Twenty-seven houses in 24 years was my calculation as I wrote a short summary of my life—an autobiography of sorts.
This realization left me feeling frustrated but also empowered. The girl with all of the instability in her life had turned out to be one strong woman. Although unsure of the roads it would lead her down, she was always up for a new adventure—whether it be a new city, new state, or new church.
I remember my first major move like it was yesterday.
It was third grade. As I sat in my bedroom packing belongings, scenarios played out in my mind as my imagination ran wild. Would my new peers cleverly ask me if it was possible to count all of my freckles? Would they make fun of the gap in my teeth? I wittingly came up with sarcastic comebacks and practiced cold glances.
It was a cold rainy Mississippi afternoon when the U-Haul truck backed into our driveway. As my mom loaded our possessions, I had more important things to do. It was Halloween night. With my trick or treating bag in tow, I had a few hours to conquer as much candy as I could by visiting our neighbor’s homes one final time.
The harsh rain began to pick up and it was time for us to leave.
While our destination was only a few hours away, the distance between who I was leaving and who I became as a result transcended any state line.
The first day at my new home mirrored the beginning stages of a science experiment. The young student in me attempted to gather information and study my new surroundings. What would impress the neighborhood kids the most? Determining that the answer was my big, black “jambox” and blue gymnastics mat, I quickly brought the items outside on our front lawn.
In order to achieve optimal observation, I bravely positioned myself to face the new homes surrounding me as I felt the warmth of the bright sun penetrating my freckled skin. “We Built This City” blared through the speakers. My imagination began to overshadow my insecurities as I carefully repeated the words, “This new city was indeed built for me.”
Fast forward 15 years and many moves later. This freckled young girl had begun to embrace who she was.
As I slipped each foot into my beautiful, white gown, my old self was slipping away. More than marrying my handsome groom, I was also marrying a calling that God had placed on our lives. This calling, we believed, was to introduce people to Christ and to shepherd them into who God called them to be.
Many months after we uttered the life changing promises that were our vows, we were given our first ministry opportunity. My husband, Brian, was offered the position of Lead Pastor at an inner city church plant.
Just like I had done so many times in the past, I began to spout off to God all of the reasons He had the wrong woman. To name a few, I was very strong willed, outspoken, and opinionated. My voice wasn’t soft, sweet, or submissive. It was deep and harsh. To top it off, I didn’t even play the piano! Just what could He be thinking?
Regardless of my struggle, this was a new and exciting time in our lives. All of our idealistic philosophies and late night dreaming were about to manifest into a reality.
Scripture about restoration, hope, and healing began resonating in my soul. Being the dreamer that I am, visions like scenes out of a movie, began reeling in my mind. The lame were walking, the deaf hearing, and the blind seeing, all while rejoicing and praising God.
As my convictions solidified, it was time to share my new revelations. Clutching my bible in one hand and all of my security in another, my feet began to make their way up the steps to the office of one of the integral leaders of the church plant.
The unassuming man invited me in. I introduced myself and took a seat. As my sweaty, shaking hands opened the Bible, my voice began to crack. With all passion and zeal, I nervously began to read a very long passage about God’s purposes for His church.
The man was willing to listen. With a thick Southern drawl, he thanked me and we prayed together. Looking back, it’s hard to imagine what he was thinking. But whatever it was I left an impact and, as a result, he later offered me my first vocational ministry position. I would be mentoring low income at risk children and their families. This ministry was a sister ministry to the church plant.
Walking into the building for training the first day was reminiscent of my childhood years. After a few glances and an awkward silence, I took my seat at the long, metal folding table. Sitting next to me were others who would later become my team members. This was an eclectic group ranging in age, race, and socioeconomic status.
Honing in on the scientist in me, I once again studied my surroundings. I noticed that graffiti was artistically placed on the walls. Bright colors of orange, red, and blue surrounded me. The words read: “When I need a Shelter, when I need a friend, I go to The Rock.”
Part of our “job” responsibilities included introducing kids in our individual groups to Christ. This was the umbrella for everything else we did—which included art, dance, boy and girl scouts, tutoring, computer training, and meal provision. At the end of the day, team members would huddle together to recall the day’s events. It was at one of these meetings that my idea of ministry would change forever.
With a huge smile on my face, words exuberantly began to flow out of my mouth, “We had three kids come to Christ!” Looking around my eyes were met with cold stares. There was once again an awkward silence and my smile quietly faded.
Walking out to my car was a lonely experience. Putting one foot in front of the other, insecurities began to overwhelm my thoughts. As the scene replayed in my mind, judgments began masquerading in the form of questions. What would cause them to not respond with excitement? Was I prideful in my proclamation? Did they not care about kids coming to know Christ? If not, why were they working here to begin with?
That day—and the unsupportiveness I felt from my team members throughout the summer—left a mark. Much like scars on my body, there was a tough exterior forming to cover the healing of a wound. Living out this calling of being in ministry was proving harder than I realized.
I found myself questioning: Is it probable that my bible had become my “jambox” and gymnastics mat? Were the words of “We Built This City” still playing on the recorder of my soul? Had I determined that it was my spirituality that would impress these new “neighborhood kids?” Although I had grown in stature, was I still using the problem solving skills of a third grader?
In the development of theories, questions are necessary. But once data has been gathered, it’s time for the experiment to take place. Since seeing my idea of ministry changed from that of an idealistic dreamer to a battered veteran, I’ve traveled many roads—some straight, some curvy, and some dead ends. The bumps have resembled doubt, fear, complacency, and apathy. And at some points, even despair. But I’m coming to see—as I move from the questions to letting the experiment happen—God will steer me in a new direction as I willingly let go of the old and anticipate the new.
And I eagerly anticipate chartering this new territory with Him.
Welcome to Ungrind!
Do you want to be inspired, motivated, and equipped to live the everyday story of your life well?
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Ashleigh Slater, Founder & Managing Editor
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