Today was a good day. Today I joined people at CMS and was the speaker at today’s Pioneer Witness. The website explains this as ‘‘Pioneer Witness’ is a unique learning opportunity where Pioneers will share their stories face-to-face and give us the chance to question, listen and learn.’
I enjoyed the experience of sharing my story and answering peoples questions … but the session has also resulted in myself having a chance to question to listen and to learn and not only from the other people there!
As I planned for this session I was plunged back into remembering what is was like in the early days. It seems such a while ago and it is really difficult to believe the extent of loneliness I experienced and the real hardship of stuff in the early days when I used to sit i places and feel uncomfortable or ill at ease due to the reactions of others. I quoted the following from my training journal from the first few months which made up the content of my first year assignment which outlined a series of ‘exchanges’ between myself and God:
Dear God, Thank you for calling me to this role. Today, however, I have an issue. I got home and Sarah asked me ‘What have you done today?’ This may seem a perfectly innocent question, and indeed it was, but it has plunged me into quite a cloud of uncertainty. When I attempt to answer Sarah’s question I have nothing to offer. The answer is quite plainly ‘nothing’. I have sat in Wetherspoons in Rochester with my dog collar on and waited to see what will happen. Today, nothing happened. Much of the time ‘nothing’ happens. I arrive, I order my coffee, I sit in a comfy sofa and I wait. God, I have been doing this for months and I am starting to wonder what it is that I am waiting for! I feel disorientated, confused and have no purpose. I feel lonely, anonymous and have been rebuffed and ridiculed. I feel as if I am in a new country as everything around me has changed.
The pain of those few months is fairly evident in that short statement. I have thought for a while that no one really talkes about the pain and struggle of starting up … the nothingness of ministry and the vacuum that can be created by simply waiting. People like to share the good stuff, the exciting stuff and the stuff that makes ‘pioneer ministry’ seem exciting and sexy …. and yet a lot of what we do is the simple hard graft of work and ministry that everyone else does. A difference might be that pioneers are misunderstood that bit more! Maybe I should write a book about all this stuff!
I also shared today that in those early days while struggling with waiting that I came across Vanstone’s ‘The Stature of Waiting‘ which had a lot of good stuff in it, notably for me at the time these words about waiting:
‘Waiting can be the most poignant of all human experiences – the experience which, above all others, strips you of affection and self deception and reveals to you the reality of your needs your values and yourself.’
The waiting was very necessary to my ministry with the people I came across. During the waiting I do believe I learned more about myself and my values. I realised in great pain how I need to work with others and not just because it is a good idea but because I NEED to work with others. The waiting also revealed to me the masks of titles that I had allowed myself to hide behind … titles of jobs, titles within YFC and titles within the church. Waiting helped me discover more about the Rob that God had created …. as well as learn more about this new community I was placed within.
After talking for a little while we had around 40 minutes of questions, all of which helped me to think more, i concluded with a quote from John Taylor’s Primal Vision. Seriously if you have not read this book, which I believe is a classic book that should be read by everyone interested in mission, then you need to do so. Taylor writes from the perspective of believing that we should listen and learn from the indigenous culture while seeing ourselves as guests. I read this quote regulalrly to challenge and question myself and can even tell you this quote is on page 136. I leave this with you in the hope it may challenge and be a support to you in the way it has to me, and may we be delivered from that air of professionalism that renders us ‘not all there’:
‘The Christian has nothing to offer unless he offers to be present, really and totally present, really and totally in the present. The failure of so many professional Christians has been that they are not all there.’