Thursday nights are chaotic around here.
The neighbourhood kids start showing up around 4:30 for English class and usually stay til around 6:30. We can keep their attention for studying for about a half an hour so the rest of the time is games, sports, crafts and just all around craziness. It’s perfect. I love having a house full of children; laughing and chasing each other. It’s awesome for our kids too; they’ve made some great friends and I love hearing them trying out their Khmer as they attempt to communicate.
I know each of these kids by name. They call me “Ming Ashley” – Aunt Ashley – and come running to hug me when they arrive. They love to watch me bake or sew or do just about anything. They always have lots of questions and I am happy to chat with them. They are patient when I mispronounce a word and helpful when I don’t know one.
I’ve always been a “kid” person. I volunteered and led Sunday schools and kids groups as a teen and young adult so I’m not the kind of person you have to remind about how precious kids are. Except that it just kind of hit me again.
I guess I found myself measuring success by other standards and I got a wake up call today. There’s a push in our “work” for results. We have to relay what is happening in our ministries to supporters and partners and there should be some evidence of “fruit” – or some indication that something is happening.
I listened to a teaching this week from Francis Chan about “The Vine”. At one point in the video, he says “the branch/vine does not have to work to produce fruit; it simply stays attached to the tree and fruit happens”. I don’t know if that hits you like it hit me but I was really struck by that. I am a doer by nature. I kind of love projects. I always have a list of projects on the go – sewing, painting, rearranging the entire house (Chad frequently comes home and asks “WHAT did you do?!”)
Sometimes, I want to approach ministry/serving the same way. “Ok God, this is what I am going to do. These are the results I want. I’m going to make this list and raise these funds and do this and that and etc etc….”. I’ve learned quickly that God’s timeline is not always our own and the things that we characterize as valuable are sometimes not what He sees as such.
We had visitors here recently and while we were talking about what we do and the presence we have in our neighbourhood and the neighbourhoods that we are involved in with Asian Outreach, our friend remarked that it’s a long, slow process – a life journey if you will. It’s not flashy or glamorous; it’s every day life lived with intention (with a cow crossing here and a fried frog on a stick there).
We’ve always kind of known this; that we’re in it for the long haul. But to hear it said brought to mind two things for me. One, our journey is relational in nature. We will be involved with projects but it’s the relationships that we develop that truly matter. Those relationships will give us the opportunity to speak life and hope into people’s lives. Relationships take time. And two, we need to constantly be searching our hearts to make sure our “results” are the ones that God wants. Not ours, not even our churches, supporters and friends…but God’s.
To bring it all around again, the push for success or results can sometimes bypass the little things that are important. Like kids. I was reminded tonight about what every children’s worker already knows….kids are precious and the chance to speak into their lives should never be taken for granted.