An Open Letter.

An Open Letter to those recently finished, or finishing soon, any form of Bible School:

Dear Graduate:

Congratulations! You have completed a task that fewer and fewer have even begun: study the Bible for a set period of time, be it two or four years (or more!). You will never regret having spent this time in purposeful Bible study, even if it was a part of other college courses. You are now even more fully prepared to enter this crazy world and I applaud you for your efforts!

But, there are a few thing that I, a former graduate myself, would like to share with you. It’s been more than ten years since I was in your shoes so I have a little of the “been there, done that” knowledge that I hope I can share with you.

  1. You don’t know everything yet. I remember that so many things I learned in Bible school was so brand new to myself that I figured it was new to everyone and therefore, I needed to impart my wisdom to all within earshot, including my father, a veteran pastor of, at the time, 30+ years. My husband and his best friend graduated at the same time and I remember our extreme arrogance immediately following Bible school. We had a pastor we all didn’t agree with and even though he had been studying the Word for almost longer than we’d been alive, the boys decided the need to debate him on a regular basis. What that poor man must have gone through every Sunday night after Bible study when the boys would come into the church, Bible school notes at the ready, prepped to debate him on almost every point he had made that evening. He was gracious, humble, and oh-so-much-wiser than we as he listened to our new-found Bible knowledge and “agreed to disagree.” We did not know everything.
  2. Listen to those with experience and learn from them. Right now, you might think you have all the answers to every problem in your church or community – how to better evangelize, make worship more engaging, teach better children’s ministry, have a more effective outreach – but… keep in mind that you might be wrong. If you were a business graduate and you got hired on at a successful (or even not-so-successful company), would you immediately approach the CEO with all your ideas and plans? Or would you recognize that he got there by hard work and after a long time and he might know more than you about this particular company? Consider your pastor your CEO; he got there by lots of long hours and loads of harder work than just Bible school courses. He probably has a higher education than you, has definitely been in ministry longer, and whereas you just finished 2-4 years of Bible study, he has probably been studying the Bible for 20+ years, every single day. Respect their opinions and ways of doing ministry. As much as you think you know all the answers and a “new way” of doing ministry… you might be wrong.
  3. Don’t get frustrated the first time you work in a church, whether it’s your home church or a new one, no matter what ministry or capacity you get into at the beginning. It’s going to be so easy to say, “I have a better way of doing things! They’re not reaching this generation correctly! I can fix this!” Don’t. At least not yet. There will come a day and a time when your opinions and thoughts and ideas are going to be highly valued. Keep in mind that that day is probably not today. Why? Because respect and a listening ear have to be earned. Interject ideas when they’re appropriate, but keep in mind that you are the low one on the totem pole for now. And that’s okay! Remember Point #1? You still have lots to learn. Be a sponge for now. Don’t get upset if your work is not recognized. Don’t get mad if you’re passed over in responsibilities. Learn humility. It’s invaluable.
  4. Keep a servant attitude. Remember what Christ said? “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Have you been asked to scrub toilets instead of preach the Sunday sermon? Do it cheerfully! Do you need to do the set-up and the tear down for an event… and you went completely unnoticed and under-appreciated? Rejoice! Were you passed over on the leadership position and someone less qualified was promoted? Good! You must first learn how to serve before you can be a good leader. The night before Jesus died, what was He doing? Serving. Doing the most disgusting and unappreciated job of all: washing men’s feet. He should have been exalted, treated like royalty. Instead, he was busy serving others. I have another secret to tell you: even when you get into a great leadership position, you will still be serving others. Learn how to serve well, with the heart of Christ, in all that you do.
  5. Be respectful. This is harder than it sounds. Trust me, I’ve been there. Watch how you speak to leadership. You are not the only one who has ideas, complaints, and desires that the leadership is listening to. You may very well have good ones – even the right ones – but a lot of how ideas are received is in the delivery of them. How do you present yourself to leadership? How do you address them? How do you present your ideas and, at the same time, how do you listen to their ideas? Be humble enough to follow direction, even if you don’t agree 100%. Your time will come. Trust me. It all goes back to Point #1: You don’t know everything yet. Never quit learning! Be open to listening to direction and being told, “You’re wrong.” Be open to someone picking apart your idea and helping make it better. Leadership in church is not your enemy! They are there to help continue this learning process – outside of the Bible school bubble, in real life.

