Ministry of Listening
Sometimes I sit here and I reflect and my mind takes me down the questioning road and I ask myself things like, “Why am I here, Lord? Why did you put me here, at this time, in this place? What am I doing that is of any real significance? Please let me know, because I am having one of those days where it isn’t clear to me and I’m wondering what in the heck I’m doing. It seemed so clear before, but now I feel like I’m just not sure that I heard You correctly when you called me here.”
He answers. He always answers.
The past week has been “one of those days” and I have been asking myself those questions. This assignment is such a stark contrast to Peru. In Peru, there were so many physical things that we were doing each day – running the three school programs and mentoring the Peruvian teacher missionaries who were leading the programs, helping in the feeding program for the elderly, running a greenhouse and a small farm to supply food for the schools and feeding program, bible studies, home visits, health classes. Side note here… we were told on NUMEROUS occasions by superiors and well-meaning peers that we were doing too much and that we might need to cut back to avoid burnout, but I’m one of God’s stiff-necked people sometimes and I don’t heed warnings very well But I digress... My life seems vastly less “busy” physically than it was then, and my mindset wants to equate “less busy” with “boring, unproductive, unnecessary, and useless”. There are probably a lot of cultural reasons for that, some worldview and some family culture and some mission culture… lots of reasons. But “busy” and lots of programs somehow equates to being productive and doing a good job. Somehow the disciple work with the ladies I see each week seems so normal and so relaxed and so refreshing to me that there must be something wrong, right? I mean, how could drinking coffee and talking with immigrant women and workers possibly be ministry and equate to what my life was in Peru? (Hint… don’t ask stupid questions! God will answer and you will probably see your stupid ways!)
Then I got a message from a missionary peer who is need of a listening ear and a coaching spirit. We set a time to talk and I could almost hear the sigh of relief in the typed response. “Thank God you’re there! I’m looking forward to our talk. I need you.”
Another wanted my feedback on a few things and wanted to talk about a major transition in her life. I asked if she wanted to converse via email, or did she want to try to do a phone call. “Oh please, let’s talk on the phone! I need to hear your voice! I need to talk to a real person. Please, let me call you on the phone!” So we talked for over an hour that day.
I got another message from a missionary couple, “I didn’t want to ask you earlier and waste your time, but now I think I need you. We need some coaching. We need to talk to someone. Please, can you talk to us this weekend?” We set a day and time. I never think that talking to CCWs is a waste of time!
Later, I received another message from a friend who said, “I need you. I need your ear and your listening heart. Do you have some time for me?” I made time. We talked. She cried. I listened. And after a while, tears turned to laughter and strength. At the end, she said, “Thanks Friend! I needed that. I needed you to listen and be level-headed and help me find reason in all of this. I feel strong enough to put on my ‘big girl panties’ and face tomorrow. I love you!” I don’t feel like I did anything… I just listened to her heart.
This morning, a missionary couple from another agency came over for coffee. Lots of laughs and lots of talking about anything and everything turned in to a time of pouring out their heart and their need for others who understand and to whom they can tell all the hard stuff. Sometimes, as cross-cultural witnesses, we don’t have a lot of people who we can really tell everything to. Some things are only understood fully by other CCWs and people who live it daily. And some CCWs are in the field without a good agency or care people to back them, as is the case with this couple. They’ve been in the field for 10 months and they need some care and some love, a listening ear, some coaching, and a little mentoring here and there. Today was “one of those days” for them, as they began to relate struggles and frustrations and shattered expectations. Their situation is far from over, but someone is listening and they are not alone.
As I sat in my chair for a tiny moment of rest after lunch, God tapped me on my forehead and said, “Are you still wondering why you are here and what you are doing? Pay attention! You’re doing exactly what I asked of you! People need to be heard. People need to be listened to. People need someone by their side so they can keep going. Keep listening and keep being available. That’s all I asked of you.”
Okay, God. I get it. Just help me to retrain my brain to realize that listening IS ministry, listening IS active, and that listening really matters. My heart knows it, but my brain is stubborn and backwards sometimes. I may not be physically exhausted and sunburned and sweaty and falling-down-in-the-bed tired every day like I was in Peru, and I admit that it is hard for me to not be all of those things every day, but I’m right where you want me and that’s the best place to be!
I’m all ears – Bring it!
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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!