Adriana Kerkstra reflects on 2020 as a ministry trainee:
Last year in September I wrote a short blog post before starting my first year as a ministry trainee. I wrote, “There will probably be tough times and disappointments because, well, we’re on earth rather than in heaven”. Sweet, innocent me. Little did I know what ‘tough times and disappointments’ 2020 would bring… I’m now four months into my second year as ministry trainee and I’m amazed at how God has used this year for me to grow and to serve others.
I almost don’t recognise myself. Because of all the difficulties of this year, I have grown more than I would have thought possible. There have been so many challenges – even before the pandemic, I often found myself stretched. I wrestled with questions around complementarianism and God’s sovereignty. I found it difficult to not overwork which left me feeling either guilty or exhausted. In one-to-one’s people asked questions that made me feel way out of my depth.
And then during the pandemic, all these difficulties multiplied. I suddenly had to deal with COVID-19 not being ‘a thing out there’, but something right here, restricting my every move. My 83-year old granddad tested positive and was hospitalised in March. My blind eyes were opened to the pervasiveness of racism in our society. Most weeks, there was no way of knowing whether church would be on next week, or what it would look like to serve my church family well.
But by God’s grace, these difficulties have helped me to grow. It has been a privilege to go through this year as a ministry trainee, because it has meant that I’m constantly surrounded by wise, godly people and by God’s Word.
This year I had to come to terms with knowing that I don’t have all the answers, and that I can’t stop COVID-19 or quickly ‘fix’ systemic racism. This actually helped me to go from struggling with God’s sovereignty to rejoicing in it. And as I learned how to handle God’s Word, I was enabled to depend on that rather than on myself for answers to very hard questions. I’ve seen people around me go through very significant hardships. It made me realise that it often just won’t do to face things with good old Dutch, down-to-earth realism: ‘Oh well, it is what it is. Could’ve been worse.’ I’ve learned to lament, to feel the pain of a broken world and to just sit and cry with people.
I’ve learnt a lot and that means I can serve others better. As I’m writing this, I’m still feeling the pain of having to cancel my tickets to see my family and meet my baby niece over Christmas. The last few days everyone has felt a mix of sadness and anger about the new rules. Some are feeling cynical as yet another dream is crushed, while others are mostly feeling anxious about this new strain of the virus. But as I processed all of this for myself, and as I chatted to and tried to encourage my parents and church family, I found myself saying things that were actually quite wise and loving. I surprised myself. A year ago I would not have done a good job of handling that at all, even if I might’ve thought I did. By God’s grace, this year has left me better prepared, more helpful, than I was.
It has been hard, don’t get me wrong. I’ve shed a lot of tears this year. There were many tough times and disappointments. But it is wonderful to see how God has intended it for good in my life.