“How much for the water?”
“It’s free, just read the material.”
I stood out in the rain and heat over the last weekend at Western North Carolina Annual Conference, at Lake Junaluska, handing out over 1300 bottles of cold water. Wesley Community Development Corporation works to place people in their first home, one which is secure, safe, and energy efficient. By providing our families with the tools and knowledge to buy their houses, we help them have a home to keep. We hand out the water, and answer any questions, because we want to expand our area of ministry to all possible areas. My organization has been doing this for the last few years trying to help the churches in the area become more aware of our housing work. But people still don’t always believe that the water is our gift to them on such a hot day.
I could not stop thinking about how so many are thirsty for the true water, that which serves to quench a thirst much deeper than that which comes from a stiflingly hot room. In the same way that I asked each person who took a bottle to read our material, we need to read what has been given us, so that we can learn about this life giving water. All it takes for us to have the life giving and living water is for us to read and be open and receive it.
Last summer I had a classically defined ministerial and pastoral placement, at a rural church. Now I have returned to the same area, learning how to live again with a total stranger. I am living again with a single woman, but this time the woman who is hosting me is significantly less prosperous and, in addition, she was laid off from her job my first week living with her. She is deeply spiritual. Though she has also only earned her high school diploma, she is smart in other ways, and has traveled to the Holy Land.
Over the past few years I have been able to change the way that I define ministry, to have a more full and deep expression of what ministry can be. Since I am not working in a church this summer, and I have also not been able to begin my research with our clients, my ministry in the past two weeks has had to adapt to the St Francis of Assisi model, of using words only when necessary.
Truly we must cease our waiting to begin the “real” ministry, and realize that we are participating in ministry now, no matter what we do.
Ministry happens in the most mundane of the events in the world, for instance, when I have conversations with my coworkers. (All of whom happen to be 30 years older than me, and grandparents to boot). The woman who is unchurched asked me a question: “is God a power or a person?” Apparently a youth worker told her she was wrong to think that God was a person. This intelligent woman has been unsettled about this conversation for the last 40 years, because he told her that she was wrong and did not explain himself. I told her that she nor he was incorrect, but that he was wrong for telling her she was wrong.
Let us not get so caught up in what we think we know, and in the words of Willie Jenkins, let us not assume that what one does not know is weakness. We cannot choose those who we meet, everyone we meet will affect us, and we should remember that we are to be God’s peace and witness to the world.
Only as willing vessels can we bear the living water of the Spirit to those around us, providing ministry to all who live with us. How do we get the word out? I wonder if we are prepared to do what it takes to quench the thirst of those we see everyday.