Not what I expected: benchwarming at its finest

Back in 2006 when I went to South Africa with high hopes of becoming a missionary.

Back in 2006 when I went to South Africa with high hopes of becoming a missionary.

Last week I totally geeked out searching for missionary blogs of other Americans here in Kenya or Eastern Africa. I found a ton and subscribed to them all. On one hand, a wave of giddiness swept over me every time I found someone I could possibly connect with (I’m just a tad starved for companionship at this time… I only have two friends that I actually hang out with here and intermittently at that), but on the other hand, reading some of these people’s stories of life on the mission field incited some jealousy.

Grandiose dreams of missionary life have filled my head from the time I was knee high to a grasshopper through the time I flew 30,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean to get here. With a passionate heart for the orphaned and oppressed and an imagination large enough to solve every need they had, I was anxious to get my hands dirty and change the world.

Let the lofty dreams hit the floor

Aside from a few weeks of volunteering at an orphanage near a place where we temporarily lived, my hands have stayed relatively clean (my hair is a different story) and the world is changing, but I’m just watching from the sidelines… keeping the bench warm.  This was to be expected since Ray and I made a commitment to stay out of ministry for this first year.

There were two big reasons we decided to do this:

1. Ministry can be very taxing on a marriage, especially when you’re only in your first year, so we figured we’d keep ourselves from adding unnecessary stress as much as possible.

2. Because I came over knowing little to nothing about my husband’s culture, and it’s really important that I take the time to acclimate to it before I dig into ministry and start structuring our organization. I need to see how the locals do things, how they tick, what they like, and what they don’t instead of imposing my American ideals on them. Sometimes American systems just don’t work in other cultural systems, or sometimes they do but because I’m a woman I have to be strategic about the way I present them.

Though I know I can’t learn everything about his culture in a year, it has been good for me to just observe. I’m learning a lot, and I know I’ll continue learning well after we have the ‘go ahead’ to hit the ground running. Like any other career bench warmer, I may not be in game, but I’ve got a better advantage of seeing the strategy and skill behind each player’s move and getting a better perspective of the game as a whole. When the coach finally lets me in, I’ll have some insight that those playing the field may have missed.

Changing the direction of my inspiration

Regardless of what I know to be a good plan for us and our marriage, it’s hard to feel like I’m serving a legitimate purpose here. In fact, the other day I was in the midst of having a pity party for myself when it occurred to me that my marriage is my ministry. I may not be able to care for orphans or feed the hungry or preach the Gospel in the streets, but I am called to love my husband. I am able to care for his physical and emotional needs, I am able to feed him, and I am able to encourage and challenge him in our devotional time. Just as my service to the least of these translates as service to God, my service to my husband is just as much a service to God. The more wholeheartedly I pour myself into the act of serving my husband, the more fulfilled and prepared I will be when we come to the end of this year.

It’s about time I stop looking so much to the future and just be who God called me to be today.

“Everything I am to say and do in my life is to be supportive of [the] gospel ministry of reconciliation, and that commitment begins by displaying reconciliation in my personal relationships, especially in my marriage. If my marriage contradicts my message, I have sabotaged the goal of my life: to be pleasing to Christ and to faithfully fulfill the ministry of reconciliation, proclaiming to the world the good news that we can be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.” ~ Gary Thomas (Sacred Marriage)


6 Replies to “Not what I expected: benchwarming at its finest”

  1. kdcooper2013

    A wise mentor once told me when I was upset that I couldn’t be involved in a ministry because of my commitments as a mother to a special needs child that I needed to learn to be content in the season that God had me in at the time and in His timing, the season would change when God knew it was best for me. Hard to settle in to following after God’s dreams for us instead of our own dreams for ourselves sometimes.

    • S'ambrosia

      This is very true. Sometimes I think it would be easier if God didn’t give us glimpses of the dream so we wouldn’t have to deal with the restlessness while we wait, but I guess that’s part of the beauty of the process. We have to learn to seek His will for every moment of our lives and not just for the big goals we have. Thank you for sharing your personal connection!

  2. semper

    Maybe you could think of the place where you live as a churchfield, instead of a missionfield. There are so many churches and christians in Kenya. And the poor and the orphaned and the down and out are in the USA as well.

    • S'ambrosia

      Interesting suggestion. What do you mean by church field? You’re very right about the number of churches and Christians here. Our ministry will actually be targeted towards the ministry of music and arts, so it’s kind of different than just setting up another orphanage or church.

      I also agree about America. It’s easy to forget about a place like America being a mission field, but it was my field for a long time. I was involved in ministry for the majority of my life there. How do you do outreach?

      • semper

        Missionfield to me is about people who do not know Jesus Christ as their Lord. Nowadays ‘missionfield’ is often about training, encouraging,supporting churches and christians. Churchfield is that work, the church as the area of work.

        • S'ambrosia

          Ah, I get you now. I agree with you in the sense that church is for the ‘churched’ and missions is for the lost. We actually believe in what’s called the seven mountain mandate or the six sectors of society, and we personally feel called to reach the lost through the mountains of media and arts, whereas religion is a mountain in and of itself (that includes everything having to do with church). A lot of Christians see religion as the only sphere of influence we can use to change the world, but they forget about all the other sectors. You should check it out if you haven’t already.


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