Dear Future Goer:
I want to share my story as being a wildcard member of the missions community, if there are people that don’t feel like they directly fit into the missions’ field in some way, shape, or form. I’m sharing you my story of change, grace, and maturity. It’s also important for me to share that this is also a story of struggle and watching God in just how mysterious His ways are, There are many times that what God does or doesn’t do cannot be justified, and when God does bring favor in how much joy it does bring. This is the wisdom gained through how God sent me to Berlin, Germany. Though a longer read, there is wisdom to be shared at the end of the letter.
It’s still difficult for me to wrap everything up. To begin with, I want to preface that my story had very few easy steps, if at all. I graduated 2016 with mechanical engineering. I knew that I wanted to continue to work in a hybrid role between engineering and ministry. This was a difficult skill set to fill out in the missions world.
I had struggled gathering all the finances to even go to Germany, despite all my fellow goers having massive, miraculous financial breakthroughs all around me. Don’t get me wrong, I did have some breakthroughs (otherwise I couldn’t have gone in the first place) but I had a small church, smaller networks, and a gracious family. After everything, I raised only 75% the funds. So, I took cuts in my budget and pressed to find people, and after cursing God a number of times in prayer, 1 week before launch date, I get up to 95% my newly slashed budget, and am deemed good enough to fly to Berlin. I came to Berlin with the expectation that once I got in-country all would fall in place, not that there wouldn’t be learning curves, but that there would be a sense of purpose and order moving forward. I was wrong.
Even Berlin was a struggle for me. I had been working in the gift of Spiritual Discernment for some years before coming to Berlin. Meaning I could tangibly sense the spiritual darkness around me, and it weighed on me. Coupling this with being in a large city, of a foreign language, learning a new ministry system, it was all a challenge. All in all I had gone through a very painful first year. Loneliness, no sense of purpose, no ministry fruits: All because God told me to fly to Berlin. As an engineering grad this would have been the hardest path possible. It was difficult being a minister in Berlin. German people are stubborn and are careful with who they share beliefs with, making it hard soil.
Yet this was not the end. There were fruits that came later. God opened up my language skills, being one of the more fluent members of my American group. God hadn’t blessed me financially (rather, I was floating on the bare essentials, even taking a pay cut to preserve my financial longevity over the two years). However, I was privileged and blessed with the richness of a community that I had not expected arriving to a big city, being able to network widely with other German house-church circles and international contacts thereafter, between three spheres of people. I was able to do what I enjoyed, mixing engineering and ministry, which was what I ended up doing. I served working with ministry startups and working as a technical leader, offering my technical skills to advance ministry into the artistic communities, developing resources and managing facilities as a handyman/builder, as well as a designer, to work on an arts venue with a project birthed from the Salvation Army, the Limelight Collective. I also worked with another group as a tutor, working with youth group-aged guys with a group called Visioneers.
I remember well when I was debriefed by my sending organization: ReachGlobal, who I was connected to through GoCorps. It was clear I had changed from the start of my two years. Granted, without the Holy Spirit, this process would have left me more cynical, but such as it was, I had deepened in my relationship to the Holy Spirit, being officially baptized in the Holy Spirit during my second year. This was in a German worship service when that happened, and on the same day being able to lay hands on-and witness healing- of a demon-posessed German man, whose name I will remain anonymous. In the end God extended his richness in my life since I had been in Germany, answering God’s call. It does not look the same as worldly success, but it is God’s receipt that our treasures in God’s Kingdom have been deposited.
So at the end of this brief summary, I write this out in a Café in Belrin, having tried to secure work in Germany as an engineer trying to remain in-country, deepening my career in a way Mission’s work can’t provide; all while trying to continue investing on those relationships that God had laid a foundation for. It seems to fail. My renewed visa expires in three weeks and all the interviews I’ve conducted with German companies over a six-month period have fallen through. However despite the numerous tidal waves God has been throwing my way, God’s wisdom hammered out of the forge holds true.
1: Growing hurts. Many times, greatly so. Maturity in Christ means that life is good not because there is no opposition, but rather that God is good even with opposition and with a toil to be done. Life is full of toil, and ministry will naturally wear a person down. Ministry is dangerous, to do it properly requires a constant denial of the self, and a constant willingness to put forth effort and energy despite often fierce spiritual opposition. If you aren’t feeling the pain of ministry, you’re not doing it properly. Whether it be culture shock, struggling relationships, language learning, resistance is unavoidable, but necessary. It will affect people differently. Count the cost, consider Scripture, and embrace worship. It’s the hardest points where worship makes the largest difference.
2: Spiritual rest is your lifeline in the ministry. Sabbath, however, is not simply “doing nothing.” Rather, it is securing one day a week to exercise things that are naturally life-giving to the individual. Matthew 33:37: “Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’” Paraphrased: honor God with all that you are. So what about those hobbies that you find life-giving? Those things that give life to you, in the act of doing them, is actually a worship unto God! These are part of the little things necessary in bringing balance amidst a crazy, new missions environment. Rest is also necessary for language learning, for it gives your mind a chance to sort out and process how to use a recently learned language.
3: Sharing the Gospel is not merely sharing the entire Gospel story in its fullness. Especially for street evangelism, the whole point of talking with people and sharing Christ is not so that you exist as a living scripture tract. Nor are you delivering the entire Gospel story to a random bystander, taking 30 minutes of a person’s day to no avail. Rather, all that is truly needed is a simple advertisement that you are a temple of God, and a carrier of the Holy Spirit. Don’t be afraid to show the little remarks and comments that you serve the creator of the Universe and hear God’s voice. It all begins here. When your listening to the Holy Spirit is clear, than this will naturally, eventually, be advertised. Simply find people that are willing to hear your story, and share the truth of your testimony. This will carry further than you will ever know.
4: The purpose of the great commission is not to create churches, but birth disciples. Scripture is clear: “Go and create disciples in all nations.” The endgame is teaching people that can share the Scripture themselves. In many cultures, this dynamic of creating disciples is best conducted in church bodies, but others cultures require a different structure. Church planting for the sake of planting churches is an unhealthy goal to channel the Body. However, teaching people that can teach others will fulfill the Great Commission mandate and lead to multiplication everytime.
5: All ministry is the same. Working with sports? Same as working with writers. Planting churches? May as well be working with administrative tasks, or evangelism. Doing ministry abroad? Might as well be a local ministry. The first world is often in just as great of need as in “third world” settings. It’s all the same in God’s eyes, and the United State’s church culture has a “magical” bias towards nations of less economic development, because there is a physical poverty that many consider to spiritual poverty, as well. (To note that I do not speak against ministry in such areas. Many of these areas are unreached and do require attentive action to reach). However do note, that the New Testament had done most of their heavy-hitting ministries in areas of affluence (i.e. Corinth, Rome, Athens, Philippi). So we see that all are needed.
But another noteworthy thing: finding a comfortable “just another day” state of being is a sign of effective integration into a culture. So there is the benefit of doing local ministry as opposed to going abroad: it’s easier and quicker developing relationships in one’s own home culture, where there is no culture/language gap separating people, hindering relationship building. And, local believers will always do a better job at witnessing to people of their own culture better than any missionary.
So that is the wisdom I had been put through the crucible to obtain during my two years in the ministry because of GoCorps. It is one thing to read this, and it’s something totally different to experience these things firsthand. What I can say is that God’s wisdom is something that can be seen but not fully understood, and affliction or hardship are no exception. Though it may try to kill you, those who seek God’s wisdom will be benefited by it in the long game.
Find Shalom. Seek the Holy Spirit. Listen with Intenion.
My name is Aaron Knettle, Class of 2016.