“It is My Life, Not a Job”
“The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
What is your name? Where are you from? How long have you been here? These questions are what most people asked me when I met them for the first time. However, recently I had people say, “Hi Jenny, how are you?” It had happened at the store, on the street, and even at the Library or Community Center. Especially when I come to the Convention Center in Grantsburg and the Community Center in Webster, I hear people’s welcoming voices, saying, “Hi Jenny, how are you?” instead of the questions I used to get. I feel like I am now settled in this community, and I am a Wisconsinite.
I’ve been here two years. Technically, I’ve been here for two years and twenty-four days. I cannot believe that I’ve been here for more than two years already. Since I was appointed to this parish in August of 2019, I lost my American mom in October of 2019. In the grief of the loss of my mom, I began my ministry in Wisconsin. Before I knew about our congregation and parish, the COVID 19 pandemic hit our area and all over the world. We closed our churches. I indeed felt isolated in Wisconsin. However, the COVID 19 pandemic made me busy figuring out a new way of ministry. I tried to keep a connection with others in our parish because not only did I feel isolated, but all of us felt the same. Getting busy somehow helped me to forget the isolation and loneliness. During the pandemic, working on my garden helped me not to get homesick as well. Gardening refreshes me and meditates my soul and mind. Gardening sometimes gives me the wisdom of ministry as well as makes me familiar with this community.
Meanwhile, I have joined a ping-pong group in Webster, and I play ping-pong once a week with them. It is an activity and exercise I do in my leisure time to hang out with those in the community. The people are like my new friends. I also joined the Rotary Club in Grantsburg, and I meet the Rotarians once a week. Rotary Club helps me to know about community life. While I meet people in the community, I can listen to them and learn about what’s going on in our community Finally, I have moved into this community emotionally and mindfully, not just physically. I have met the people of Jesus in our community, who gave me a warm smile and encouragement, and I have met neighbors who made me feel passionate to help them build a good relationship with God. For example, I am moving into our community deeply with my whole mind and heart. It is my way to live as a Wisconsinite beyond a pastor of the Upper St. Croix Parish. I enjoy my life and my ministry in this community, meeting the people of Jesus and my neighbors. Meanwhile, it seemed the pandemic had passed over, and we could reopen our churches and enjoy seeing each other again.
However, before people come back to the church, we recently heard that our community is in the red zone of the Delta Variant Virus. The Wisconsin Conference of the United Methodist Church recommends wearing facemasks inside the churches, keeping social distances. We are afraid of reclosing our churches. We are also fearful of what our future church looks like. Many members didn’t come back to the church. What will happen in the world? What will happen in the Methodist Church? We don’t know about tomorrow and what the future holds. We just live day by day. However, we know one thing and that is that God is with us. The Gospel of John says, “The Word became flesh and lived among us.” Yes, it means Jesus Christ. As God created all things by His Word, God’s Word is powerful. The Word came to us as Jesus Christ and showed us how much God loves us through Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection. Even though Jesus lifted up heaven, we believe in his Last Words, “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b).
We believe in His promise that he will be with us to the end of the ages. As our faith ancestors overcame severe persecution and disaster to keep their faith, I trust that we can overcome the challenges, difficulties, and dangers we might face because God is with us. Many rumors make people leave the church. Looking at the people who left the church hurt us emotionally and spiritually. I am also hurt when I can’t help people. Whenever I face difficulties in my ministry, I ask myself, “Is this the job for you? Or, is it your way of life?” If I say, “it is my job,” it is easy to avoid the difficulties. However, if I say, “it is my way of life,” I have to live out through the difficulties. I will live through the difficulties I might face in my ministry because it is my life. I encourage you to go together. We can go through all challenges because God is with us. I am more excited than fearful of how God works for us. Let us expect God’s wonderful work for us rather than have fear in what the future brings. God is with us!
Pastor Jenny Lee