Turning a Ministry Misstep into a Lesson in Reconciliation

Maureen “Mo” Blackmon and two other women on her team eagerly anticipated the following day’s training session. They had been praying and preparing for it for months. After a long wait, they finally had the study material translated into Latvian, as well as plenty of women in place to receive the training that would equip them for ministry in their local churches.

The three women gathered in a small room of the Baptist Union building in Riga for one final prayer session on the night before, to ask God’s blessing on this first ever Latvian-language training session. It was a big deal—the start of something potentially huge and far-reaching. 

Sensing the gravity and importance of the task, Agnese, Mo’s co-facilitator, took the lead in praying. She asked God for wisdom. She prayed for receptive hearts among the Latvian women. She prayed for clear communication.

Turning a Ministry Misstep into a Lesson in Reconciliation

Agnese, caught up in the urgency of prayer, did not stop. The dark-haired, joyful woman had just finished all four courses offered by Entrust, the curriculum Mo’s ministry centered around. Now she was just beginning to facilitate with Mo and was extremely enthusiastic about it. 

Mo waited. Sensitive to the need for everyone to have a turn to pray, she began to feel uncomfortable as Agnese prayed on, asking the Lord to accomplish his will through the training session. It seemed a good place to stop.

Yet still, Agnese prayed.

Finally, Mo jumped in and interrupted with a prayer of her own. She knew they were limited in time. She wanted the other team member to have a chance to pray; after all, giving everyone a voice was one of the principles they taught in the training course. 

As soon as she chimed in, Agnese fell silent.  

The following day, everything felt awkward. The lessons didn’t flow smoothly. Nothing seemed to click. Agnese remained a bit reserved and cool toward Mo, but Mo figured she just hadn’t slept well. At the end of the day, the three women came together to discuss how things had gone and whether they might change anything for the following day’s session.

Finally noticing Agnese’s distant demeanor, Mo asked, “Is something wrong?”

“Yes, Maureen,” replied the normally vivacious and bubbly younger woman. “Something is wrong. I was praying to God. Why did you feel the need to interrupt me?” 

The question hit Mo hard. She and Agnese had known and loved and trusted each other for years. Mo, a global worker with Greater Europe Mission, had been one of the Latvian women’s  teachers through all the Entrust courses. She knew that the Latvian Christian culture was much more formal than North American culture. Now she chided herself for failing to realize that to interrupt someone communing with God was incredibly disrespectful. How could she forget that North American ideas about time and taking turns don’t always transfer to other cultures? 

Immediately, Mo owned her mistake. She sensed the Holy Spirit leading her to apologize and ask for Agnese’s forgiveness. Agnese forgave her. They cried together, acknowledging their roles in the incident. All three women were a bit shaken up, but the confessions of cultural insensitivity––and the forgiveness and understanding that followed––were necessary for the ministry to continue.

Still, Mo feared the conflict might not be fully resolved. 

As the next day went on, it became clear that Agnese had indeed forgiven her. Everything went smoothly. Women taking the course even approached Mo and Agnese to say how much better things were going. None of the other women had any knowledge of what had happened between Mo and Agnese, but one of them said, “Today feels completely different from yesterday.” Another remarked, “Today feels much lighter!” 

Mo and Agnese knew why.

“What I find significant about that incident,” says Mo, “is that Agnese is an extremely influential woman in Latvia. As the head of women’s ministry for the Baptist Union in that country, her willingness to promote the training program and carry it forward was going to make or break the success of the ministry.”

“We stood at a pivotal crossroads, and the whole thing almost blew up because of my error. Yet, in humbling myself and confessing my wrongdoing, and in Agnese choosing to lay aside hurt feelings and forgive, we paved the way for women’s ministry in Latvia to take off and soar.

“I take no credit for this. It was the work of the Holy Spirit.”

–Mo Blackmon (pictured with Agnes, right)

Today, the Entrust material, taught through in-depth annual training seminars, is the main source of Christian leadership training for Baptist women all across Latvia. Through Agnese’s influence, a fully Latvian Entrust team has formed, and Mo, who now lives in Canada, serves as a consultant. She returns to Latvia once a year to facilitate training sessions together with the Latvian team.

“It could have gone differently,” Mo reflects. “But today, Agnese is a lead facilitator with Entrust as well as a hospital chaplain. She touches the lives of many, and through the popularity of the Entrust material, women all over Latvia are also reaching others with the gospel.”

If you would like to know more about women’s ministry in Latvia, contact [email protected].

About the Author: Jenny Garrity is a Storyteller with Greater Europe Mission. Jenny and her husband Kim joined GEM in 1984. They have served in Germany, Belgium, and most recently, Greece in response to the refugee crisis.