I have just completed the first year of my role as a church deaconess.
Before you shut me out because you don’t believe that women should serve as deacons in the church, let me just say, if God appointed Phoebe in biblical Cenchrea, then I believe He can still appoint women to serve in this role today. Phoebe was a woman of means who helped support Paul in his mission work and served the early church near Rome. Women had important roles in the early church and, just so you know, the word deacon in the biblical Greek means a waiter, servant; an administrator or minister.
It’s a ministry role, people! And I just happen to like serving people.
I found out years ago when I gave up my self-employment as a decorative artist back in the nineties (that’s the 1990s, f.y.i.) and took a job working in a very historic old-fashioned soda fountain-slash-pharmacy that God has gifted me for service. I loved all that preparing food and making milk shakes and having a laugh-a-day with the customers. I knew the regulars by the sandwiches they ordered. There she is (big smile), my Egg-Salad-Sandwich-On-Toasted-Rye-With-A-Slice-Of-Tomato-And-Don’t-Forget-The-Pickle-And-Chips! Coming right up. How ya doin’ today?
Yes, I happen to love serving. Call me crazy. I don’t care. The service role suits me.
Being a deacon is more than just serving a meal, though. Sometimes the need is more spiritual or emotional. Anyone, really, can be a deacon at heart. I admit I feel very inadequate at times and I tend to berate myself because I don’t feel like I’m doing enough but remembering that the heart of a deacon is really ministry I only need to look to Christ to show me how to minister.
Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.’ Matthew 21:25-28
One of the things I enjoy about ministering is visiting the families placed under my care. When at all possible, my husband and I like to do this together. After all, I’m hearing impaired so someone’s gotta be my ears. Lucky Wayne. The man is a saint.
Before accepting this role, Wayne and I talked and prayed and agreed that we would serve together whenever possible. He makes all my phone calls since I don’t hear well on the phone. He’s actually quite fun to have around. Like when he calls a friend down the street on my cell phone for me and pretends to be me by talking in a high-pitched twiny voice, “Debbie, this is Nina. Are you home? I want to bring you something.” This is the man I married. I’ll love him forever and ever. Amen.
So we were visiting one of my families a couple of months ago. About 20 minutes into the visit, the battery went dead in one of my hearing aids. This was the one and only time I left my purse at home. I always carry extra batteries with me for this very reason. No purse. No batteries. All I could do was remove the hearing aid and stick it in my pocket. In the process of taking it out of my ear, though, the mold fell off the tube and rolled under the couch.
As Wayne was in the middle of sharing a story or joke, whatever…he likes to do both…I got down on my hands and knees searching for the runaway mold. Upon retrieving it I got back up and realized by the looks on everyone’s faces that an explanation was needed. I think my husband said something like, “I can’t take her anywhere.”
I prayed for the family before we left, but I was thinking someone needed to pray for me.
We then walked across the lawn to this family’s parents’ house who lived right next door. Hey, let’s just keep this ministry-thing going like an Energizer battery! ‘Cause we’re still on charge. Just because I was down one hearing aid due to a dead battery was no reason to quit, right?
No sooner had we begun listening-sharing-and-all-that-other-good-stuff, my other hearing aid battery died. I’m telling you, that pink bunny stopped playing the drums right in mid-strike and left me in complete silence. The nerve. Move over you worthless rabbit, I’m switching to the copper-top.
As I took my last hearing source out of my ear and stuck it in my pocket my husband looked at me and, when he realized what had happened, a very Grinch-y smile spread across his face. He proclaimed intentionally loud enough for me to hear,
“OH GOOD! Now we can talk about Nina!”
We didn’t stay long after that. I was afraid that all my dirty secrets would be laid bare before God and everybody by a husband who claimed it was payback time.
You know, the funny thing is, I almost used my hearing disability as an excuse not to be a deaconess. In some ways, I thought it would be a hindrance. How can I effectively minister to the needs of others if I can’t always hear what they’re saying? If I can’t talk on the phone? If I can’t listen and respond appropriately?
But then, I thought about how much I enjoy serving people. I couldn’t always hear the customers when I worked at the soda fountain, either, but I like to think I made up for it with good service. I think the customers liked me as much as I liked them. I did what I could and I always tried to give my best. Isn’t that all our Lord requires of us?
Serving others isn’t about doing it right as much as it’s about doing it well. And what is right, anyway? How I serve may not be how you serve. God uses my gifts differently than He uses yours, but He’ll use us all if we have hearts willing to serve. All He wants is our best. And I can give Him that.
Like Phoebe. I can serve like Phoebe.
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me.” Romans 16:1