Last Saturday on the way back from the Ballarat Wildlife Park I drove my parents through the small community of Melton and pointed out the first house I rented in Melbourne. Dozens of memories filled my mind as we pulled up to that little home surrounded by a wooden fence; but surprisingly it wasn’t the most emotional part of the trip, That was passing a nearby shopping centre which had in the far end a small coffee shop where I would go three days a week during my first year in Melbourne to study and read.
While my desire was to become actively involved in ministry right away the Lord knew a period of learning and studying the culture was necessary; this is where the coffee shop and shopping centre came into play. They allowed me to not only devour books and articles that would help frame my philosophy of ministry in Melbourne but also study the Australian people there and learn how they responded to different situations.
While these days of reading at the coffee shop where frustrating at first today they are something I look back at and remember as a wonderful time in my ministry.
Dear Culture Studying John,
I am sure when you told people back home you where going to be involved in ministry you didn’t expect it to be like this. On the flight over from Los Angeles you dreamed of teaching Bible classes at the College three or four days a week while writing emails about the wonderful things God is doing in Melbourne. Instead you are sitting in a local coffee shop reading books and thinking about how the Australian culture affects ministry.
It’s was frustrating when the fellow Missionaries requested you take at least months to get settled before getting seriously involved in ministry. To make things worse following those two months you will be asked to begin going through a month-long internship with at least two more Churches before joining one; that’s four months before you are able to start ministering in a local Church consistently.
So during that initial period you are reading lots of books….and drinking lots of cappuccinos.
I understand that part of you hates this time of waiting and studying; after all you are here to work not read books! But in the future those lessons learned in that cafe will become foundations to your future ministry in Melbourne. They will give comfort in the storms. Conviction when you embrace comfort instead of God’s calling upon your life and the strength to face those challenges. A proper understanding of God upon which your entire teaching ministry will be based: One that balances Grace and Love along with Justice and Responsibility.
Every Missionary goes through periods of ministry that are filled with discouragement, frustration, and yes even doubt of their calling. In those moments you cannot turn to success or fruit in the ministry as a source of strength since there isn’t much of it in those stages of ministry. Instead you must go back to the Bible, and the pages of those books (a few stained by spilled cappuccino) read in the coffee shop.