Anyone who asked me what my job was for the past year knows that I gave a long-winded probably unhelpful description that gave no real insight into how I was spending my days and/or the goal I was working toward. That’s largely because I didn’t know what I was doing. Throughout the year the road was rising to meet all of us who were working on what is now the E3 Collective. I mean really rising to meet us. As in, there was a month where the question, “Is Taryn going to Tanzania next week?” was a legitimate question.
The year spent walking in foggy faith ended with the binder pictured above. A relatively unremarkable binder (which the three of us are clearly very jazzed about) filled answers to “Key Quality Indicators,” supporting documents, and nearly 40 appendices. That’s it. A bunch of hole-punched paper.
Don’t get me wrong, this binder allowed us to pass a peer review and officially receive accreditation from the Standards of Excellence in Short-Term Missions, a worthy endeavor which I believe any organization sending short-term missions should pursue.
But ultimately, an inanimate binder is simply unable to contain the lifeblood that animated the E3 Collective from a bunch of words on a page to a living being. As much as Lynn, Martin, and I tried to give life and vibrancy to that binder, it paled in comparison to the actual lived experience of that last year.
I have started and erased this post at least 3 or 4 times. I’ve written drafts in my head only to be disappointed by the lack of weight they carry when I write them down. In some ways, all the stuff with the E3 Collective feels huge. A ministry clearly orchestrated by the Lord. International travel. Building partnerships. Over 20 people committing to spend at least 2 weeks in a foreign country because of something I said.
In others, it feels small. A year full of little work. A small ministry sending a few people to do little work. Hours spent at my desk proofreading, creating presentations, preparing meeting agendas or figuring out some boring logistics.
Throughout the year this tension was highlighted over and over. The mountaintop moments followed by a million boring steps. Not valleys, just mundane steps. What I affectionately deem, little work.
This led me to think about the life of Jesus. I wonder about all the “little” things he did while he walked this earth. The ones that didn’t make the cut. What he was like as a teenager. What he did between miracles. The many conversations he had with his disciples on the road. The Bible only really gives us the highlights (which I’m okay with b/c can you imagine how long it would be if it had every detail?!), but the more I study the bible and learn more about the big moments of Jesus’ life the more I’m convinced that is was both the miraculous work and the incredibly mundane work that made him so irresistible. That drew crowds of people around just to catch a glimpse.
Therefore, I am increasingly convinced that a life devoted to emulating Christ means both the miraculous work and the incredibly mundane work. It means praying boldly for the blind to be healed and spending hours writing a handbook. It means traveling across the world to be with refugees and having a little more patience for your coworker in the office.
Because I am hard-headed and simply following Christ’s example is not enough for me, the Lord placed Martin and Lynn in my life. Two people who freely and humbly wrestle with tension. Lynn ensured we covered all of our legal bases through writing up more paperwork than I ever thought possible (I mean that in the best way) and sat with a Syrian family a few miles from the border listening, crying, praying and loving like Jesus. Martin lived each day aware of the Lord’s truth and ever-present spirit whether that was in a meeting to discuss logistics or in the house of an Iraqi refugee family. They taught me how to truly discern between going to Tanzania for two weeks or staying in Harrisonburg and writing a mission statement; knowing that either outcome is God-ordained.
I am grateful for their patience with an over-zealous 23-year-old.
This is only the beginning. I am so grateful for the foundation the Lord gave me in the past year. I’m confident it is a solid one that he will use for both big and little work.
p.s. I named this the “Post-Collective Debrief” after the set of questions we give to all participants after a trip. A set of questions I skillfully avoided answering until late September when Lynn cornered me and forced me to answer one (out of 10). What can I say? Growth not perfection, right? 🙂