A few days ago it occurred to me that part of my American mindset about ministry was actually hindering God’s work on the island. This probably isn’t just about my being American, but I approach the ministry opportunities of life with an efficiency focus that pursues a full day of ministry.
The goal of my efficiency is six to seven hours of ministry beginning at 1:00 in the afternoon (morning is set aside for sermon-prep, discipleship material, education, and writing). Ideally this means my only break between 1:00 and getting home from a Church service at 8:30 would be supper.
Now there’s obviously nothing wrong with wanting to serve the people of Barrouallie for six-hours a day. But my focus on efficiency and ticking things off a to-do list means unplanned ministry opportunities are looked upon as interruptions.
One of the big relationship development opportunities here is offering cold-water to people. Some of them sadly don’t have access to it, and being in a town where temps are in the eighties every morning, hydration is very important 🙂 Upon arriving in September I would grab these chances to get to know people’s names, introduce myself, and develop a friendship. They responded by making my house a daily spot for refreshment.
This week I had a particularly frustrating day, the kind where you just feel completely unmotivated to work and get very little accomplished. Late that afternoon two sisters came running up the steps with their brother asking for cold water. I quickly brought out three glasses and a large bottle of water, and then instead of sitting down and chatting with them walked inside and closed the door.
Then to make matters worse….I locked it behind me
My main reason for this was getting something productive done before the day ended, but children are also known to enter the house if the door isn’t locked and of course it’s almost impossible to be productive with a curious child nearby
Looking back on that moment I realize just how selfish and unloving my actions where. Yes there are moments when privacy is needed, but locking people out of the house so you can get work done isn’t how you accomplish missions. In fact it’s and easy way to destroy an outreach into the culture.
The thing is they weren’t just there for water. There were many places to get a cold drink for free, but they willingly chose my home because I was something different. In a way they yearned for what I used to offer along with the water
- A Bible Story (with card that they could hold in their hands)
- A game on the porch
- A listening ear
- And loving acceptance
With the click of the lock I could have easily destroyed all of the work in building Gospel bridges just so a few things could be ticked off a list.
I’m not saying there isn’t a need for privacy, there are reasons why the door should be locked….but efficiency isn’t one of them.
May God help me remember that the interruptions of life are massive opportunities for ministry. And when people come to my porch the best thing I can do is close the computer, turn off the phone, and along with water give them Biblical truth that refreshes their soul.