Today, I have the privilege to welcome guest blogger and missionary Pastor Michael Andrzejewski who is currently serving in Portugal with his wife Nina. He shares a heart-felt and very honest mission moment from the field.
A few weeks ago we had an incident at church. It was something that doesn’t happen in our church. It was something that shouldn’t happen in any church. But it does.
After the service I was outside trying to hang out with the teens in an effort to get my cool points up. When everything went down, my wife had to step in. Literally. She had to step in between two people. One lady actually shoved another and told her to get away from her. In church! There were tears. Stomping. Glares. It all came out of left field, and the damage was done before I knew anything had even happened.
Both of the women involved—we'll call them Euodias and Syntyche—are middle aged. Both have attended our church for several years. To say it like that is kind of like saying that Bill Gates has a little bit in savings. Up until this incident, I would have laughed out loud if you questioned their character. Both have a public testimony of salvation that spans decades. They’ve been friends for over thirty years. They’ve raised their kids together. They’ve seen each other through divorces and funerals. Both of them should know better than to behave like that. They don’t need to read 1 Timothy to find out how to act in church—in the living body.
Yet, you wouldn’t know any of that by the way that either of them acted that day.
For some reason they had to go and get picayune. They had to get silly and selfish. Fleshly. They acted a whole lot more devilish than Christ-like. Hellish is probably the best word to describe what happened. It was ugly and embarrassing and could’ve easily been avoided. Just thinking about it again makes me angry. Mad. Peeved. If I got any madder, I'd want to cuss.
As a pastor it makes my blood boil and my heart race. It irritates my hiatal hernia. Food doesn't go down the right way when junk like this shows up and people just want to stir the pot. I’m not only mad, though. Like the Spirit, I’m deeply grieved. I’m sad. We had a wonderful day. It was our Youth Sunday. Excited young people ministered to our hearts. They led their parents in singing praises. They took hold of the service with a responsibility and a reverence well beyond their years. And then with a shameful amount of immaturity, two grown women ruined it in the blink of an eye.
The guest preacher, a young man who beat cancer and then spent a year in Brazil studying the Bible, had the perfect message for the day. Those two women sat through the message and shut their ears to everything that was said. He told us that there exists only one word to accurately describe those who don’t abide by what they read in God’s Word. Hypocrisy. If we don’t fulfill what’s in those divinely inspired sixty-six books, we’re shallow hypocrites.
As a father it pains me to have to explain it all to my children. Right or wrong—judge me if you will—but I’m less concerned with the disturbers than I am with my own family. I’m less concerned with them than I am with the rest of the church family that was affected. Sin affects people. It destroys lives. It destroys families, and it destroys churches. It aggravates me that because of this—that because of the melodrama—my wife spoke the five least favorite words of all missionary men everywhere: “I’m ready to go back...” She meant it, too.
Her camel just snapped a vertebra.
So, here’s what I want you to get a hold of today. We’ve hit a rough patch. Choppy waters. A lot of times missions is not easy. Juggling multiple cultures within the context a foreign culture can get dicey. It’s tiring and draining and regularly disappointing. Not to mention frustrating. No matter how fluent you are, stuff gets lost in translation. Junk gets jumbled up in semantics and non-verbal cues. The mission field is a very different spiritual battlefield from the good ol’ US of A. Missionaries need your prayers. They need your encouragement. They need your faithful financial support. We need to know that somebody over there is still holding on to the rope.
Don’t get me wrong. I know that you’ve got problems, too, and I’m not pitting my problems against yours. They’re not worse. They’re different. However, let me be kind by saying that we’ve got enough to worry about over here without having to worry about everything that’s going on over there. I’ve got enough to worry about over here than whether we can put food on the table and fuel in the car.
You don’t really know what it’s like to spend three months visiting churches (when you need to be resting) so that you can raise a few hundred dollars a month only to return to the field and have those gains erased because other churches decided to re-allocate their missions budget where they are seeing more conversions. You don’t know what that’s like until you’ve been there.
Just so you don’t misunderstand me or misinterpret what I’m saying—yes, I still believe that we’re firmly planted in the hands of a Sovereign and all-powerful God. His grace is sufficient.
But look, let Nina say that she’s ready to go back because she misses her mother. Let her say she wants to get out of here because she wants to dip a salty fry in a sweet Wendy's Frosty. Let her say that because it’s rained for three weeks straight, and mold is growing on every window seal in our house. But don't under any circumstances force her to say that because the stress from “home” combined with the stress from the field has caused the overall stress to boil over. Please. And while you couldn’t have done anything to help us avoid this incident, and while you can’t do anything to help us manage this incident, you can help by giving good news from a far country every once in a while.
Nina and Michael Andrzejewski
Michael Andrzejewski. Missionary. Writer. Normal Guy. Serving in western Europe since early 2008, with his wife Nina and their 5 kids, Michael loves to share his stories. A graduate of West Point but an introvert by nature, he swims upstream while struggling to pastor cross-culturally. Passionate about both the Gospel and football, he constantly searches for really good sushi. His writing has been published by several small-town newspapers and magazines. You can pick up his first ebook, The Overflow: Avoiding the Normal on Amazon.com. He opines about missions at michaelandrzejewski.com and looks forward seeing Jesus one day. Follow him on Twitter (@cbcportugal).
We’ve been praying for Emily, a teenager who has battled Osteosarcoma for a couple of years. She’s having her quarterly scans on Friday. Here’s an excerpt from her father’s update:
Emily's quarterly scan is scheduled for February 14, 2014 at 1:00 PM...Please continue to send the positive thoughts and prayers for Emily to be clear of cancer and treatment side effects. It is important that we share inspiring stories and events. The brief story below is a tribute to everyone who has encouraged us and whispered prayers on Emily’s and our family’s behalf.
On February 3, 2014, I received a text that made me tearful. Good tears, the kind of tears I never understood. These were the type of tears that flow out of my Wife, Sister-In-Law, Mother, and Mother-In-Law while they are watching Julia Roberts/Sandra Bullock/Hugh Grant "romantic" movies. Maybe the tears started because my testosterone levels are decreasing as I age, maybe the Edamame at dinner increased my estrogen supply, or maybe it was because my wife shared something remarkable with me...She shared with me a simple text and photo. The text stated, "I am tearing up.” Those profound words can suggest good emotions or bad thoughts. In this case, the words described Nicki’s merry sentiment as she watched our Emily perform the Croisé Devant, À la Quatrieme Devant, and Effacé Devant Ballet facing positions at Dana’s Studio of Dance. Emily is dancing again! Happiness can create a tear. The pictures are below.
On a serious note, one of our friends, Muriel Walters, is in the midst of a horrible battle with Osteosarcoma. Please take a moment to pray, and send positive thoughts to Muriel and her family. With Appreciation, Steve
Please join me in praying for Emily, Muriel, Michael and Nina, and other missionaries around the world. Much of the southeastern United States (where I live) is experiencing a crippling winter storm right now. Please pray for the emergency responders who have to get out in it (my son included), as well as those already chronically ill and those without electricity.
If you have a prayer request you’d like added to our prayer list at the top of the blog, please leave a comment. Please e-mail me any confidential requests. I’d love to pray for you. J While you’re here, please pray for others’ requests.
And would you take a moment to leave a word of encouragement for Michael and Nina? Thanks!
©Laura Hodges Poole
Mission image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.