GFA has been accused of shunning people. While we were working there we could alway explain away this behavior. I did find it odd tho let me explain. One day I ran into old friends who had been asked to leave the ministry. It was outside of Hobby Lobby. I greeted them and we talked for 5 min there was an awkward silence. I had so many prying questions I wanted to ask but I didn't. I didn't know what to do I felt like Hey this was my very good friend... and Hey they left GOD'S CALL the shame they must feel.... After the prerequisite awkwardness set in they went in the store. I only just heard from them a few weeks ago... a decade later. To my shame now, I felt I was doing the right thing at the time.
Part of my brain said this lack of interaction is like a venn diagram. When we worked together the overlap was high, and when we stopped working together they barely touch.
But the message we got over and over at GFA was one of looking inward. Many times I have sat in Prayer meeting hearing the same message. Your spiritual cup is only so full, if you pour it all out at your local church, or if you pour it into your family back east, or if you pour it into ______, you will run dry. One cannot minister to all these people and still do the work of the Lord. You will get burnt out. This messaging was so strong to us that:
My knight and I went and asked permission from leadership before taking a parenting class at our church.
We rarely volunteered to help at our church.
For a season we quit going church.
I quit an online bible study...
Our first year I went into a leaders office (our mentor) and asked about a tiny ministry I was doing at home. When I first arrived at GFA I was mentoring 5 people though an online bible study. I checked their answers and just checked in with them via email. Five to 20 minutes a day was spent on this activity. I had 6 more weeks of "mentorship" (180 day program) and I actually would have received hours towards a counseling certificate, when I (and they) completed the course. My obligations to them would then be fulfilled. When I explained the situation to my mentor at GFA, he informed me I could only have one ministry: GFA. I needed to go home and break ties with this program. I was so sad but I obeyed and dumped all my students on to my class leader which caused her difficulties.
I was so eager to be apart of GFA I never questioned this request of my leader he must be right he's been working here forever... there was a part of my mind that said "It's just 6 more weeks, if you had said nothing you could have finished and not felt so guilty about the whole situation." I have to admit I did not have "peace" about it but I obeyed because well obedience was preached so consistently.
Another message GFA preached was "Don't spent to much of your time away from the ministry activities." The inference was that you will basically get infected by The Greedy American Church mentality. If you spend time with them you will want what they have. There is enough truth to this to make it stick like gum to the bottom of your shoe. If you spend time with "others" you might catch Americanism, and stop desiring to "live simply" as if people outside the ministry are infectious. One day my hubby and I were invited to a double date on a Saturday night. It was so much fun! Our song played and My hubby and I got up and danced to it, or rather swayed together in time to the music. Our friends took photos and posted the cutest one on Facebook. These friends had left the ministry previously but our connection to them was so strong. We still baby sat for each other and we had not "let them go." as was so typical of our life at GFA. Did we talk about GFA... no we were more into food, fun and parenting.
Monday morning my Knight in Shining Armor is called into his bosses office. He is questioned about his Saturday night activity. Did he understand that some people in the ministry could be upset by his Saturday night companions. This baffled us. I could understand if someone was upset by "dancing" as some denominations do not accept it, but that was not the issue at hand. It seemed that hanging out with likeminded friends who encourage us and bring us joy is the problem. Odd Odd Odd...
The more I contemplate our life at GFA I start to see holes in "The Spiritual Cup" teaching. A message I took from the book Life Time Guarantee by Bill Gillham is that Jesus can do all things through us if we let him. He can give us the means, the energy, the heart. I don't have to do anything but be willing. I'm massively paraphrasing here but do you get the idea? God doesn't need us to do anything for him.
Looking at burn out it's caused by not being filled with the Holy Spirit, not having Joy a gift of the Spirit, but rather doing things in one's own strength. Yes it's ok to say NO to certain church activities esp. if you feel pressured but what about when you have a great desire to cook a meal, sew a costume or teach class. Bing... light bulb as Gru would say... If staying close to the Lord fills me with his strength for the ministry then how can I run out? Yet the staff at GFA is so tired, so busy, so focused, pouring themselves out for the Lord. Gilliam stresses God is supposed to do the work through us, and the act will bring us joy. I can run out if I'm not taking the time to recharge my batteries at the well of the Holy Spirit. Prayer meetings were not bible studies, they did not recharge me... GFA referred to them as Spiritual battles. Geisla once in a Ladies meeting referred to The Holy Spirit as a shower you can get in anytime you run low, I have this in my notes. GFA"s message of if we focus only on the work and our prayer time we will be exhausted but it's all for the Lord. Joy seems to get lost in all the messaging of suffering and focus.
If we can continually be filled with the Holy Spirit filling our spiritual cup... why are extra ministerial activities not allowed? Unless of course I'm not getting filled or striving though my own strength. Why so inward looking GFA? How come the only time I felt was sanctioned to spend with people in church was in fund raising? Why did joy, fellowship, community seem missing from the campus?
During my Moms illness GFA sent cards filled with encouragement, 2 staff showed up for my mom's funeral. I felt very loved. But now the venn diagram is complete, months after we have left GFA I find myself on the opposite side, phone calls are not returned, my texts go ignored. Gossip ran rampant for a while which I should have anticipated. If people do not feel they can communicate with me, then all they have left is conjecture. (I'm so laughing about this one) For the record... I did not take my children to NY as a trial separation... and yes I did come back and have not left my husband. Were still very happy and cute... One shouldn't listen to the gossip of children.
I do care about the friends "left behind" but what can I do but pray for them? Hope they don't see me as Infected with Americanism and that they will keep the lines of communication open. Yet I do see how closed off GFA is from the world, how over worked over tired we were while we were there. I'm grateful to God that he now is giving me a season of rest.