By Audrua Malvaez
For the first Sunday in years I was awake and dressed hours before I needed to be at church. The clock ticked to 8 am as I walked into the emergency room of my neighborhood hospital. As I tried to keep the nausea under control and communicate my symptoms to the nursing staff, my phone sat silent.
Five hours earlier, I had given up hope of rallying through the pain and making it in for Sunday school and services. At 3am, I texted my senior pastor and let him know I wouldn’t be in. At 7:45am, I let the rest of the staff know my pain had reached critical mass and a trip to the hospital was inevitable. One text to a Sunday school teacher and all my Sunday morning responsibilities were taken care of. I could ignore my phone, focus on the doctors, and get the help I needed.
Over the next two weeks, my time was spent in and out of doctor’s offices, hospitals, and surgery centers in order to remove three kidney stones. I barely had the time or the wherewithal to walk into my office, much less run our Wednesday night program and Sunday morning Sunday school.
I’ve only been at my church for 9 months. I inherited a program that is thriving, full of active, caring adult volunteers that are passionate about the dedicated and remarkable teenagers that walk through our doors each week. When I had resigned myself to taking a sick day that Sunday morning, I knew that my students were in good hands and that my adults were well equipped. When I faced the possibility of needing a surgical procedure on a Wednesday afternoon, I didn’t hesitate because I knew my adults could handle it without me. It is by God’s prevenient grace that I was in this place for such a time as this!
Through this adventure, I learned a few things along the way. For example, I am keenly aware of the level of nurturing and care my volunteers need from me. This is not something I’m good at. I’ve been in that struggle, pulling teeth to get volunteers to show up just once, much less trying to get them to lead weekly. I have these incredible volunteers that someone before me did the work to recruit. I have to be acutely aware to not take them for granted and to make sure their needs are met and that they are fulfilled and equipped to lead – with or without me.
It’s also important to have an emergency plan. I was out of commission for the better part of two weeks. This wasn’t like maternity leave or taking time off to get married. It was sudden and it was overwhelming. I was very lucky that this happened in September, a time I intentionally clear of Big Things after the summer rush. Again, by virtue of the program I inherited, I had planned months in advance for weekly programming. Without needing to think, I had curriculum and a game together, with student and adult leaders ready to take the helm. Planning ahead for weekly events hasn’t been my jam, but by maintaining the precedent established for me, it meant ministry continued.
Moving to another city has taught me a lot about myself, and this semester I am most thankful for the lesson in planning ahead, communicating efficiently, and having an emergency plan together. While I am extremely grateful for the support I had, I’m crossing my fingers that my next ministry lesson will include fewer needles.