-mode, I’m thinking of risks, I’m thinking of each individual in the group and their health, I’m thinking of my leadership and how to disciple and walk people through their various stages of growth and formation. I have to worry about where the next water stop is, where we can stop to rest or stop for lunch, and whether or not I can find 15 available beds in tonight’s destination. But when I’m walking alone, all of those worries fall away and I can focus on what God is trying to say to me.
I did have one companion this time - my long-time friend, Thomas. We are a lot alike, and so we make easy walking companions. And we both had the same goal and agenda. Walk. No worries about logistics. Just walk and hear from God. And we did! We heard from God in laughter, in nature, in our times of talking to each other, and in times alone.
From Day One of this hike, I had been plagued with ear trouble. In the beginning, it was painful. After a few days, the pain was too much and I finally broke down and went to a small local hospital. They gave me antibiotics and drops for an ear infection and sent me on my way.
A few days later, with no relief from the ear infection, I went to another doctor in another small town. I now had TWO ear infections and was given different antibiotics and drops. Yet, the problem persisted. By this point, we were within a few days of the end and the pain was mostly gone. I couldn’t hear out of one ear at all, but at least it didn’t hurt anymore. After making it home (23 days later) and seeing my doctor and then being sent to the ENT, we finally figured out what was happening and I was finally given the correct diagnosis and prescription. Within one day, everything is wonderful. I can hear and my ear feels clear again.
The ear infection was actually a blessing to me. From the very first doctor, I had been prescribed drops that required me to lie down and keep the drops in my ear for at least 10 minutes, twice a day. This required me to be still. So I started using this time to listen (out of my good ear) to a daily devotional on my phone. I listen to Lectio 365, but I’m a sporadic listener, at best, mostly because I don’t take time to be still long enough to focus in and listen. However, during this Camino, I was forced to lie down twice a day and the devotionals are (surprise!) about 10-12 minutes long. Perfect!
After weeks of doing this twice a day, it is now a habit and something that I really enjoy. Now that my ear is well, I’m still listening to the devotionals each day - morning and night - and reflecting on what God has to say to me through these devotionals. They have truly been a blessing to me and been a practice that is helping usher me into different rhythms of rest and reflection.
I don’t wish an ear infection on you! But I do wish you times of stillness and new practices that help you listen to what God has to say to you.
In my USA life, I was a teacher in Texas for 15 years. I was also a professional photographer, a soccer mom, a horsewoman, and the neighborhood hospitality queen. I did "Joanna Gaines farmhouse style" before Chip and JoJo were even a thing - we restored an 1884 Victorian farmhouse in small town Texas and did shiplap walls until I thought I'd go crazy. I taught at NASA, scuba dived with astronauts in training, and studied animals at Sea World for educational purposes. I've tried just about everything, because I have an insatiable need to know if I can do it! Never underestimate a Texas girl in cowboy boots!
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! 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 via teaching and training and care, and helping displaced people to navigate their new reality in Europe.
I'm passionate about fostering personal growth, growth in community, and growth in The Kingdom. Walking alongside others and helping them to use their unique design, their gifts and strengths and maximize their abilities to fulfill their God-given purpose - that's what makes my heart sing!