boston commoner.
welcome home


Beginning. Again.

Filed under: — jen d @ 1:11 pm

Well, the apartment is coming along. Over the holiday weekend, I managed to move in a rather large futon without putting any holes in the stairwell walls (I’m on the third floor of my building); I also brought lots of pumpkins, which are now strewn about my floor and table tops and looking nice and homey. On Wednesday I went on a huge shopping spree at Pier1 and found the perfect rug, drapes and throw pillows and some nice (sale-priced) chairs so that people can sit down when they come over, which is always nice. It’s coming together, and as soon as I move those chairs and some other odds and ends in, I hope to post some pics.

It’s fun to have a new place. Or, any place, I should say, as it is my first. It’s been a year since I returned from Europe. I wasn’t originally planning to stay around Boston for so long. To be honest, I thought I’d be back in Greenville by now getting my Master’s degree in English. As it is, I was all set to go back in January. It just seemed like the logical next step, and to be honest, I enjoy studying and liked the idea of being up to my ears in books again. Literary books, especially. I’ve always loved writing and literature; almost as far back as I can remember, I imagined having a career and a life revolving around books and traveling.

I’ve done some traveling, but the literary dream continues to elude me. I started my undergrad in Publishing, but after a semester I switched to Biblical Counseling. There were many things going on in my life at that time that prompted the decision, and if I had to do it over again, I’d make the same choice. That first semester provided a sudden influx of Bible study courses, chapel services, solid, challenging preaching in a local church, and a variety of other venues through which my appetite for God’s Word was whet. God was busy working in my heart, opening up a deeper relationship with Him through that Word; He was also busy working through and in my relationships with others. At some point, I began to pray about ministry. I wasn’t ready for it, as far as I could see, but I wanted it in an almost tangible way. I was experiencing His goodness, mercy, forgiveness, and power to truly change my heart, where it mattered most; I began to taste the markable difference between a life that focuses on self and failure, and a life that focuses on Christ and victory through and unto him. I also began to realize that many around me were not living in that wonderful reality, and I wanted to share it with them. The opportunity to learn how to do that more effectively was at my fingertips, so I grabbed it. I knew a BA in Biblical Counseling wouldn’t land me a high-paying job, or even any job at all; truthfully, I had no idea where the move would take me. But I made it with the confidence that it wouldn’t go to waste. Throughout my counseling courses, I was challenged more concerning my own sin and spiritual shortcomings than I was about dealing with those of others, and I still had–and have, I’m sure–many failures ahead of me. But I completed the program, still unsure of what I’d do next, but not really concerned about that.

Then the opportunity to go to Germany came up. I was graduating a semester early, and my German teacher told my class about an Au Pair position in the Hamburg area that would need to be filled in January. I was the only student who showed any interest, and I got the job. I was glad to know what I was doing for a year, and was already thinking about going back to the university for grad work upon returning. I left the country full of anticipation: I had already been given the contact info for a mission church in Hamburg; the family I’d be living with and working for were unbelievers. The ministry opportunities were vague, but imminent, and I was sure I’d have a triumphant year.

Pride goeth before the what?

I fell pretty hard in Hamburg. I won’t go into the details here, but I wish I could go back and relive those first few months in Hamburg and make better decisions. But however disappointing my own actions and attitudes were, the Lord used that time to humble me greatly, to show me that I am not the Savior of the World, but that He is…and He is my Savior. He used the church family in Hamburg, and one missionary family in particular, to remind me once gain of His love and forgiveness.

Much happened that I can’t begin to detail. The end of the story found me in Salzburg living with another missionary family for my last 3 months abroad. That was also a time of testing. Even in that beautiful Austrian city-scape surrounded by friendly believers, I found myself homesick and lonely, and eventually severely ill. Going home–first to Hamburg, and then eventually to Massachusetts–was thus so much the more a joyous occasion.

But as I said before, I wasn’t planning to stay for long. However, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to return to school after all, so I waffled on my plans and chose for the time to do nothing but work, eat, and sleep. With few other immediate alternatives, the joy of homecoming wore off and I grew restless. I wasn’t at home in any churches in my immediate vaccinity, and knew I needed to find a new one or I’d stop going altogether. Years earlier, a chapel speaker at the university had mentioned a new ministry in the Boston area. He didn’t give the pastor’s name or, that I recall, the church name, but he endorsed it and wanted us to think to pray for it. Boston is not an easy place to start a true Bible ministry, but such ministries are desperately needed.

I remembered the speaker saying that the church was meeting on Newbury St., a well-known shopping district in Boston. I figured it should be easy enough to locate, but had no luck online. I had mentioned to some people that I was looking for a church in the Boston area, but didn’t say I was seeking a specific ministry. One day, a friend in Hamburg e-mailed me, saying that she knew someone in the States who she thought knew a pastor in Boston, and she could put us in touch if I’d like. I told her to go ahead, and before I knew it, I got a personal e-mail from the pastor himself. He encouraged me to visit and gave me the church name and address: the International Baptist Church of Boston/ 150 Newbury St., Boston. The ministry was about 4 years old, which is about as long ago as I’d first heard of t in that chapel service back at school. It took that long and a friend in Germany to finally find a church just 25 minutes away from my home!

