This week the latest issue of Partners came in the mail. Partners is a resource provided by Diaconal Ministries of Canada that includes stories from "the deacon field," which will hopefully encourage and inspire you in your own areas of ministry.
This particular issue included an article by Linda Weening entitled "An Answer To Prayer." In the article she talks about how the deacon team she's part of was approached with a request for support, how they struggled through the decision and how God offered affirmation and an answer to prayer when all was said and done. It's a great read. (If you click the Partners link above, you can read the September 2011 issue online).
There was one particular line that really caught my eye. Linda is driving a young man to the bus station, and then tells us that this happens: "I shared with him some of our misgivings and concerns." She WHAT? She TOLD him what the deacons were worried about? What was she thinking? How can that be appropriate? What will he think of the church?
Personally, I think it's brilliant that she told him. The first thing that came to my mind when I read that was, "Wow, talk about a way to be honest, build trust and enter into a relationship with someone." I think she took a giant step towards saying "you're a person to me, not a project, and I'm going to talk to you like I would a friend."
Now, I don't know all the ins and outs of this story, but I do think that we, as deacons, can admit to those we're helping that we don't have all the answers, and we do have questions sometimes about how to help and when to help and what help might actually look like in a particular scenario. Obviously we need to be wise in discerning with these conversations, but I would suggest that we dare to be open and honest with those that we are assisting.
I think it also goes without saying that it's not about trying to guilt trip people, or to "feel" them out by giving them the gears just to figure out how serious they are. In Linda's case the decision was made, the conversation didn't affect anything about the aid that was given, rather it was a way of connecting. If I were to paraphrase that line in the article, I think it would be saying, "You know, I wasn't sure about giving you what you were asking because I didn't know you, but God knows you, knew what you needed, he made it clear that we were supposed to help you out and he just affirmed that with this song."
We are ambassors for Christ, called to love and care for those who are hurting and need help, our brothers and sisters. Let's remember that people are people, and not our pet projects. May God continue to teach us to grow in our understanding of Him and His ways, so that our lives are truly a reflection of Him.
How have you shown those you've helped that they aren't a deacon project? What might be ways that you can reach out to build a relationship with someone that you are assisting? How do you feel about Linda's story? What's your story?