Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!Ephesians 3:20-21, NIV
I was on a Southwest Airlines flight to Los Angeles to meet women I hadn’t seen for 38 years. My anticipation was high, but I wasn’t sure what to expect.
We worked together in the Los Angeles ghetto. Some of the women coming to the reunion accepted Christ through the ministry and went on to become staff members.
During my ten and a half years of service there, we worshipped, sang, taught children and adults the Bible. Our African American teens taught us white Mennonite girls, not known for dancing, the “hustle”. Our girls laughed at us, but I won the dance competition. That’s about as much dancing as I’ve done in my life, and it was fun! We taught children’s and adults’ Bible studies. We cried together when someone we loved was hurt or killed. We took in women who were abused, threatened, hurt. We watched an SLA house burn to the ground directly across from our home. When our lives were threatened we sat up late, talking and praying until we were fatigued enough to sleep.
We were close, both because of a common purpose and because we needed each other. We built tight-knit relationships within staff and in the inner city communities where we lived. We rejoiced together when another precious child, woman or man began a walk with Jesus that changed their lives and gave new hope.
Thirty-eight years later, I wondered how the women I would be with had changed. How had I changed? Would we have to work our way past years of separation and misinformation or could we pick up where we left off?
As I wrote last week, my departure was under less than optimal circumstances. Would there be questions, rehashing, resentment? Or forgiveness and love and acceptance for each person where she is now?
Were there residual areas of healing that needed to occur? I have forgiven those who hurt me. But were there still areas I needed to address?
After taking my first ever Uber ride from LAX, I knocked on Katie’s door. Entering, I was greeted with a lingering hug, which I gladly returned.
As twelve other women joined us, the extended hugs continued. Without words, we seemed to say “I’ve missed you. So very good to be with you again.”
I felt at home.
After a potluck lunch the 14 of us sat around the family room. We took turns updating each other on our lives. None of us are still with the organization we left, although one or two still volunteer with it. For four and a half hours we shared nonstop.
Patsy asked why I left. She had felt abandoned, another person walking away from her life. For 38 years some of these women had no idea why I left. I shared that I had lost trust in our President, with whom I’d worked very closely for 10 1/2 years. When he realized I no longer trusted him, he told me to leave town … that night. I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye. My sharing answered a long-held question for Pat, and I think brought some closure.
But I had not walked away from the Lord we all loved.
The ability to ask and answer questions, the vulnerability we shared with each other, reestablished a foundation of trust among us. And I realized that I was the first, but certainly not the only one who experienced rejection and hurt in leaving that ministry.
We had prayed for a time of healing, of restoration. My text to Don said it all. “Ohhhhh. Myyyyyy.”
Have you had a difficult challenge with a ministry from which you needed healing? That changed your faith? That caused you to question God or service?
You’re not alone. Let’s talk about it.
Next week I’ll share more of what I learned and experienced this weekend. Still processing!