For Advent here on the blog, the Connectional Ministries Team is going back to the beginning. Why did we get into this? In the busy seasons of life, we forget those experiences that inspired us to get into ministry. Advent is one of those busy seasons in the church. So why do we do it?
The short story is that for me, worship is where music and missions collide.
I’ve gone to United Methodist Churches all my life. I jokingly tell people about my mom, who probably had me in a UMC before I turned one week old. I never really had a rebellious time, church was something that I pretty much always did. By the time I entered high school, I started participating in worship by playing the trumpet. Going to music school cemented me into the church music scene, and I was a regular attender anytime there was trumpet music.
Eventually I burned out as a trumpet player and needed a change of direction. I will always give thanks for Suzy McCall, who encouraged me to volunteer at the God’s Littlest Lambs orphanage in Honduras full-time. I had no idea what I was getting into. I was going to spend three months in Honduras. Three months turned into three years. And I got married. God laughs at our plans.
It was at the orphanage that I learned to play the guitar. I spent hours and hours with the students there learning and singing early praise choruses. It was sitting on a hillside, amidst kids who poured their hearts out in worship to God, where everything changed for me. Kids who hadn’t been in churches their whole lives. Kids who hadn’t had all the parental and familial support I had. Kids who didn’t have nearly the material possessions I had. Kids who had a joy, faith and reliance on God that exposed my self-dependence and self-centeredness.
In Honduras, singing with those kids, music and missions collided. The presence of God was tangible. The “already” and “not yet” of the Kingdom of God exploded into my mind and my heart. My burn-out on trumpet music in church was newly enflamed to be a part of passionate communities lifting their voices together in praise, thanksgiving and dependence on God.
I’m still in ministry today because of the kids at that orphanage. I had been a good church person; I was such a good church person that I moved to a developing country to be a missionary! What I didn’t expect was that while I was there, God would burst into my life in ways I had never imaged.
In the busy seasons of my life, it is easy to forget those experiences of singing on the hillside with the kids from the orphanage. During this busy Advent season, it is my prayer that through sharing my story about why I got into this, perhaps you would remember your own story.
God has been with us. God has called us into this. God came, dwelled among us, and has not left us alone. This advent, let us go back to the beginning, to both remember and pray for new, fresh experiences of the Spirit to light our hearts ablaze again.