The first year out of Bible school is the hardest. You are so filled with Bible knowledge that you just want to impart it to everyone! You have new (to you) ideas of how to do ministry and evangelism and outreach and you can’t wait to share them and change the world! You want to make sure everyone believes as you do and everyone has the same passion as you do! None of that is wrong. But, it will take time to be heard. It will take time to help implement change. The best thing to do while you wait is to learn. Learn patience. Get experience. Learn how to serve out of love, not just out of compulsion. Enjoy this time when you’re not the one in charge doing the leading because trust me, it’s not all the glitz and glam it appears. You think your job right now is thankless? Just wait til you really are in charge! 🙂

God has blessed you with this new Bible knowledge. Go out – make a difference – change the world! And never stop the learning process!

Sincerely,
A Fellow Bible School Grad

2014.

New Year’s Day is always a contemplative day for me, as I’m sure it is for most of the world. I wanted to fill out like a survey about 2013, but I couldn’t find one that I liked, so I’m just going to jot down some reflections on my own.

  • This year was not as eventful as I thought it would be. When we got back to PA from our month-long stint in SD in late January, we moved into our home here at the missionary housing property… and never moved again. Nope, not how I even remotely thought it would work out!
  • I was offered the children’s ministry director position… over and over and over again… until I said ‘yes.’ It has not been what I thought it would be and certainly has its ups and downs. But, over all, I’m glad I accepted.
  • My year has pretty much been consumed with the kids’ ministry since then. Looking back over the year, those are the events that, besides my family, stand out to me most. Writing and directing the summer program, trainings in August, start-up of the fall programs, organizing and leading the Fall Party, writing and rewriting lessons, filling in all over the place in different classes and programs, finding new volunteers and teachers…
  • Balance. Seriously, will I ever not struggle with that concept? It was the same struggle in Peru, yet manifested completely differently. Here, it’s the balance of three very different, very distinct ministries, two small children, my husband, and my home. Throw in friends and other relationships, alone time, and “hobbies” and my schedule is overloaded. Some things have been dropped (I never play the piano anymore and my scrapbook materials have collected layers of dust over the years) and some are neglected (coffee with friends? What is that again?) and some are needing a reboot this year (date nights with my man and workouts!). I would love for someone to just step in and show me the manual for how to balance your life because I still feel lost.
  • The kids grew up this year. Obviously. In all seriousness, though, this stage in their lives – 3 and 1 – is so full of changes. I look at how they were this time last year and it’s no wonder they nap a lot, eat like crazy, and have incredible mood swings. Their little bodies are changing faster than I can comprehend. We started this year with two kids in diapers, one nursing, one only speaking Spanish, and neither having ever lived in the States before. We have ended this year with a 100% potty trained little girl and a walking, jabbering, happily teething little boy. They have both finally lived through four seasons in America, been to the doctor, learned English, and are successfully sleeping in their own rooms (this was a big feat for us, trust me). E started the year with barely enough hair for pigtails and ended it with hair halfway down her back (but so curly you would never know that). She is hilarious, rebellious, strong-willed, independent, curious, and creative. Baby J started the year as a newborn and ended it as a fearless, daredevil of a boy – who is the cuddliest, cutest, sweetest little guy you will ever meet.
  • Brian and I ended the year on a high note. We had two very rocky years, just with stress and ministry and the strain of life overseas. But, isn’t it amazing what stability and relatively little stress do for a marriage? We are constantly growing and learning about each other, even eight and a half years in, and I am okay with that. He’s my best friend and that was exemplified again this year. He pushed me out of my comfort zone and forced me to do things that I probably wouldn’t have if he hadn’t been backing me the entire time.
  • I’ve learned a lot this year about forgiveness and moving on. I have learned how to drive and cook in America again. I have forced myself to do things completely alone – something I haven’t had to do in about five years – and it scared me to tears, but I did it! And I survived. I have grown in my faith. I have seen God supply for us over and over this year. I have felt His love and mercy and grace in tangible ways like never before.

As missionaries, we enter each year not having a single clue how it will end or where we will be when it ends. We fully plan on being here in PA this entire year, but when you’re following the Lord, you really have no idea what could happen. Which is part of the adventure! Our life has yet to be boring.

On the agenda, at the moment, for the year:

  • Representing BCM at one university and one church during the winter.
  • Teacher training in NJ in March
  • Brian leading two to three vision trips, two weeks each, to different countries
  • Revamping the children’s ministry in a couple of different ways
  • Annual trip to SD
  • Trip to VT and probably WI at some point

Quiet year! So far. 🙂

God is so good to us. We don’t deserve another day, much less a whole new year. Let’s not waste our time in 2014. The task at hand is simple: There’s a lost world out there who needs the Lord. We have that hope. Hold it up like a beacon, live for the Lord, and don’t waver from it. It’s the only thing that truly matters.

happy new year!

January 2014
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