A Note from Chris Adams: Messy ministry can be exhausting and at times even discouraging. Sometimes we just need to reflect back on times when we saw some results to the efforts we made so that we can continue to serve messy people one step at a time. Read today’s article by Dr. Deb Douglas (First Baptist Church, Bossier City, LA) and be encouraged!
Helping others gets discouraging. It is a roller coaster of emotions filled with successes and failures. We give of ourselves with a pure motive of helping only to have the person reject our help and return to whatever messy mire they are stuck in. It is exhausting.
I want to share a personal story with you. Last week, discouraging news and ministry exhausted me. It seemed I was surrounded by people making poor choices and returning to their messy lives. As I chatted with a woman who had overcome her messy life, she asked what was wrong. I blurted out how discouraged and overwhelmed I was with ministry.
Yes, the counselor was emotionally throwing up all over the counselee. Not good. But something amazing happened. She told me the story of one little thing I had done that had set her on the path to climbing out of the messiness of her life. To give you a little background information: I volunteer with a ministry to sex trade workers. It’s a messy life, but it’s one that this church lady has become comfortable with. That’s God at work!
We had a new woman come into the program who was going through withdrawal from drugs. The women in the ministry’s safe house had been through the same experience and were determined to help her through it. Knowing that high calorie, sugary snacks would help, we loaded up 4 women and the new woman into my car and went to the grocery store. The new woman was fresh from the streets and anything but freshly clean. Her hair was wildly arrayed and her clothes were filthy but that didn’t slow us down. We attacked the grocery list filling up 3 carts.
From my perspective, this was just another one of those things we do to help. No big deal. However, it was a big deal to one of the women. She saw something I had missed. She saw the other grocery shoppers that stared at me and moved away to avoid our group. The puzzled looks on the faces of the other shoppers were easy for the former sex trade worker to read: Rejection. Judgment. Condemnation. Looks focused on me for being with this group of women. Looks that I never noticed. Me not noticing captured her attention and made her want to change. The fact that I was willing to do whatever it took to help without worrying about what others may think of me gave her the courage to change.
As she told me this story, I went from being discouraged and down in my own emotional gutter to bouncing off the ceiling. Why? Because I do not have to have all the answers. I do not have to have some great wisdom to change others. I only have to be the me that God created me to be and do the one thing that He has called me to do. That’s easy. I can do that. I can be me!
But there’s more to the story. Because not only did God bring encouragement to my heart through this woman sharing her story, He then gave me an opportunity to share ministry with her. As I drove her home, we passed her former corner, the corner that she had strolled up and down to solicit men for sex. As we drove by, a very young, very skinny girl stood on that same corner. At the same moment I pulled the car to the curb to help this young girl, the woman shouted for me stop. She realized God was giving us an opportunity to serve together. We chatted with the young girl, offered her food, and told her that her present life did not have to be the way it is. Together we offered her hope. By doing so, my hope was restored.
My heart was encouraged. I was reminded that God did not call me to fix things. He called me to do the one thing He places before me. He will do the rest. Ministering in the messiness of life is exhausting and discouraging, but we can be assured that God is at work in us and through us as we follow Him to do the one thing He has placed before us to do.
Do the one thing, my friends. Stay focused and be encouraged! We never know when we are building up hope in others by our actions!
For more help and resources on ministering in the messy, check out Women Reaching Women in Crisis and Steps: Gospel-Centered Recovery or refer to the other articles in the Hurting Women or Ministering in the Messy categories.
Dr. Deb Douglas has served in women’s ministry for over 37 years. Now she spends her time working with Purchased Ministry, a ministry to women in the sex trade industry. Deb is also the Director of Biblical Counseling at First Baptist Church, Bossier City, LA. She was the first to graduate from New Orleans Baptist Theological seminary with a Masters degree focusing on women’s ministry and has earned a Doctor of Education in Ministry degree from NOBTS. She is “Pearl” to 3 sweet grand babies, “Mom” to Jared Douglas and Katie Chavis, and wife/sweetheart to Paul Douglas.