Saturday, November 23, 2013
God gives the growth (a reflection on 17 years)
I'd just been given a job: the first staffworker at a very young Christian university group. There was a chaplain (male), a part-time staffworker (me), 5 committed members, an old chaplaincy building, and a few rooms that were ours for the booking. Those were our resources.
At our main meetings, we'd get 20 people, maybe 30 on a good day. I might be exaggerating the numbers. I remember the hard work of sitting next to strangers and welcoming them and following them up.
I mentored 3 girls in those first years. A year or two later, the chaplain left, and my husband took over the ministry. Six months later, I left to have the first of 4 children, and the work slowly grew.
That was then.
This is now.
Last Saturday, I walked into our annual dinner. My husband, Steve, was supposed to be there - he leads the ministry, after all - but he was home and voiceless with the flu. I took my two oldest children instead. We had trouble finding the venue, so we arrived late, hot-faced and sore-footed.
I munched on my entree and listened to Peter Adam speak about Jesus the Word of God, and the wonder that is university student groups still standing up for the truth when so many evangelical groups have fallen by the wayside.
There were a few tears in the eyes of our staffworkers - I'm sure I saw them! - as they said goodbye, one at a time, to a bunch of shaggy-haired (male) and well-dressed (female) graduates, who have served so well while they've been with us these few years.
A young man spoke about how he's learned to stand up for his faith. A young women talked about how she's learned to put God's kingdom before her own. We farewelled a student who came to Christ and was baptized last year, now headed back to her own country.
Seated at the tables were 150 people: students, parents, supporters. More on the waiting list, who couldn't fit in the room (we'd better book a bigger venue next year). When I got home, I asked Steve how many people are involved in the group this year, and he told me it's about 120. A bit of a contrast to the tiny group we started with 17 years ago.
And it's not just the numbers.
What I saw last Saturday were two men - my husband's co-workers - leading the meeting in his absence, and doing it seamlessly. Two men my husband helped to train. It was good to know that, under God, we have more than replaced ourselves. It felt like a glimpse of the future: one day, when we leave, the work will go on.
Their wives sat at the tables, faithful women who were also part of our ministry. One of them was among the first 3 women I mentored. Now they help their husbands, offer hospitality to students, pass on their wisdom to younger women, and teach and train their children. Another generation raised to know Jesus.
I looked around and saw many others we taught and trained. One couple planted a church last year. A few lead ministries in other churches. Lots study at theology colleges. Some serve in overseas mission. Many share their faith in the workplace. Most serve God in local churches, using skills picked up at uni.
God's work goes out, to times and places we will never see.
My husband works hard, and comes home tired. He's not one to see beyond the place he's in. Yet on Saturday night I was given a glimpse of the God-given impact of the ministry we've poured ourselves into. It's not always easy to see it, here at home, here on the support team; but last week I saw it. I have seldom been more encouraged.
Others planted, we watered, but God gives the growth (1 Cor 3:6). Praise be to him.