Isaiah 55:9 – As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (NIV)
It all started when my friend invited me to visit her. She worked in the school at Ulukhaktok, a tiny Inuit village in the Land of the Midnight Sun. She thought that I might have the opportunity of teaching some classes and ministering in the local church while I was there. The Anglican priest who visited once a month had mentioned that it would be a good idea if we could fill in for him when he wasn't there. But it was up to the local elders.
The days seemed to fly by, as I enjoyed the many varied activities that took place in the community, and before I knew it, I had only a week left. When my final Sunday rolled around and we still had no invitation from the elders, I started to feel increasingly uneasy and disheartened, with a deep sense of disappointment. I had prayed about going, and it had been so clear that I was to go to this village to minister to the people. How could I have mistaken what I was so sure were God's instructions?
As I was trying to deal with these negative feelings, a strange question suddenly popped into my mind. What is your definition of "minister"? While I was quite sure that I knew what the word meant, just out of curiosity, I took the time to check out the dictionary definition. Much to my surprise, it mentioned the phrase "to serve" several times, while only briefly referring to activity in a church.
Then it seemed as if a quiet voice spoke into my troubled heart.
- What about the little girl who asked you to look at her tooth that had just come out? You were hurrying to get to the store before it closed, but you stopped and took the time to listen to her and look at her tooth. She was so excited, and she needed to tell someone about this wonderful occurrence. I picked you to be that "someone".
Then another day, as you hurried along so you wouldn't be late for the class you were going to teach in the school, a little boy wordlessly shoved a bag of candies up to you. He said nothing, but you knew what he wanted. Without a second thought about being late, you stopped and opened the bag. He flashed you a beaming smile as he began stuffing the candies into his mouth. I picked you to make the time for him.
You taught some grade 7 students a lesson in story-telling by dramatically presenting an Inuit legend to them. When the class had to write about what they had learned, one boy who was considered to be a troublemaker and had never written more than two or three sentences on any occasion, wrote three pages. When asked how he did this, he said that he could see you and hear you in his mind telling the story, and he wrote what he saw and heard. Now he knew he could write, and he was so excited. I picked you to volunteer your time and skills in this area to help that boy.
My child, you were never too busy to share yourself with the children. "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." (Matthew 25:40b NIV)
And it was as if a light suddenly went on. God can use us to minister, but not in the way we expect. For me, it wasn't in the church but rather on the road and in the classroom, and it was to children who needed the positive attention of an adult. Just by sharing my time and myself with them, I had unknowingly accomplished the purpose for which I was sent. How might others of us be ministering in unexpected ways?
Prayer: Lord, forgive our short-sightedness, and help us to trust You to perform Your will in Your way. And above all, help us not to run ahead of You, but to follow one step at a time, as You lead. Amen.