Blog from Kristy Engel (02.01.20)

Relationships Matter

Let me first say, THANK YOU! The generosity of my Parkway family has again reminded me why I have made this my home. Not only was there a great financial gift given with the missions offering, but members of the church came together quickly to help meet the needs of myself and my traveling companions when our schedule changed. I continue to thank God for you.

As you may know, I just returned from a two month journey around the world, looking at healthy outreach models with two young Australian women, Meg and Aleisha. As seems to always be the case with my travel, it was full of changes, re-routings and always the need for flexibility. But, beyond everything, we learned one consistent thing: Relationships matter.
The countries/cities we visited were, greater Atlanta, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Amsterdam and Bangladesh. We were originally supposed to visit Bolivia, Lebanon and India but each of those locations erupted in civil unrest and we had to make changes to the itinerary to stay safe and allow the partner organizations to focus on local issues, not visitors!

During each visit, we had opportunities to sit down with missionaries or leaders of outreach organizations, pastors and recipients of ministries. One common theme that came up, again and again, was that relationships matter. Yes, it is important to have integrity, to listen to the community you serve and to dedicate yourself to your calling, but these all lead to building healthy and good relationships. This is what will change our world.

Many times, we saw that there was very little that a ministry could offer beyond simply walking alongside a community in need. Most ministries lacked sufficient funding to change the current situation they faced but they partnered with communities in spite of poor funding. This partnership relied on non-monetary resources the community could provide like experience, education, community wisdom, natural gifts and dedication in the face of great challenges. For example, people gifted with financial understanding trained others in how to manage savings and then use these savings to start small businesses. Others, gifted in teaching, opened schools and community centers where a marginalized group could receive appropriate education and training. Still others simply stayed where God had called them, to support the people around them with a kind and wise presence.

In each of these situations, those serving continued to say, “I didn’t choose this…I would have done something different (easier!)…but I listened to God. God told me to stay and follow the Lord’s path, not my own.” As a full-time missionary, I understand this. There have been many times that I wish a less tumultuous walk was ahead of me. Meg and Aleisha were able to hear firsthand stories of the trials and journeys that missionaries face. It was eye-opening for them and gave them a greater understanding of what being a servant means.

I was also able to revisit many friends and colleagues along the way. I saw previous patients I’ve worked with and ate meals with people who were family to me for many years, especially in the Dominican Republic. I was blessed to share these relationships with Meg and Aleisha. These were friendships cultivated over decades…some as I was simply present during tragedies or suffering and some as we studied the Bible together over the years. It was such a gift to have time to simply “be.”

I was often brought to tears as my friends shared stories of our time together and they told Meg and Aleisha how important presence is. At the time of the events they spoke about, I know I was never thinking of the future, only the present and what I had to offer. Yet, offering what I had was exactly what God needed from me.

A long time ago, when I was a child, someone told me: “The most important person in the world is the one standing in front of you. Treat them that way.” I have tried to live my life by that creed, which I believe was how Jesus treated people. It is also what we learned over and over again on our trip around the world. Relationships matter. Presence matters. We must live a life that values people for who they are to Jesus…not how the world quantifies or qualifies them.
May you be present today!