This is a post sent to me by Christal Haner, a dear friend of mine from New York. She writes about her family’s move from pastoral church ministry back to the mission field.
For those of you who know my husband, it should have come as no big surprise that God has called him into a cycling ministry. PERFECT fit. It makes sense that a guy who races in triathlons and built his own bike would be called into a ministry that uses cycling to share Jesus.
But how does Christal fit into this ministry? You know, I ask myself that question a lot. You see, when God called Nick to join Ends of the Earth Cycling, he didn’t call me to follow my husband. He called me to join Ends Cycling. I love my husband and I would have supported him in this new adventure but that is not what God asked me to do. You see, from the beginning God was working to find a way to meet my heart’s desire: to minister beside my husband, not behind him.
I have always, from my earliest memories, wanted to be a missionary. I have always wanted to share Jesus with everyone I meet. I went to Johnson University with my heart set toward full-time missions work. I met a man who shared the same passions and who respected my calling and I married him. For 8 years we ministered together as church planters and missionaries both domestically and abroad and I loved it. I loved partnering with him, I loved being his equal, problem solving together, working on a team, and I loved being us.
Enter traditional church ministry. “Us” changed. You see, in the traditional church ministry set up, the husband gets hired as pastor and his wife gets a new title: “Pastor’s wife.” She still has responsibilities, she still has to meet expectations, she is judged and betrayed – but she has no say. She gets to have conversations with her husband about the incredible amount of stress he is under but she now has no way to help him. See, in the past when we worked together, if one of us was overloaded, the other would pick up the slack: teach the lesson, choose the songs for worship, make the food, etc. Without the traditional view of church hierarchy getting in the way, without the expectation that the only person who should preach is the man getting paid, we were able to be honest about how we were feeling and then do something about it. It was a healthy way of doing ministry and it allowed us to be the living, breathing version of the church, not only with each other but with our broader church community.
This healthy version of ourselves has been dormant for years as we have willingly lived as “pastor” and “pastor’s wife.” And every day for the last 5 years I have felt little pieces of myself die. I was not made, I was not commissioned to be defined by my husband’s job. I was made and commissioned to be a missionary. I was made to share Jesus with everyone I meet. I was made to love broken people, lost people, hurting people. I was made to tell the stories of people who have been forgotten and to be their advocate. I was made to encourage the warriors who are weak and lonely. And I was made to do it beside my husband.
Why is Christal joining a cycling ministry? Because I was made to do it. This ministry allows both of us to live out of their greatest strengths: Christal in her pastoral heart and world missions and Nick in his pastoral heart and cycling. Every day I get to wake up and work alongside my husband to effectively bring the gospel to youth all over the world. Every day I get to hear stories of what God is doing in the world and share those stories in a unique way, through a cycling ministry. Will I learn how to cycle along the way? Hopefully. Will I support my husband while he rides? Always. Will I let myself be pushed back into the corner of being Nick’s wife who helps with his ministry? Never. God has created me to be much more than that.
If you would like to learn more about what Christal and Nick are doing, visit their missions webpage!