When I served in Romania after college, I felt at times that my year had been sacrificed for some leader’s ministry goal. I wouldn’t trade that season of life for anything. Yet two different women expressed to me–at two separate times–that they wouldn’t have placed me on that team had they been part of that decision, a team of two American men, one Romanian woman, and me.
I didn’t expect to have an easy year, but I did feel that what was best for me as a person was secondary to some strategic plan for expanding campus ministry. I’d trusted those leaders, and–although that year shaped me for the rest of my life–I’d been hurt.
The year before I’d gone to Romania, I’d spent the summer in another eastern European country on a summer mission with Cru. A few days after arriving, the director announced he’d be leading a sort of “theology club” during our six weeks. We’d read and discuss a book together, but he’d brought only a certain number of books. For those interested in participating, we would sign up to join the book club and to receive a copy of the book–strictly first come, first served.
I added my name to the list in order to reserve a book. Later, when the director brought out the books after a meeting, those who’d requested a book went to retrieve their copies. A few minutes later, I walked up to the table where the leader stood. While he talked with a few students, I looked into the book box–only to find it empty.
Hmm… I thought. There were X number of books, and I was one of X number of people. By that time, Mr. Director noticed I’d come to pick up my book, only to find none left.
I was confused. “Oh, sorry, Allison; I guess they’re all gone,” Mr. Director said. To the best of my knowledge, he didn’t question the group about who’d picked up a book without having requested it. He didn’t do a re-count of the books that had been claimed, to see if there were actually X number to begin with. He also never offered any solutions–making copies of the chapters we’d discuss, for example.
Once he informed me there weren’t any books remaining, Mr. Director walked away. I assumed he considered the matter closed. I borrowed my roommate’s copy when she didn’t need to use it, so I could read and prepare for the book club.
Later, near the end of our time overseas, I’d been asked one morning to find one of the other students. I asked around, couldn’t locate that person, and then went into the large meeting room where the director led a group of European high school and college students in a conversational English class.
I’d tried to sneak quietly in the back and began scanning the room for the person in question. All summer, as various leaders on our mission project had taught this class, the American students might stay for part of it; some would remain for the entire session. Others would go in and out. The environment seemed casual, so, when I went into class that morning–when it had already begun–I didn’t imagine I was doing anything different than had been done all summer. I didn’t imagine I was being disruptive, either.
Then, Mr. Director spotted me. “Everybody, this person who just came in…this is Allison. See Allison, everybody?” He waited for the group of 40 or 50 people to turn around in their chairs and take note of me. He continued, “I’m punishing her a bit because she came in and interrupted our class. Hi, Allison!”
Stunned. Embarrassed. Humiliated. I gave a half wave to the staring audience and then slunk out of the room.
For the next few days, I wrestled with what to do. Then the time arrived for my team to return to the States. At the end of our final night, I approached Mr. Director. I wanted to apologize for causing an interruption and to talk about how confusing it was that he’d shamed me that way to the class. I’d never known the expectation was that nobody enter the room after class had begun.
So, working up my courage, I drew him aside (no small feat) and told him I wanted to ask his forgiveness. After I’d gotten that out–and was working up the nerve to deal with the rest of it–he brusquely said, “Oh, don’t worry about it!” and walked away.
That situation never fully got resolved, at least not for me, although I feel content with having done the best I could. Sometimes, though, the Enemy of our souls uses this old story to reinforce his lies about my worth.
Maybe you’ve been hurt by Christians, even those in leadership, in far worse ways than I’ve described here. And maybe that’s caused you to turn away from following Jesus Christ, to abandon Him because in some ways His people abandoned you.
If so, I hurt alongside you. Maybe there’s no way to get resolution on what happened. And maybe forgiveness seems impossible. I’d like to ask you a favor, though: Will you, for a moment, set aside the wounds other Christians have inflicted and consider again the heart of the Savior?
When Jesus asked His disciples if they also wanted to leave him–as others had done–Peter answered, in John 6:68, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of life.”
I believe He still holds the words of life, and, in our hurt, He longs to speak life to us. Bruised and weary brother or sister, may I encourage you to listen to his life-giving words today?