Many of you know that I am planning to start study at the Methodist Seminary here in Tallinn this fall. As a part of the admissions process, I have been required to write an essay titled, “Why Do I Want to Study Theology and How Am I Going to Apply It?” I was reading through that paper tonight and thought that it might be good to share on our blog to help describe a bit the journey I have had these past years toward the ministry of healing prayer. I am very grateful to each of you who keep up with us so faithfully, and who are supporting us in every way as we continue in our work here in Christ. Great love and peace to you! Love, Miki
Why Do I Want to Study Theology and How Am I Going to Apply It?
In 2001, I made my first trip to St. Petersburg, Russia as a volunteer with orphans and street children. I went to Russia that first time in order to carry humanitarian aid, to do crafts and play games and football with the kids, and to provide a bit of relief for the staff at the orphanage and shelter at which my team would be working. After that first trip, my husband and I returned almost every year for two to four weeks in order to visit the orphanages and shelters we knew, and to spend time catching up with Russian kids and workers we’d met on previous trips.
In 2009, after much prayer and planning, my husband and I moved our family to St. Petersburg as full-time missionaries. We felt that God had given us His heart for the at-risk children of St. Petersburg, and that He was calling us to give all we had for the work to which He’d called us there. It wasn’t long after we’d moved to Russia, however, that we began to see that the real cause of the orphan crisis in Russia went much deeper than we’d previously understood.
By actually living our lives in St. Petersburg, we were able to grow closer to some of the local workers and volunteers, and to several of the children we’d watched grow up out of the orphanage and shelter system. We began to learn of some of the incredible struggles that these people faced on a regular basis in their desire to make the lives of at-risk children in Russia better. We started to see the reality of the burn-out, and sometimes even hopelessness, that so many of them felt about there being any chance of real change or healing in their society.
We began praying about ways that we could be used to provide a bit of relief or support to these workers and volunteers we knew. One of the first, and most important, doors that we saw as an opportunity towards this end was to begin seeking out support from the local church in St. Petersburg in the ministry with at-risk children. We felt that getting local pastors and their congregations involved would not only provide a bit of the support for workers and volunteers we were seeking, but would also be a wonderful opportunity for the church to grow in the Lord as it stepped out to serve in the name of Jesus Christ.
As we approached the different pastors and churches we knew to discuss helping them begin ministry with at-risk children, we learned that almost all of them did have a desire to see their congregations become involved in this type of work. However, we were surprised to hear that almost none of them believed that they could actually be of any value in ministry with these kids. Through several discussions with these church leaders, it became clear that they had become exhausted and even burned out as a result of their ministry with the church. They really could not imagine how they could take on ministry with at-risk kids given how overwhelmed they already were with the ministry they were doing within their own congregations.
Further, we came to understand that many of these pastors and leaders in the church were fighting very intense spiritual and emotional battles in their personal lives as well. Many of them had not had time for spiritual renewal and healing in the Lord for themselves and their families, sometimes for years. Many were battling with recurring physical illnesses as well as spiritual and emotional issues, including unforgiveness, bitterness, depression, and even suicidal thoughts. Over time it became clear that many pastors and church leaders in this region were receiving almost no pastoral care or spiritual food for themselves, and that this was a major element in the ever-increasing numbers of at-risk children living in orphanages or on the streets. We began asking ourselves, “Who is pastoring the pastors?”
It was during this time in our first couple of years of living abroad and coming to know these leaders in the church that I began considering seminary for myself. I thought that in order to be able to truly understand some of the struggles of the local pastors, perhaps I needed to seek a degree in divinity for myself. First, obtaining a degree from the seminary will better equip and qualify me to be able to offer pastoral services to these serving in leadership roles in the church and in other christian charities in the region. I feel it is an additional benefit that I may be able to study in a Methodist seminary located in Estonia as opposed to a seminary in the United States, given that my calling is to serve pastors and Christian leaders from this region. Second, I believe that often ministry is most effective when those offering ministry have lived through the same experiences as those receiving ministry. Since so many of the people to whom I feel called to minister also have experience studying in a seminary or bible school setting, I feel my work with them will be more meaningful if they can see me more as a peer who has also worked through the process of obtaining a degree in divinity.
Specifically, I feel the Lord has called me to a ministry of healing prayer throughout Eastern Europe, working primarily with pastors and leaders of the local church. I sense that the Lord wants not only to bring healing to the leaders of the church in this region, but also to provide them training and tools to equip them to begin praying for healing more confidently in their own congregations and ministries. While I have been gaining experience in this ministry already as a missionary here in Estonia, I feel obtaining a degree in divinity within the Methodist church will provide me a stronger base for understanding the role and life of the church in this region, as well as the strength and authority of the Holy Spirit to provide the healing and renewal so many of the christian leaders here seek.