Unexpected Ministry

by Susan King

Stepping on to the floor of my tiny apartment, thoughts of my perceived “ministry” are revealed daily.  Through the haze of less than optimal sleep, seeking coffee heightens my awareness for my newest discoveries.  Initially, I did not recognize the ministry’s existence until friends relentlessly needled me, inferring I was attempting to model Mother Teresa. Mumbling, “how disrespecting towards this saint”, my encounters did seem “curiouser and curiouser “(Alice, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass).  Collecting these moments was causing me to ponder with deep introspection. Amongst my unlikely group of strangers I’d met included: a frustrated woman outside a police station asking if I was an attorney who could help, two ladies struggling with English thanking me for being a social worker who seemed pleased with our conversation. Even my less than fluent Spanish eased their concerns to a degree. Politely responding, I emphasized that I was not a social worker but as normal as they were.  No doubt this explanation would prompt a collective eye roll from my family. A young man in a casual café seemed troubled, evidenced by his pensive and worried gaze, asked if I knew how much my daughter had hurt him in elementary school. Even though this dated back over thirty years ago, he was openly hurt and wanted to talk this out. He asked me to let her know and that would be enough. As I explained this to my eldest daughter, her comment of “I had no idea,” spoke volumes. This led subsequently to a social media relationship of long overdue positivity. This “ministry of the unexpected” always seemed to require a response from me in that moment. Could these non chance vignettes actually be the Holy Spirit tapping me on the shoulder? Was the Spirit’s message to “be still and know that the Spirit is God”(Psalms 46:10)? The persistence of these tappings is convincing enough to believe that the Spirit’s presence is not only real but gloriously intentional. No longer can I write off these uncanny coincidences that are universally a blessing to receive. Of course, scanning for these spiritual moments is my understanding of a call to expand my openness to the Spirit’s leading.

Several years back, I encountered a joyful woman, “Miss H.” who was a catalyst placed to guide me on this path in the ministry of the unexpected.  Each time I visited a care facility where Miss H. resided, this wonderful human with vivid red hair caught my attention when passing her room.  For you see, there was a swirling rumor that she was only 104 at the time and this peaked my interest. Her face encouraged total strangers to engage and I finally took the invitation. When lurking into her room, she confirmed her “young” age was accurate, adding that her hair color was totally natural. Glowing, she said, “this is the nicest place with the sweetest people; more like a resort really.”  Where was the stereotypical depressive affect I’d had with my judgment assigned to her age? Launching into my best question, I charged ahead seeking the secret for her enthusiasm, optimism and longevity. Quickly responding, “I’ve never married.” She added it was her choice to focus on meeting Gods’ expectations but no others. It was also a point of pride that she was one of seven sisters and she was the only one who had never married and was still alive. This could be worthy of research on the life recommendations from centenarians. And now for the audience participation to guess Number 2. ”I’ve never had children.” she chirped. Note: In past speeches along my path, when mentioning Miss H and her lightening speed retort was surrounded by laughter. Counting heavily on tip number 3, we all breathlessly awaited her reply. I could almost hear a drum roll as she waxed eloquently on the final recommendation. Explaining like a seasoned professor, the most important thing is the last point . “The key is to ENJOY everyone you meet.”  Now of course that is not always easy, because to enjoy really means to learn something from everyone you encounter.  It may be positive or not so positive but it must be something you retain from that person. By collecting these attributes of others, value is added to that person’s impact on your circle of awareness.  This cannot help but enrich our perspectives of others over time by weaving a fabric of connectivity and humility for ourselves. Let me be clear that it is never a waste of energy to “enjoy and remember” what you have gained from each and every person, situation or context in life.   The profoundness of her words has echoed in my consciousness and added immediately to inform my ministry.

An “unexpected ministry” is supported by mindfulness of one’s impact on others but more importantly, the intentionality of the Holy Spirit in every moment . These are not encounters of the third kind or fleeting coincidences. They must be first and foremost with the multitude of God’s children. The incumbency of noting or scanning for this presence yields wonder for our fellow humanity as well as an enthusiastic embrace of the Holy Spirit’s tapping.

It is not our place as disciples in Christ’s ministry to cherry -pick who is valuable, worthy of being listened to or deemed to be part of our self-constructed sphere of interest. God created all people. Christ learned from and valued all people. Consider that the Holy Spirit is the energy that motivates us for a “ministry of the unexpected“.  “Why even the hairs of your head are all numbered, Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:7) God values us. Jesus listens to us. The Holy Spirit guides us…unexpectedly.


About the Author:

Abilene has been my home since 1979. Today, I am a full -time, non-traditional, face to face, graduate student at ACU, deeply diving into two Masters; Christian Ministry and Social Work. Having leaped off the path as an R.N. and elected official, my new life through God’s Grace is a humbling blessing.