Monday mornings, enough said. The worst right? Not too many people that I know enjoy Monday mornings. For some it is the task of realizing that the weekend is over, the alarm clock rings earlier, and there are 5 full days ahead to push through. However, for me I have come to look forward to, even with anticipation, the Monday morning.
Until I came to St. Paul’s UMC the Monday morning for me had been stressful. Did I get enough work done last week? Did I screw up something Sunday? What was I going to encounter during the week ahead? The questions could go on and on, but this all changed once moving to Shawnee and joining the St. Paul’s Ministry Team.
Each Monday morning the Ministry Team at St. Paul’s comes together for devotion and staff meeting. We spend time, sometimes a couple hours, on spiritual formation and then move on to happenings within our church. I enjoy the perspectives that our ministry team offers, I covet this time each week to work on my own discipleship, and I take delight in sharing this time together. It truly is one of my favorite times of the week.
A few months ago during this time we learned of the word aufgabe. By definition this word, a compound word stemming from the German words auf and gabe. Auf meaning task and gabe meaning gift, the meaning of aufgabe is “the gift is in the task”. I very often come back to this word while doing ministry in Shawnee. For Instance, through the adoption of Jefferson Elementary by St. Paul’s and building relations with the students, teachers, and staff, I have come to truly relish this ministry and partnership in our community.
This unfortunately wasn’t always my feeling.
Early on in ministry, while working in Ponca City and for a different St. Paul’s UMC, I could be found wandering the halls and high-fiving students at Roosevelt Elementary. I was PTA President and Vice-President for a number of years. I worked with parents, staff, teachers, and principles making the school safe, comfortable, familiar, fun, positive, and a place the students could be proud of. I loved my time and relationship with the students and all the staff. They continue to have a special place in my heart.
Since leaving Ponca City in the summer of 2014, I really hadn’t been given the opportunity to work with elementary schools, and to be completely honest I was kind of scared about the idea of getting involved with another elementary school. Could I again build those same relationships? I know that my calling in life is with children and youth. I also know that children and youth need positive relationships. So why was I having anxiety? I don’t know but that was my feeling.
A few weeks ago a team from St. Paul’s, including your Ministry Team, filled bags in OKC at the Kaleo Foundation. These bags contained snacks, drinks, even stuffed Minions, to be given to the children at Jefferson Elementary. I knew that eventually these bags and this project would be handed off to me. So fast forwarding a little, the day came for us to deliver these bags to the children. I had prepared myself for this and was, under my own understanding, been given a task. Often times we consider a task to be something of a job or duty, something we don’t give much thought about. This was my thought.
On that day I entered the school, met up with the counselor, and began to enter rooms full of students, bags in hand. With a smile on my face and an introduction of my name and who I was with, I told each room of children that we loved them. At that point that was what it was. It was out of love that we were caring for these children, telling them that we were proud of them for the great work they did this school year. It was somewhat surface level in my head, it was a task.
Now I know that this sound like I am a horrible person but I really am not. I just hadn’t made the connection with Jefferson and these children at this point. I was doing the work assigned to me by God and my call and this was part of that work.
The race continued to get all 330 bags delivered before the bus dismissal. I began to smile a bit more. I began to get joy in my heart. I began to see smiles of these children, even the teachers. In the spirit of true Methodism, my heart began to get strangely warm.
By the time the last bag had been delivered I wanted more. I wanted more smiles, more laughter, more brightness, and more time. More time with the children, to learn their names, their stories, and their smiles.
Since that day, my continued relationship with Jefferson Elementary and with the teachers and staff continues to grow. I enjoy my time I spend in the school. I cherish the time I get to go to the zoo with all 320 students of Jefferson (that’s a story for another time).
What once was a task has turned into such a gift; a gift not just given to the children but to me. I believe it is okay to have a great, positive feeling when giving of ourselves. It is natural for us to want to feel good, to feel like we make a difference, to feel happiness while giving to others. This is the other side of giving; this is the aufgabe, the gift in the task. Whether it is a Monday morning staff meeting, a middle of the week must-do, or a time of volunteering, I hope each of you can find the gift in whatever task you do.