Written by WS alumna Cathy Baldizon, MA
When we returned to the US after 20 years overseas I was confident that once I graduated from Western with a Masters in Pastoral Care to Women, the degree and what I had learned would ensure that the next time we were posted abroad a new paradigm of ministry would be waiting for me. No more part time jobs and ad hoc activities and ministries to women – something big was just around the corner!
A few years later my husband’s work moved us to a rather remote area of Mozambique. I went along expectantly, anxious to see what Ministry with a capital “M” God was going to open up for the new and improved me. However, several months and then a year or two went by with no capital “M” Ministry in sight. What I had was lots of time and only a few small, scattered activities to fill it. My roles included wife, friend, small group Bible Study facilitator, and occasional teacher at our Sunday night fellowship. I couldn’t understand why God had brought me all the way to Mozambique for this. Why did He have me study at seminary and then drop me in the middle of nowhere with no job or Ministry prospects in sight?
While all my small “m” ministries were nice, I was still waiting for the capital M!
Early last year I faced a huge disappointment and as I was trying to regain my bearings, God used a couple books to focus me. From The Power of Small by Jennifer Kennedy Dean, I learned that everything big is actually made up of a whole lot of small. “If a manger, hidden from the view of all but a few, can become the birthplace of the King, then nothing God calls us to is servile.” p. 55 and “When you are living with an awareness of the power of small, you will notice that some small, insignificant thing puts you where you need to be when you need to be there.” p. 133 Hmmmm…
Reading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, I learned “I can’t be receptive to God unless I receive what He gives.” p. 181 and I realized that if what He is giving are the mundane roles of wife and friend and an abundance of free time, then I need to set aside my expectations about needing a capital “M” Ministry in order to feel important. God lovingly pointed out that His preferred mode of using me, with or without a degree, is through a variety of small “m” ministries and an open schedule with lots of free time.
As I processed these insights I discovered value in the routine aspects of life and the activities I was involved with, rather than merely marking time until something bigger, better or more important would come along.
God has called me to the ministry of “being available”. Because I don’t have a full schedule I am available when needs arise – my husband needing our home to be a safe and welcoming retreat from his stressful job, a friend needing someone to accompany her to the dentist, a new woman in town needing to learn where to shop and how to adjust to the challenges in this remote corner of Mozambique, or a struggling mom needing a listening ear. I host a growing weekly English Bible study, recently started a Spanish Bible study with three Latin Americans, am part of a “growth and clarity” triad, spoke at a retreat for missionary women serving in Lesotho, and serve as mentor/counselor/Christian coach for several of the younger missionary wives and moms. I occasionally edit seminary theses or Christian books via internet and for a year I did sporadic consulting for the Mozambique Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. As I review these past four years I see an incredible richness of experiences and opportunities to have an impact on others that couldn’t have happened if I had a capital “M” Ministry. In those hours and days when I have more free time than I would like, I realize that is a key part of my current call.
And that seminary degree…what I learned at Western has infused much of what I do in pastoral care, coaching, or teaching. While the degree itself hasn’t opened any specific doors that I know of, that doesn’t seem so critical any more. An interesting opportunity to use some of the tools I gained came up last August when I spoke at our small Sunday fellowship. When several crises rocked the expat community I was able to mitigate some of the fallout by teaching on Healthy Ways to Process Grief using notes and power points from a Women in Pain class I taught at the Western Sacramento campus in 2008.
In this time of “m” ministry I have learned much about myself and have seen impact in others’ lives. Little by little I have seen where a timely word, some coaching questions, a shoulder to cry on, or facilitation of connections has made a difference.
Now that we are leaving Mozambique for our next assignment, I see more clearly how the small “m” ministries were used by God to encourage, comfort and spark growth in other women and to stretch me to new understanding of what capital “M” Ministry really looks like.
I am grateful for these lessons.
Cathy Baldizon, MA
Life Coach – Joyfire Coaching
Fanning the flame of joy and purpose in life and ministry