What do you do when all your work is done and you have a week to breathe and start to relax?

Do a jigsaw called ‘Impossipuzzle’.

I love to do jigsaws… with a blanket over my knee and my denture soaking in a cup of water! I know that the analogy of a jigsaw and life with God has been done before but it has really struck me how, whilst doing this jigsaw, I have been trying to piece together what God wants me to do in preparation for next year’s placement.

When I started this jigsaw I had a vague sense of what it was of (I don’t look at the cover, it’s more exciting then!) but it was only after I had started and got pieces in place that the pattern became clear. It’s so satisfying when you find the piece that fits and even more exciting when you get lots of pieces fitting in quick succession. It’s frustrating, however, when you cannot find the piece you’re looking for. You try every piece (or at least you think you do) but none of them fit. Is the jigsaw incomplete? Have you lost the piece on the floor or under the sofa? Chances are you’ve not study the pieces close enough.

It’s the same with fitting together this placement. I have a vague sense of what it may look like but as I put things in place and start mapping out the framework I see a clearer direction and focus. It’s satisfying when things fit together, you meet just the right person at just the right time. Sometimes these things happen in quick succession and then there’s a huge gap and you can’t seem to see the next step forward. You question whether you’ve lost your way, or this is not the direction you’re meant to go in. Like the jigsaw piece, you’ve probably not study the pieces close enough.

This week as I try and make preparations for the start of next term, before students head off on holiday, I’ve faced gaps in the vision. The first was a supervisor.

What’s a supervisor for? To speak into and support the placement. This needs to be someone who will open my eyes to things going on outside of my bubble, who will critique and oversee the work. It needs to be someone who has experience of this sort of ministry and who will be there if and when I panic. My tutor has experience of this sort of work and will inevitably support and encourage me, critique my ministry and have a prophetic element to the community. He can’t, however, remind me of the world outside of college as he is part of that and has associations for me. I asked him for his advice and he happened to have had lunch with a guy in Durham that day who has also had experience in community building and Fresh Experiences and was a professional story teller. God’s timing and guidance, or what!

The second gap was a confirmation that I’m being called into Pioneer Ministry. This is a strange gap to have but whilst I happily prepare for next year’s placement, jumping from excitement to sheer anxiety, I have forgotten the practical excuse for doing this at college. The excuse is different from the reason but both are valid. The reason is because I feel called to the theatre community here in Durham and potentially in the future. The excuse, which I need in order to be given time to do it, is to test my vocation in Fresh Expressions.

What would a confirmation of Pioneer Ministry look like? I would like to suggest a clear confirmation would be to have someone come up to me and call me a ‘pioneer’. What is a pioneer?

‘We’re looking for people who combine Christian maturity with a concern for those outside the Christian community; ministers who are willing to learn as they go, try new things and have the vision and skills to develop new communities who do some things differently.’ (Steve Croft, How Do Pioneers Learn?)

This week as I have been praying for a reliance on God and renewed vision for what I’m doing here, I have had one person come up to me and affirm my vision and creative approach to ministry, I have had another person who envied my ability to be shaped by new understanding and learning, and one other person who actually called me a ‘pioneer’ (we were discussing my questions over my gifting for next year…so it doesn’t really count. Shame!) Throughout it all many people have been passionate about the possibility of next year and, although no one can walk the journey with me, i feel really supported by the community.

As I finish the week, having stepped a few more pace down the path marked out for me, I’m aware of the loneliness of this style of ministry and the risk but of equal measure the support, love and prayers of a whole cloud of witnesses; to tip the balance a pleasure and delight of God bursts my questioning bubble again and again and I take each step holding the hand of my Father.

I finished the puzzle tonight! Nothing is impossible, it seems, when you have endurance and take things one piece at a time.