Ministry Inquiry Reflection – 2013

Andrea De Avila, 4th year student in Biblical Studies

What did I learn over those two and a half months that I was in Parnell, Iowa at West Union Mennonite Church? What did I learn about my vocation, myself, my life, and my relationship with God and the Mennonites in Iowa? What did I leave behind in the community where I was over the summer that they’ll remember me by? What could I have done better? All these are questions that have been running through my head since I left the bean and corn fields behind in the middle of July at the end of my term at West Union.

Andrea in Action

  • Andrea at VBSAndrea works with Vacation Bible School kids

It is hard for me to put into words all that I learned at West Union this past summer. There is so much that can’t be described or explained when it comes to how God works among his people, and West Union is a place where one can clearly see God at work. The people there reflect examples of caring hearts and loving souls that one can only imagine true followers of Jesus having. People take care of each other. They cook for families when there is an illness, they pray for others when they’re in need. The elders give guidance to the young, the young take action when called to help. West Union is a welcoming and safe place, and I remember feeling very much appreciated when getting feedback on my first sermon. So I learned that West Union members overall are good and caring people that love God.

Over the summer, I also learned about the complexities of keeping a high functioning church running. West Union is an incredibly organized church and it was easy to see how much work it was to keep the church running in an organized manner. Elders, council members, commission members, pastors, Sunday school teachers; all working towards the same goal; but, the different working styles can keep things from always running smoothly, and there are times when things don’t seem to work out, even in God’s house. So, I learned of the hard work that one has to put into having a good and well organized church, and though there will be hard times, one has to always keep focus on God, for it is for his glory that we come together, and not for ours.

Andrea at Central Plains Mennonite Conference in Ashland, MT

  • Andrea with two Native AmericansNative Americans from Cheyenne community

Planning things for God’s glory and worship is something that I am passionate about. Because at times I felt somewhat overwhelmed with the interactions and responsibilities that the pastoral team has in place, I discovered that at least the small church setting in ministry is not really where my vocation is. Working for convention planning at Phoenix, though, was a very different feeling. It was both rewarding and comforting to feel so good to do something that had a much bigger purpose than me, and even others, but really it was to please and worship God.

Worshiping God has always been at the heart of what I would like to do as a vocation. I guess it’s just part of who I am. Whether it is by doing service for others or planning events, I always want God to rejoice in what I do hoping that it might be for his glory. I found myself being very open, very honest, and very true; with me, with God, and with others when it came to working at a church (big or small scale). I also learned a lot from the pastors who were my supervisors over this summer for MIP. They both had different styles of preaching, leading worship, and even holding each other and themselves accountable for something, but I truly believe that they tried very hard to stay as true to themselves and to God as they could.

Sometimes you have to give up something, an opinion or a belief, for the better of a community. And, for a pastor, that can be problematic because they are in a position of servant-hood to their community. It is true that sometimes we need to put out opinions and beliefs aside, but we should never forget them. Both the pastors that I worked with seemed very well rooted and aware of where they came from; and at the same time, consistently working for a community that, perhaps, had different ideas or expectations of what their roles should be or how they should be leading the congregation. If I ever become a pastor, I would like to follow the examples of these to great leaders because despite the differences in theology or leadership styles that we may have, they always remind me of the love that is represented in Christ, and the humility that one should always have as a servant leader.

Reflecting back to my time at West Union, I would like to think that I left the impression of being capable and with aptitude to do what I was asked to do. But more importantly, I hope that it was tangible for the congregation and the overall community where that I love God and I want to serve him more than anything in this world. I think I would do a lot of things differently if I could, but I hope that people saw me for what I am; an imperfect human being that continuously seeks the truth in God’s word, taking Christ as the ultimate guide for interpretation of the Bible. We need to learn from our experiences, whatever they may be; good or bad. We need to experiment and try different things; and although I don’t think being a congregational leader is my “thing,” I am still learning a lot from this experience and I hope that I was able to help others learn something as well.

There is no greater gift than the gift of service, and I thank West Union for letting me serve them this summer; although it feels to me that they served me more than I did them.