But the Lord leads and has reasons for His timing. I won’t pretend to know exactly what those are, but I know that by the time I made it through the doors of IBCB, I was ready to be there. I had lunch with the pastor’s family that very first Sunday, and spent the afternoon visiting with them until the evening evangelistic Bible studies began. I felt at home immediately, with the doctrines, the atmosphere, the people, and–surprisingly enough–with the location. Each Sunday I made my trip into Boston, and each time, I had the strangest sense that I was going home. I’m not trying to be mystical, just simply to point out that while I’d liked Boston to a certain degree while growing up. I’d never had such an affinity for it as I suddenly experienced. Being involved in a thriving, up-start ministry in Boston’s very core had opened my eyes to the city in a very new way. I was falling in love.

I joined IBCB in April, right before Easter, and right before visiting the university. While on that trip, I ran into a former professor of mine, and we got to chatting about future plans and current locations. He was thrilled when I told him I was in Boston, and wanted to put me in contact with a young couple who were moving up there in the near future. I e-mailed him later for that contact info, and in the process, told him about my tentative desire to continue my studies on the Master’s level. He encouraged me to seek the Lord’s will, but also offered to aid me in making the right contacts to see if my return was even possible. It was. At the time, it seemed like a green light, so I formally applied, was accepted, confirmed my reservation for January—and promptly began to doubt my decision.

My pastor didn’t discourage me to go back. But rather, he began to encourage me on a regular basis to consider the ministry possabilities in Boston. My growing affinity for the city, my thriving relationships with both the believers and unbelievers who attend our various studies and services, and my interest in the ministry generally, and specifically at IBCB, lead him to believe that I’d be a prime candidate for getting more involved and more committed–possibly even in full-time service. While I hardly feel adequate for that, I have to confess that as he encouraged me to consider staying, I found fewer and fewer reasons to go back to school (at least one so far away). I still liked the idea of studying again, and being back in a area full of old friends and other thriving ministries–but I’d fallen in love with Boston and its people, too. Maybe even more so. So what was the harm in at least postponing my reservation until the fall? Financially, postponing might even be beneficial; I wouldn’t be wasting time if I contnued to work on correspondence courses to fulfill my deficiencies; spiritually, there was nothing I’d be gaining there that I wasn’t getting here, and in Boston I had more opportunities to offer something.

So what was stopping me from trying it out for a year?

I asked myself that question and came up with this answer, printed in bold italics across my mind’s eye: I don’t want to tell everybody that I’ve changed my mind…again!

And that was it. My pride. I was tired of getting excited about one plan, making a decision to pursue it, and then changing my mind at the last minute…and having everyone know about it. But if that isn’t one of the worst reasons to keep heading down what might be the wrong path, I don’t know what is.

So I decided to check out a different path, without telling anyone! I started sneaking around online, looking for available apartments. One day I was directed to a more obscure Boston realty site, where a small apartment in my price range was listed. I was surprised because it was listed as a one-bedroom, and usually those don’t go for any less than $11 or $1,200/month. I figured it must be a lousy location, but when I checked an online map, it turned out to be literally just a few blocks down the street from my church. That is, in a great neighborhood, in the center of things, in close walking distance to the very ministry that was holding me in Boston in the firstplace. And I could afford it? It seemed to good to be true. But I decided to at least see the place.

The bedroom was small. It wasn’t a brand-new unit, and not particularly spacious as a whole. But it was clean, with plenty of windows. (How many do you need in 300 square feet? Still, it was bright.) It had good water pressure and decent appliances. It seemed to be worth more than I would be paying for it, considering again the excellent location. After some paperwork and a brief conference with my rather startled parents, I was a renter. At one point one of the agents mentioned that they’d just lowered that unit’s price because, for unexplained reasons, no one was interested in taking it. It had been on the market for months. Waiting for me? I like to think so.

So, here I am. Pastor was thrilled. He’s already got some plans devised to make me grow more attached to this place, its people and its ministry: on Saturday morning I meet for the first time with a New England church liaison commitee. The committee’s mission is to minister to the international academic community of New England via various events and programs throughout the year. The international academic community of Boston is the main focus of IBCB’s ministry, and the reason my pastor and his wife decided to come to Boston in the first place. Should be an interesting meeting. We’ll see if there’s indeed a place for me on it. (It’s not really up to me.)

So, these are my beginnings. Or, rather, the next series of them. Once again, things have taken a sudden turn away from the expected: not just in the external circumstances, but within my own heart. I never expected to want to stay here, or to want to put educational plans on the back burner for the time being, once they’d finally been finalized. I didn’t expect to find a spiritual home in one of the most spiritually cold, politically liberal cities in America. But the Christian life, it seems, is full of the unexpected, and the plans we make are only ever at best hanging on thin, muslin strings. It’s good to know that the plans He makes were, are, and will remain written in stone for all eternity.

Here’s to beginning. All over again.

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