Unexpected Opportunities for Ministry

What comes to mind when you think of ministry?

To give you fair warning, I considered titling this post "I do not think that word means what I think it means."

August 2012

I sat in a large room in a hotel in Beijing with my fellow students/teachers-in-training, listening to Amy warn us about ministry.

shenanigans while waiting for class to start

Whoever you think you're here to minister to, whatever you think your ministry will look like -- you're wrong! she told us.  And because she's Amy, she told us stories that illustrated her point.

She had come to China to minister to students -- and ended up with bacterial meningitis, being ministered to by these same students.

Another year, a team of younger teachers came to visit her team every weekend.  She hadn't gone to China to mentor them!  But they kept showing up.  She laughed as she told this story, because one of those "younger teachers" had gone on to become director of the program that all of us new teachers were in.

July 2014

My mom texted me that a guy from their church had invited himself over for a birthday party (which my family was going to be throwing for him, obviously.)  I think this was a pretty wise choice on his part (my family does have a history of doing birthday parties well; over the years there have been themes from Barbie to Pilgrim's Progress to Mud to Olympics to Pirate to Umbrella.

And it made me think again about Amy's words: that ministry does not look like what you expect it to.

This has certainly been true in my family.  My parents planned to adopt before they were married, but they didn't plan for our home to become an outreach-to-social-workers center.  They made the plans to homeschool us, but they didn't know that two of us would spend months overseas, pouring into the lives of people who they had never gotten to meet.

one joy of having a huge, crazy family 
is seeing how we get to minister together 
to a wide range of people

There are so many things that we don't know, yet it's so easy to dream up expectations.  When I move to a new place, start a new job, make a new friend, I immediately being imagining possibilities.  More often than not, I'm wrong.

part of my team's ministry in China was to another North American family.
not what any of us expected, but a huge blessing to all of us!

And for that, I am grateful.  God's plans of how to use me, to use my life, are far better and more consequential and more exciting than my own.

I've found it to be a helpful premise to keep in mind when life throws curveballs -- when people ask questions that I wasn't expecting, when people ask for things that I wasn't planning to give, when I get to know people who I didn't think that I would.  Ministry does not look like what I expect it to.

no one expected a lasting friendship to grow out of a few hours together.

Here's what Proverbs 16:9 has to say:

The heart of man plans his way,but Yahweh establishes his steps.

And here's one of my favorite verses for guiding how to live in a way to seize opportunities for ministry, even when they are unexpected.

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,when it is in your power to do it.(Proverbs 3:27)

As God has been so generous in not withholding good from us, even when we were His enemies, shouldn't we imitate Him?


  1. Oh my goodness! I can't believe I forgot about that! Hashtag true love!!! ;-)


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