a good question
(**WARNING: EXUBERANT VERBOSITY CODE ORANGE ALERT**)
So, I have been asked more than once over the last year questions of the following nature:
"Why did you go all the way to Romania just to teach a few American kids?"
"Are you disappointed that you are over there and are not doing any real ministry?"
"You're life looks like The Sound Of Music...I thought you were a missionary."
"Are people expected to pay for you to romp around in the mountains of eastern Europe?"
...and many others like them. Now, I should say that ultimately I am thankful for these questions, because they do force me to think about what I am doing here, the validity and reality of my calling from God, and what it means to be a "missionary (which is a word I am growing to dislike for various reasons)."
I have been thinking recently about my epitaph, if I even have one. Don't read too much into this. I don't know why I've been thinking about it, but it might have something to do with the way I semi-inadvertently angered one of my gypsy neighbors...who came looking for me the following day...who found out where I lived and watched for me to come out on my balcony in the morning so he could entice me to come down and "talk." Yeah right. But like I said, I am not ready to attribute recent, divergent thought patterns to anything in particular that has been going on in my life.
But concerning the epitaph, I was wondering if I would be disappointed (insofar as anyone could possibly be disappointed with such a thing) if my epitaph read Nicholas Ireland did nothing remarkable his whole life. Now, that sounds pretty awful to have inscribed in stone over your head for eons, but consider the alternative (remember, I am already stretching to say that I am going to be looking back and judging my tombstone for myself)--the alternative is for your epitaph to say something like: Nicholas Ireland fed zillions of people, drove the final philosophical nail into postmodernism's coffin, and saved a drowning man (perhaps it will also include the passing comment that he resisted for three weeks throttling the dog that would not quit yapping outside his bedroom window for hours on end every night, as it is doing now). Let's say that somehow I held on to enough money for my dearly beloved to write all that on a granite block, I have a hard time believing that I would not look back on it and say, "That's it!?"
Yet, I stray from the point (thanks for hanging on this long). To tidy up this one that I am in the middle of, what I am saying is that it is great to do great things, but it is also not bad to look back on a life of remarkably consistent, unnoteworthy living. What if all I do is love my wife, my kids, my neighbors, and my God? Furthermore, as I read Eusebius' Church History, it seems that the heroes of the church for three hundred years were pretty normal people, some of whose names we don't know, others whose books no longer survive, others who were just soldiers or farmers or servants.
Now, back to Romania (and the yappy dog from hell...the YDH, as I call him). If I leave here having "only" served in a supporting role, so to speak; if I leave here having only enabled some other or others to be about the business of building Christ's church, against which the gates of hell will not prevail, then I will not consider it a waste. I love my job, and I do not think that answering a real call on our lives precludes great satisfaction and even joy. In fact, it probably enhances it. So, for right now I am thrilled to be exactly where I be: teaching some kids who got over here and realized that they did not have the educational option they thought they had, building relationships with Romanians who need to hear the gospel before they realize that they are falling and have nothing to grab hold of, and toiling to see churches planted and thriving who will carry this message to more of those who have not heard than I could ever possibly reach. Nothing remarkable, but good, all the same.