VILLALCÁZAR DE SIRGA / CALZADILLA DE LOS HERMANOS – The last few days the Camino took me across the Meseta, the high altitude plateau across northern Spain. There seem to be fewer pilgrims along this stage, many such as JoAnn and Amy having taken a bus over this long, flat, lonely mesa. “The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain,” Henry Higgins sings, and each day I hear reports that it might rain, but the rain in Spain has refrained. Walking past the beautiful waves of amber grain, I am reminded of my parents’ homeland of Kansas, fields of winter wheat and few trees.
The Meseta brings long days, 30km one day, 24 the next, sometimes getting in as late as 8:30pm, or having a 17km (10mi+) stretch of uninterrupted wheat fields that exhausted both my food and water. Along this stretch I meet Mary who has left crazy early, but now doubled back to find her pocketbook. I turn around and walk with her, “Please pray for me,” she says, “Already on it,” I say as she pulls ahead.
Ten minutes later she finds it discarded in some grass, but does not look inside until we are walking back. Her euros are gone, but the credit card, IDs, and secret stash are untouched.
“The Camino is kind,” I say, “but not forgiving.”
The Meseta lends itself to solitude and introspective thought. Today I fluctuate between profound gratitude, and wondering why the work I do for Ashesi is so unfulfilling? Intellectually I know I’m doing good work, and I’m affirmed objectively by my course evaluations, and subjectively by student comments and a prayer-life George Bailey moment, “and what if you were not there?”
What is missing? I ponder. Why does this work feel like unsalted food tastes? What is missing?
Along the way I asked about his previous ministry settings, what did you like about them?
“The people I worked with, my colleagues,” he said quickly. “When Dr. Dale rescued me from a situation that was not going to end well, I was so grateful, but to then work alongside him those three years, was a dream come true. Dale and I had been talking about this before we went to Africa the first time (2006), but neither of us expected it to work out as well as it did. I mean I knew I liked Dale, and his approach to ministry—he is an amazing communicator—but then working with him, being mentored by him, and earning his deep trust; those were some of my best years in ministry? Plus he let me shine in areas that he had little interest in, like The Cooking Class, and SACRED Space. Those were some of my best years in ministry. ”
I asked him about his previous church, the one he served after returning from Ghana in 2008.
“Officially, I was music director, but I found that was not enough. I wanted to also be associate pastor which created a bit of a problem. It was fun working with a band that had been together for 15 years, and creating a new harmonic sound for the singers. Of course working with Dorothy Light was a gift. We could so totally own a town hall meeting, just by playing off each other. Plus, with her training in Godly Play (a ministry I’d seen at Foundation), I was in awe of how she was infusing the next generation of children with the true gospel.
And then there was Foundation?
“That was an opportunity that called into play all my giftings, music, analytical thinking, and worship/preaching. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I knew if I studied the data, I could break the code. While I loved worship planning, leading the music team, and introducing the concept of “The Grid” (Grow the Kingdom; Become more Christ-like), what I missed the most after leaving was the staff. Kaylenn, as children’s minister, gave one of the best children’s sermons I’ve ever heard on the Sunday after 9-11. I think about her each year that day rolls around. Then there was Sandy, who jumpstarted an adult small ministry about the time Rick Warren’s “40 days of Purpose” was happening and her work changed the culture of that church. And there were those “Tours,” a fun short -term small group experience in the summers. There were the youth directors (Paul; Carol; Scott) who were so much fun and brought such vitality to the church. I loved mentoring them. And Russell, one of the finest musicians I’ve ever worked with, and our staff-mother, Delores. While it is true that I didn’t choose The People at Foundation, I hope the staff knows, I did choose them.
This all sounds like you find the collegial work of leading a cross functional team fulfilling as well as the challenge of a weekly deliverable, but also enough data to feed your inner geek. “I like data, or processing data.” That didn’t always go so well with people who do not have an analytical mind, but it helped me to understand what was going on, and perhaps where we were going. In terms of an earlier blog you might say:
The People (you work with) – the colleagues who you respect and work with
The Institution (you serve) – the mission of The University
Your Ambition – what can be measured, evaluated, improved to feed your inner geek?
So what about this do you see in your ministry in Ghana?
The 17km stretch made this day my favorite so far, and for the 5 hours it took to walk it, I was mostly alone except when I helped Mary find her pocket book and walked with MaryAnna until we stopped at an oasis that didn’t have water. I laid down on the picnic table and was instantly asleep. I had not slept well the night before, not from snoring (that doesn’t bother me anymore), nor demon dreams, my mind would not just let sleep come. When I woke later, The Marys and everyone else gone, replaced by a different crowd.
“Bridget?” I ask. She didn’t know it was me, and I learned tonight is her last until next year. Tomorrow she will walk into Sahagun and catch transport out. Next year she will continue. We hug, say good-bye, Buen Camino, and she leaves as conscience thought slowly returns to my post-nap brain. There are two more hours of solitude and I’ve done enough heavy lifting so now I walk in profound gratitude.