All of us, somewhere along the way, have sensed when someone doesn’t quite “get it.” It often happens when we’re asked, “So, how’s it going?” or “How are you doing?” It’s easy to say, “Fine…I’m fine”, even when we might not be, because when someone doesn’t “get it”, it’s hard to give a clear and honest answer.
“Fine” can be a confusing word. I remember when our girls were teenagers and occasionally they’d asked us, “How do you like my outfit?” If we said, “It looks fine,” they would immediately retreat to their bedroom with a look of disappointment on their face and a slightly pronounced closing of the bedroom door in their wake. Saying “It’s fine” was definitely not the right answer.
The answer “Fine” might mean, “It’s just okay,” or maybe, “I’m too busy to invest in a longer answer.” It can also be assumed that the person asking the question just won’t “get it” anyway. Maybe it feels like they don’t understand how hard you’ve worked, the difficulties you face, the cross-cultural differences, or your personal limitations; and you may even fear they will judge you if you open up and say it like it is.
ABWE Central & Eastern Europe and Mediterranean (CEEMed) Regional Conference
We just returned from a ministry trip to Malta, where we were invited to serve at a Regional Conference for ABWE missionaries serving in Central and Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean region, and surrounding areas. What an amazing place! Malta is an island in the Mediterranean between Sicily and the North African coast. While only 17 miles long and 9 miles wide, it’s incredibly rich in history and biblical significance. Acts 27-28 provides the incredible story of how the Apostle Paul, while en route to Rome, experienced a shipwreck. He and 275 other passengers swam for their lives until they reached the shores of Malta. It was awesome to be at the very place where Paul once ministered and brought the Gospel to this part of the world. What a joy to realize, that even today, we are part of the same ongoing mission!
One of the goals for our time at the conference was just to be a fellow missionary sojourner who, with patience and understanding, revealed we truly cared. Whether we completely understood or not, we went to hear their stories. And even if our paths are slightly different, our experiences seemed much the same. We pray that we were good listeners and brought encouragement in line with the conference theme, “Serving Through Shipwreck and Storm.”
Tom had the opportunity to present a devotional to the regional leaders at their pre-conference meetings, as well as speak with the men at the conference on the topic of Leading Through Your Identity. Nancy spoke with the ladies on the difference between groaning and grumbling and how it potentially shipwrecks our witness and relationship with God. Tom also led a session on sexual integrity and pornography, and together, we taught a session on Balancing Marriage and Ministry, which is often a difficult task.
Grateful for Ministry Partners Who “Get it”
We also had the gift of spending meaningful times with a supporting pastor and his wife, Pastor Craig and Kathy Miller. These were precious times of fellowship with our mentors and friends who really do “get it.” After the conference, we spent a couple of days with fellow missionaries, Kelly and Sherri Fath. Kelly is the Regional Director for CEEMed and has the same “job” Tom has in Southern Africa. Our days were filled with lots of collaborative questions, such as, “How do you do this? How do you handle that?” And statements like, “I struggle with… Pray with me about…” There are 14 Regional Directors scattered around the ABWE world. It was so much more than “fine” to have this special time with people who actually do “get it”. It was very encouraging! Like any truly meaningful collaboration, it required vulnerability, authenticity, and quantity time which led to quality time. In many ways, it was a huge investment. However, that’s what it takes to get beyond “fine” to “I get it.” We returned home to South Africa this week uplifted and ready to apply what we learned.
Thank you for your continued support and prayers for the ministries God has prepared for us. May He continue to bless you in your part of His vineyard!