by summer intern Austin Krohnke |
As my summer at Messiah Lutheran Church comes to a close, I reflect upon the first days of a similar journey from a year ago in which I also learned so much about ministry.
Sitting down to eat dinner at my new home for the next three months, I was ecstatic. Here I was in Costa Rica, knowing not a soul in the country prior to that day, sitting around a table with three other seemingly cool dudes that would be my roommates, using only Spanish to communicate with my very hospitable host mom – what an adventure! I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to learn a new culture by taking classes and doing ministry with other Christians.
Halfway through the lively meal, I happened to notice the television in the background: a news station was reporting on something about Pope Francis. Having grown up Roman Catholic and knowing a little about how radical this pope was, I mentioned something about it for the sake of easy conversation, asking my host mom what she thought of it all. Oh boy was I naïve! With that question, I unleashed for the next couple hours what was more or less a lecture from her about how unchristian this pope was, how angry God must be with his actions, and even speculations that he is actually the antichrist. Even weirder, I saw no real sign that anyone else at the table thought her comments to be strange. These were my first days studying abroad in Costa Rica.
They were really my first encounters with any outspoken conservative Evangelical Christians. Moreover, the ministries that I was to participate in for the next few months were made up primarily of Evangelical Christians. This was not the Catholicism with which I grew up, nor was it the Lutheranism that I experienced at college. It was a Christianity very foreign to me. I was the outsider here and nervous to have opinions that so differed from the people with whom I would be working closely. It honestly made me uncomfortable, something I don't often feel.
Despite it all, I dove headfirst into the experience, thinking that at the very least I would learn how to work with people with whom I disagree! Over time, encounters like my host mom's reaction to the pope began to fade. I occasionally heard perspectives that still jarred me, but the category into which I had originally put her and all other Evangelicals began to blur. I learned so much more than merely how to work with people who think differently than me; these people actually taught me how to love like Jesus, the God who loves people just as they are. Jesus calls us into a relationship with him, and then sends us out to love all our neighbors and make disciples just as he did. We are not called to judge the behavior or even beliefs of others. Only God makes judgments and changes hearts. These people taught me to faithfully do the part of loving that Jesus commanded us, trusting in a God who is big enough to take care of the rest.
The whole experience taught me an even broader truth – that I don't have all the answers. No single person has all the answers; we can always learn from those who think differently. My days here at Messiah have also taught me that. I am so grateful for the endless opportunities to engage in different ministries and unique experiences, often times working with people with whom I know think differently than me on a particular point. It is in these places where I know God is at work breaking down barriers and drawing people closer to God's self. Such a generous and welcoming community has made all of these opportunities possible for me this summer, so for that, Messiah Lutheran Church, I thank you!