I’m a planner by nature. I live by my calendar and my to-do list, and I much prefer routine to the excitement of spontaneity. I knew when I started my journey in missions that the general predictability of my life would be different than I naturally preferred, but I embraced this new lifestyle by leaning even more on my faith in God as he worked out his plan for me. Over the years, I’ve developed quite a lot more flexibility and a bit more confidence in figuring things out as we go, trusting God to show the next step as it comes.
That being said, while we do have some amount of uncertainty, life and ministry in Hungary has developed its own predictable patterns. Fall is the time we strategize, plan, and partner. Winter is cold and dark, and we draw in closer to one another in small, cozy settings. Spring often brings building projects and starting new things. Last but not least, summer is camp season…hot, exciting, tiring fun for weeks on end. The people who come to help us and the places where we go to serve often change, but the patterns of busyness and lull come with the regular cycle of the seasons.
This year is different, though. Our lovely, predictable cycle has come to a screeching halt because of a little thing called Coronavirus. There was no volunteer team to do renovation work on the ministry center in April. There were no youth arriving this month to conduct a day-camp VBS program. Sadly, our summer will be void of volunteers and the joys of Summer English Camp. This isn’t at all how I planned it to be.
One by one, each of Jonathan’s planned trips around the region were postponed and week after week, I’ve had to delete event after event from our calendar pages. It feels strange and a bit disappointing. Jonathan isn’t jetting off to OMS headquarters for USA meetings and we aren’t counting down any days until the grandparents come to visit. If I sit back and look at all the eraser marks, it can feel overwhelmingly like God has messed up our plans. It’s true that many of our plans have only been postponed or continue on in a digital format, but on the surface, it can feel very much like things aren’t going the way they are supposed to go.
While there is a comfort to predictable patterns and regular expectations, it has been my experience in life that God rarely works in a predictable or regular way. This is a struggle I have, because I find it much simpler when my life can be completely planned out. (Surely, I’m not the only one here.) And, wouldn’t it be nice if God always showed up when and where and how we expect he will? This past week, I was reminded during my devotional reading that God didn’t show up the way Elijah expected either.
“The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”
– 1 Kings 19:11-12, NIV
How often do we miss the quiet whisper of God because we are looking for him in the loud clanging of the thunder? How often do I fail to see God’s plan because I’ve carefully laid out my own? Truthfully, dealing with a global pandemic in a foreign country has had some unique challenges, and at first glance, canceling our summer programs seems counter-intuitive for moving forward in ministry. I wish we could have the usual busy and exhausting summer. But for now, I am holding my plans loosely. I’m trying to see God’s provision and blessing even in the staying home. I’m trusting his plan is far superior to the one I put on the calendar. Most importantly, I’m allowing the slowdown of activities to quiet my heart and my mind so that when I look and listen, I don’t miss God’s whisper.
– By Corinne Long, OMS Hungary Team Member