By Carolyn Ebel | Beyond Borders
Carolyn is currently raising support to become the fundraising coordinator of Beyond Borders, TeachBeyond’s educational ministry to refugees, and will be located in Greece, the hub of Beyond Borders’ work.
When I was a child, I had the pleasure of meeting a plethora of missionaries that visited our local Christian and Missionary Alliance church from all over the world. I used to think they were perfect because they chose to follow God’s call and move overseas to help orphans, widows, and essentially everyone in the Bible that Jesus pointed out are ‘the least of these’. I had this idea that people that moved abroad or served abroad were real difference-makers and far from being flawed. Although those specific expectations soon thereafter dissipated, I began to view others invested in ministry as being a lot different than me.
Surely God picked them because they were super-duper invested in the work of his kingdom 100 percent of the time. They were most likely rock stars in their church who automatically became superheroes as soon as they announced their elaborate ministry plans. God probably picked them because they were the chosen ones. Like the claw coming after the little green alien buddies in Toy Story, God had to have picked the ones in the center of the machine nearest to him and his trajectory.
And then one day I think somehow the claw machine broke and these little refugee kids smacked/tapped the window over and over again and I fell out of the little, square, dispensary box. And still, I feel like squeaky alien.
You Don’t Have to Be Perfect
It’s been about six months since I first received an initial calling to serve in ministry, and I am quickly learning that God has never called anyone close to perfect into ministry. Ministry is often messy and uncomfortable. It means choosing to turn down jobs, risking being uninsured, and saying goodbye to things you thought you needed such as the morning Starbucks blend or the random item you gushed over on Amazon.
Although messy, I wouldn’t trade where I am in life right now for the world, because I know God has some big plans up his sleeve. There’s something beautiful and freeing about surrendering to those plans and trusting that this is where I am supposed to be in the middle of risk and discomfort.
I am nowhere near what I envisioned as a perfect ministry worker/missionary. I am messy and stubborn and broken. When I cry with mascara on, I look like a drowned rat. I get extra spazzy when I drink coffee. Sometimes I forget to brush my teeth and put my shirts on backwards. Other times I stand in the mirror and squeeze my sides to determine how much weight I have gained since I first began college. I wrestle with clinical depression and anxiety somedays. I’ve hurt a lot of people. I’ve had doubts and questions about my faith.
Blessed to Be Just Me
But, despite all of my shortcomings and messes as a millennial woman entering onto the missions field with TeachBeyond, I am so glad God has given me grace that I don’t deserve to be his servant. I’m glad that I don’t have to craft the perfect lettering when I write Bible verses down. I’m glad that he has made me with flaws so I can be reminded that he is on the throne and I am not. I’m thankful that he knows me by my heart and not what I post on Instagram. I’m thankful that I don’t have to impress him with makeup or my body shape. It is such a blessing to be known and loved by Jesus. And just being aware of his love qualifies me for the journeys ahead.
For anyone out there who thinks ministry workers and pastors and missionaries are something special- let me just tell you to STOP. Don’t disqualify yourself by comparing yourself to other people who appear closer to God than you do. Don’t disqualify yourself from the race that God has laid out before you to run. It’s really tempting.
But in the wise words of Bono,
God is in the slums where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both of their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the wasted opportunity of lives, and God is with us if we are with them.
I am far from perfect, but God is still using me and loves me just the same as any invested church superstar. For that, I am extremely thankful.
Read Carolyn’s continuing story in her blog – https://carolynbeyondborders.wordpress.com/