I got my first church key when I started volunteering at Westport ages ago. I'd be lying if I said I didn't get a small thrill from the importance, but all my best friends had church keys too. One time, Shannon and John and I all used our privileged position to host a private viewing of High School Musical 2 in the sanctuary on the projector because none of us had a TV in our respective living places. We all had a way to get into the church, so it was a no brainer to move a couch from a pastor's office into the front of the sanctuary and settle in. Most of the time I was using my key, though, it was related to serious ministry stuff. Well, "serious" might be an overstatement because I volunteered with the youth ministry for most of those years.
Turning over that church key was oddly difficult when I moved to Germany. I was giving up status as a trusted person in the church, and I was moving to a place where I'd be unknown and have to rebuild my reputation over time. I got a school key when I arrived, but I had few unlocking privileges (which I turned out to be thankful for in the long run). Moving here to Christchurch, I've got the same blank slate in my reputation. I had to report to my physio on Monday that I'd struggled to make it through my workouts. I led with, "You don't know me well enough to know I'm not a slacker..." Fortunately, Mike is familiar with nerve damage and understood that nerve fatigue is a real thing. We adjusted the plan for this week accordingly, and I've worked hard but managed to accomplish my assigned tasks.
While the progress is slow and difficult, I can still optimistically report that I'm on an upward trajectory in my physical progress. I'm incredibly grateful for that.
My internal growth has had a significantly more rapid development with lots of encouraging conversations this past week. One of them was with my friend Chris about how it took moving to another country where students had no idea that I was a popular teacher to realize how much students at Black Forest Academy actually loved me. I'm doing my best to be a resource to the youth group here where none of the students know me, and one of the things I offered was to facilitate study afternoons during the exam preparation weeks. Last Wednesday, I sat for over two hours waiting for the students to want my help before they finally realized when I said at the start, "I'm an English teacher, so I'd love to help if you need to study for that," I actually meant, "I'm an English teacher, so I'd love to help if you need to study for that." For the last hour of the study time, two of the girls went over one of their practice exercises with me, and we talked about how to identify and analyze figures of speech.
I'd been given a key to lock up the church at the end of the study time, and I felt conflicted emotions over my disproportionate usefulness - I'd only been helpful for less than a third of the time that I'd set aside to intentionally pour into these kids. This week was different as I was the point person to open up and close the church, and two other youth leaders had volunteered time to come tutor while studying for their own exams if there was a lull. Four students came, two of whom knew from the previous week I would be there. They'd each brought English work to ask for my help on. One of the leaders even asked for my input on Bible study questions she was working on while none of the students needed her help. I spent a glorious three and a half hours working on essay revisions and textual analysis. As I locked up the door at the end of the study time, I felt a huge sense of satisfaction that I'd been able to offer something to these precious New Zealand teenagers. I know my worth isn't in the usefulness I can offer here, but there's a delight I get to be able to share my expertise. There are still people who I'd love to be a resource to who I haven't had the opportunity to effectively support, but I'm thankful for the trust I do have with the staff who've given me a church key and allowed me to use my gifts here for a season.