The Ministry of Pain

Tea Time
Tea Time

The St. George’s outreach team left on Saturday, and I miss them already. I had a wonderful time being with my St. George’s family in Johannesburg and Cape Town; it was very special to share my adopted country with my church family. I particularly enjoyed the moment when my two good friends Martha and Agatha came over for tea.

In many ways, however, this South Africa outreach trip was the hardest one for me. In Johannesburg, we visited the mother whose house we had helped to rebuild several years ago. Our friend recently discovered that she was HIV positive; the pain was fresh, and she wept in the arms of a mutual friend as she told us how she discovered that she had HIV. On the same day, we had some more sad news. The teenager who was the head of a household we had helped a few years ago was in a downward spiral. The state had taken away her younger brothers and sisters, and her HIV had developed into AIDS.

In Cape Town, we found ourselves in an unfortunate situation that caused a local community leader in an informal settlement to “lose face” among his community members. Although the situation was not of our making, we were not totally without blame, and we sat in silence listening to the community leader express his hurt, the pain etched solidly on his face.

“The ministry of pain” is how I would describe this outreach trip, and it is a ministry we can all learn. In my American culture, we don’t deal well with pain, suffering, or grief. We are taught to “get over it,” “move on,” “rise above it,” “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” Seeing someone express grief or pain makes us feel awkward, powerless, uncomfortable. We don’t know what to do; we don’t know what to say. I’m a people pleaser, and I like to fix situations; so I particularly struggle in this area. However, with God’s help, I’m learning that it is more important to just be there with someone who is suffering than to say or do anything. The gift of presence is a healing source. It is a lesson that I’m praying to learn so that I can live more faithfully in both my adopted and native countries.

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12 thoughts on “The Ministry of Pain

  1. This is powerful Nicole. We always do want to put a happy face on everything but the reality of much is this fallen world is pain and suffering. I know one time when I was suffering I was ministered to most by a quiet hug from a little boy with tears in his eyes.The “gift of presence” is an inspired name for this.

  2. Martha Rodes

    As usual, you have hit the nail right on the head, Nicole. I feel blessed to have spent time with you this week and to have gone through these painful but powerful experiences with you and our wonderful group. We miss you, but you’re in our prayers daily!

  3. Gerrie Grimsley

    This blog entry hits home with many of us, I’m sure. It certainly does with me, as I too am one who wants to fix everything so that all will be happy and comfortable again. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on the ministry of pain. Nichole, I must admit that I am a bit confused about your comments concerning
    having helped a mother rebuild her house “several years” ago. Were you in South Africa on a mission trip several years ago? Somehow I missed this, but it makes sense that you were perhaps “called back” after having spent some time there earlier. But, no matter how it happened, I praise God for your faithfulness in going where he has led you. Continued blessings, my friend!

  4. Nicole,
    You’ve expressed what we all felt this past week, with few words, but powerful ones. You are right on that often it is our presence that heals the pain, far more than any words or actions.
    Thanks for faithfully looking at our most innermost thoughts. May you continue to enrich the world with your observations.

    Blessings,
    Agatha

  5. Jennifer Taylor

    Nicole: I am amazed at your ability to distill some of our experiences down to their essence. You have a real gift. I pray I can do the same in the coming days and weeks as I begin to really process what we saw, did and shared in South Africa. Please know that you are in our prayers and we will be thinking of you, especially during this Holy Week when I know some many of our lessons will be illuminated even further. Take good care and God Bless! xo jennifer

    1. Thanks so much, Jennifer. I’m so glad you came to South Africa! It was real special to meet you and to spend time with you and your family. I’m in awe about how well your family adapted. I’ll be praying for you guys as you continue to process the trip. Much love to you and your family.

  6. Cynthia B. Paschal

    As always, Nicole, I am grateful to receive your updates. Your powerful honesty and love are an inspiration to me.

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