I thought I had found it.
My niche, my place, my way to reach out and bring others in while living overseas. I was a young mom of a two-year-old, a four-year-old, and a newborn. At the preschool of my four-year-old, I was getting to know other moms.
I had a growing relationship with a young mom of a toddler who was soaking up our friendship and appreciative of the care and support I was giving her. She was introducing me to her friends who’d ask me questions about babies and parenting and marriage.
Reflecting on encouragement received as part of a mother’s group back in the U.S., I thought I could offer the same to these precious women: a mom’s group where I could encourage them, share truth and love, share hard-won wisdom from experience.
I could do this with my kids, not leaving them behind in the name of my ministry plans.
It seemed perfect.
I told my friend about my idea. She agreed this was needed. Her friends were lonely; they weren’t thriving as moms. She loved my perspective on motherhood and knew it would encourage these women. She would talk to her friends.
I started a private Facebook page to share thoughts and Scripture. Prepared short messages to share with them when they came to my home. Made coffee and tea and cookies and prepared my living room.
And the entire thing fizzled.
MINISTRY PLANS: The Beginning of the End
We tried it for a few weeks. One or two would come. Their kids would cry and scream. One even threw up on our bean bag chair.
The children frazzled their moms. I offered encouragement with a side of coffee. They were too embarrassed by their children’s behavior to hear me.
My friend and I talked about what was going on. She said they needed this type of group. She knew that they needed support and a change of perspective.
But they didn’t want to sit around talking about being a mom. They wanted to escape from thinking about this.
Basically, they didn’t want what I was offering.
When Your Ministry Plans are a No-Go
I felt discouraged. I thought I had found the perfect situation to use my passion and stage of life to encourage others, invite them into my home, and speak to their hearts. Wasn’t I meant to do this?
Disappointed and sad, I wondered if I even had a place. I wanted so much to see why God had called me here, uprooted me from my home country to figure out life in a huge city in a different language.
If I could just have a ministry, then I could see how it is all worth it.
There was nothing wrong with trying this, but God quickly closed the door.
What didn’t happen
I’d like to tell you that a new door opened immediately, a wide-open door I was able to sail effortlessly through into a lovely field of “productive ministry.”
I wish that were so.
My calling has not panned out quite like that. I think that my life on the field has been one of being faithful with the small things before me.
When the group failed, I had a choice to make.
I could keep trying for what I was passionate to do and what I thought was “just perfect,” or I could let it go and focus on what God was bringing to me. I took my eyes off my project and looked at what was before me.
Two women continued to seek me out. I chose to invest in those two. It wasn’t easy. It took a lot of time and effort that sometimes I didn’t want to do.
Then there were other relationships, one here, one there. Different faces, different needs, similar efforts.
Over the years there have been various opportunities, unique projects, long-term and short-term relationships. Sometimes I wish there was a certain “something” I could point to, a specific something with a name and a box it goes in. Something that’s easy to understand or write about in a newsletter.
The unfortunate fizzle
Dear reader, it’s possible that your ministry plans will fizzle, too. I don’t wish that disappointment on anyone who has left home and father and mother to follow a calling from the Father.
I think these experiences can cause some of us to doubt if we’ve heard our “assignment” correctly. We can wonder if we are even supposed to be overseas at all.
Should you find yourself in this place, on this path I walked, I pray for you to have the eyes to see when it is time to give that plan up to make room for whatever else might come.
What comes is not always pretty and not everyone will understand. But if we’re made open for what God will do next, the stripping of our ministry plans is a mercy.
Sometimes the next step is small
And sometimes the “next” is small. Sometimes the “next” doesn’t seem like much at all.
Do it faithfully.
We are not good judges of what makes something “worth it.” How do you even measure that accurately? I am not able to measure this because I don’t know the entire plan. I don’t know the steps God needs to reach the ultimate goal of His glory in this country.
To say what God has called me to do is insignificant is to say that those lives are insignificant. And I can’t do that.
I had a few different ideas when I set out to make this country my home. (Vision is good to have!) And I built a few different ministry plans as I tried settling in.
But ultimately, I want to do what God sets before me. He gets to assign the jobs. I’m a part of His kingdom, after all.
Sarah has served in the Middle East with her family for over nine years.
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