So there we were, wrestling with thoughts of organizing a house church, struggling with our own frailties and shortcomings, convinced that we may not be hearing God correctly. Certainly, we are survivors of messy ministries. Truthfully, ministry is very messy because it involves messy people who come with their own baggage, vices, and weaknesses. We are a broken, selfish creation in need of redemption.
In light of this uncomfortable revelation, I reverted back to the only response I knew. I tried to reinvent and recreate myself in order to lone ranger this ministry into existence. Why not open a bed and breakfast? I could go to culinary school, become a chef, run a successful inn that would fund a lay counseling ministry for missionaries who need to get away from it all!
I watched Food Network (food PORN!) every chance I got. I studied up on various cooking techniques. I attended cooking classes which were actually cleverly re-branded, live infomercials. (Thank you very little, Williams Sonoma!) I subscribed to various YouTube channels that taught multiple cooking techniques, but what intrigued me most were pastries. Yes, I thought, I will become a pastry chef. I will learn my trade well, apprentice in a bakery downtown, honing my craft to perfection, and carry this ministry on the back of sugar sculptures and chocolate truffles.
Then, I screwed up a pan of biscuits and discovered that I hate baking. Why hello, Square One! Oh, you knew I would be back? How... awkward.
To say the very least, I felt a bit jaded and definitely dejected.
Before long, France had become a backburner dream. I would only think about it every so often. I continued to pray about it and for various missionaries who were steadily heading into the mission field. Several friends and familiar faces that I saw in person at church on Sundays began popping up on bulletin boards instead. Their time had come to answer God's calling. I must admit, I felt a bit melancholy because I had been given a glimpse of a wonderful calling and the only answer I was hearing from my prayers was, "Not yet..."
Fast forward to August 2011. We joined a missional community with some friends from a previous group that had split. The very first night, our discussion topic was "What Has God Called You To?" So I threw down my elevator pitch for the respite care ministry in France.
One of the men in the group, Leo, got up to make a phone call while another, Roberto (a chef, no less), playfully asked how I felt about taking a house chef with us. Polite smile from me as a signal to move on to someone else. However, Leo wasn't ready to let me off the hook.
"Seriously, how would you feel about taking a whole team of people with you?"
The silence in the room roared in my ears. I honestly hadn't considered actually asking anyone to GO with us. Sure, some folks had told Heather and me that they wanted to be involved in the ministry SOMEHOW, but no one had actually been so bold as to challenge us to form a team BEFORE we went to France. I stammered out some pathetic "I don't know. I never thought about it," milquetoast response, but make no mistake. This dormant stone started to slowly roll and shed its moss of complacency.
I don't remember what anyone else said in group. I was reeling from the fact that God had just spoken to me through Leo. We are supposed to take a team with us. We don't have to do this alone! We don't have to have all the answers!
After group, Leo told me he had called his dad who is part of a sending organization (sending missionaries, that is) and suggested that when we're ready, we should talk to his dad. Puzzle pieces were beginning to fall into place.
A couple weeks later, I went to visit Roberto at his job. He took some time out to sit and talk with me. I couldn't help myself. I started relaying to him all the foolish plans I had considered about this ministry, how it would've been cool to make it self-sustaining by funding it from a bed and breakfast. I never saw the sucker punch that came next.
"Why can't you?"
"Why can't I what?"
"Why can't you fund it with a bed and breakfast?"
That began an interesting discussion of creating a self-sustaining restaurant with various farm animals and fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs that we could grow ourselves. It was fun to dream and easy to talk about. After all, it was all only hypothetical until the text message I received from Roberto 2 weeks later:
"So do you think France is ready for me? We want to talk more with y'all about your plans."
(to be continued...)