Naomi Tice trained for ministry in a Mennonite congregation in North America, but God led her around the world. After a year in the United Kingdom where government regulations barred visa renewal, the Anabaptist Association of Australia and New Zealand (AAANZ) invited Tice to Australia. Her arrival in mid-January was "a little more eventful than anticipated." Tice reported that within her first days, the water pump died, then the brother of long-time Mennonite Mission Network worker, Mary Hurst, died, and last-minute arrangements had to be made for Tice to move to the AAANZ secretary's home in Canberra for a few weeks while Mary returned to the United States. In this context, Naomi wrote the following blog.
International service was always something I dreamed about doing someday; I just never expected it to happen at this point in my life. But when doors to traditional ministry in the States closed all around me, God seemed to be ushering me through the door to nontraditional ministry overseas. At times I still feel underqualified to do the work I've been called to do; I'm not a professional educator, I'm not a medical professional, I'm not a counselor or lawyer … my training was focused on ministry in a Mennonite church context.
I'm now serving in a land where ministers (instead of lay leaders) are in charge of planning and leading worship services. I don't know 90 percent of the songs being sung in a worship service, and four-part harmony is something only found in choirs or small ensembles! But despite all my perceived inadequacies, God has invited me to play a role within the global church, and every day I am learning something new. I am slowly settling in, building new relationships, learning how to navigate within this new territory—both within the area in which I live, and within the structures of the churches.
Naomi Tice makes American-style buttermilk pancakes for CAMEO’s Pancake Day party. (In contrast to European-style crepes.) Photo provided.
During my time of serving in England, I simultaneously anticipated and dreaded Wednesdays. Wednesday mornings, we had Chrysalis team meetings. It was a time of prayer, reflection, planning and dreaming, interspersed with giggles and a little silliness. But, CAMEO (Come and Meet Each Other) happened on Wednesday afternoons. This was a lunch club our team hosted at a community center. Most of the attendees were older adults who lived on their own. Many of them struggled with mental and/or physical health problems, so they didn't feel welcome at other lunch clubs. A core group of CAMEO attendees would voice concern if someone didn't show up. I enjoyed that aspect. However, certain participants could be a bit of a handful, coming up with unexpected actions and statements. A retired taxi driver was quite amiable, but his flirting got to be a bit too much sometimes. Due to his failing memory, he wasn't always aware that he'd crossed boundaries. Another gentleman, considerably younger than most of the others, was lovely most of the time. But he had a drinking problem and a temper. Conversation was difficult with a woman who struggled with a bipolar and schizophrenic diagnosis. A woman, who had a wealth of information about local history, stuttered, so I had to listen extra well. There were many other participants, each with their own quirks and their own loveliness. I was almost always drained by the end of the afternoon.
My teammate, Angela, and I experienced a real "God moment" one Wednesday afternoon. Jenny and Roger Taylor, the founding members of Chrysalis, were in the midst of a difficult time. Jenny's parents required extra care and Jenny was experiencing a flare-up of atrial fibrillation [irregular heartbeat]. Most of the CAMEO attendees knew that Jenny was having a repeat oblation surgery that afternoon to try to get her heart back to a normal rhythm. B* was especially concerned, so he asked if we could have a prayer for them. Angela and I were surprised, as B was not someone who would cross the threshold of a church for a worship service, let alone proclaim himself a Christian. We were further astonished when B announced, "Right now, everyone be quiet. Angela's going to pray for Jenny."
Although group prayer at CAMEO has not happened again to my knowledge, our Chrysalis team was encouraged by that moment when God's presence was made known in one of the most unlikely people. On most days, B is frustrated with his personal life. He threatens to blow up the bus station because the buses are almost never on time. But I also know that despite his gruff exterior and his constant grumbling, this gentleman has a heart of gold and cares deeply for other people. After all, B gave me cards for all sorts of holidays, including the Fourth of July and American Thanksgiving. When I first started having visa problems, B offered to marry me, so I could apply for a spouse visa. "I'm over 65 and have a free TV license," he said!
*Name withheld for privacy