A while back we had a “How was your day?” conversation that went like this…
Husband: “We flew over to pick up a few people from the crash site and take them back to the hospital. Tom went back with stretchers to pick up a few more people. Then we flew three more external load trips. Then back to the crash site with the governor. And I need to wash my gloves. I got dead pig all over them.”
Me: “Oh. Well, umm… I mopped the floor today.”
Like homemakers the world over, my days are full with the regular stuff of raising my son and keeping house. I just happen to do it in a foreign country and under the banner of missionary service.
Being a full-time mom is busy, but I still try to accomplish a few meaningful missions-like things. I work on writing projects from home, organize a pre-school book club, mentor a young woman, and attend a local church. The trouble is, my meaningful missions life keeps getting interrupted.
Writing projects, estimated to take around 6 months or so to complete, have dragged on for a year.
Pre-school club activities are many times thrown together the night before.
The time and emotional investment of mentoring begins to feel like it’s all in vain.
I haven’t been to church in three weeks.
It’s not that I don’t try. But with all the laundry, cooking, cleaning, home schooling, play dates, shopping, bible studies, surprise visitors, planned visitors, and team meetings, ministry projects are relegated to late evenings (it’s currently 9pm) and weekends.
After several valiant attempts to get organized (including spreadsheets and a vision statement for motivation) I’ve come to one conclusion – It’s no use.
By the nature of my husband’s missionary job, he has tangible results. The aviation team can look back over any period of time and see, in calculable ways, just what kind of impact they’ve made. Flights, passengers, lives saved – all are recorded and many even photographed.
My impact? Well, a bunch of the missions-like stuff I set out to do got interrupted. But does mopping the floor count?
Of course, the truth is life can’t and shouldn’t be divided into categories of sacred and ordinary, of meaningful and interrupted. I already know this. We all know this. But it just doesn’t feel very true at the end of an interruption-filled day. I find myself wishing I had a more important (or at least more structured) contribution to missions.
My friend Amanda recently shared this story on Facebook:
“Last night we went on a family shopping trip. As we walked into the grocery story we saw an old man sitting on the ground at the entrance selling rugs… this is normal, but what wasn’t normal was he was bleeding through a plastic bag wrapped around his foot. My heart ached as we passed him. About 15 minutes into shopping Matt said he was going back to talk to him. Turns out he is blind, and cut his foot open, and they told him he wasn’t allowed to sell his rugs unless he wrapped his bleeding foot in a bag. Matt asked him what he needed, bought him medicine to sanitize his wound, and prayed with him. The man said he couldn’t go home until he sold all his rugs, there was only 1 left, so Matt bought it, and the man made his way home. Then back in the store to finish shopping…we met a lady who could speak a tiny bit of English, she was asking us why we were here. We ended up talking about Jesus, and all she wanted to talk about was the Bible, how Jesus sets us free! Yes! What a breath of fresh air to my soul. When Jesus brings these circumstances I love it! God could have allowed anyone to help that old man. But He allowed us to pass by him, not only to help, but to change and teach us.”
I need stories like this. Stories that remind me it doesn’t really matter how many floors I mop, essays I write, clubs I organize, or women I mentor. It doesn’t matter how many flights my husband has.
The really important stuff is what happens in the hearts of the people God places in our paths day by day – family, neighbours, visitors, friends, strangers – and for that matter, what happens in our own hearts too. And that isn’t limited to ministry projects; it just might be at the grocery store.
So shake off the guilt, I tell myself. Don’t let the fact that God is at work in each and every person around you get lost in your daily shuffle. You’ll risk missing the glory that is already yours for the taking- that God isn’t limited to ministry projects. He takes it all, the whole of life, and says, “Look around. The fields are ripe for the harvest! Get your gloves on. We’ve got work to do.”
I’ve got my gloves, the floor is mopped, and I’m ready.