What I Learned from Working in Ministry
Jess Creiglow started working for CSM in 2012 as the Associate City Director in Boston. Shortly after, she moved to Washington DC to become the CSM City Director until early 2017. She left CSM only to return for one last summer in 2018. These are the things God taught her during that time.
I can still remember, in July 2009 when I told my Mom I wanted to become a missionary. I had just come home from a week long mission trip to the Dominican Republic with my church, and I was transformed. I was baptized the day before we came home, and I just knew I had found my calling. I never knew that church could be like that or that the bible could sound like actual good news!
The thing is, I grew up during the time that the news kept reporting about the sexual abuse of children that was happening in the church in my area for over 30 years with no intervention. I became a teenager hearing mostly about how church leaders sexually abused children and other church leaders hid it and enabled it to continue. I also went to a super progressive University and heard so many stories from my friends of how people in churches made them feel unwanted, unwelcome and condemned.
So, long story short, until I walked into that church 10 years ago when I was 22, I can honestly tell you, church never sounded like good news.
BUT! I came home from that trip baptized in Christ, fully committing to living in a way that made this all seem like super great news! I just knew I was supposed to be a missionary. I knew it.
I came home all full of that fire and joy, and was all ready to apply to be a leader with the program we went with. I called my mom and rambled forever about how excited I was to move to the DR and live this wild radical life! And then she said the worst thing I’ve ever heard.
“Well, Jess, if everyone leaves - who stays to makes things better here?”
Ugh. ouch. Gut punch.
The thing that makes it the absolute worst?... She was right.
So, fast forward a few years (I worked in Pharma, did Teach for America in the Mississippi Delta, then worked in Pharma again...) and I hear from a few friends that CSM (who?) has opened an office in Boston (home) and that they’re looking for an Associate Director who loves the city (check) and Jesus (super check) and they think I should apply for it.
That was July of 2012 and it changed my life forever.
I've served with CSM for over 5 years and feel that our role as staff is to stand in the middle ground between the communities we call home - with the organizations that are doing the hard, long term kingdom work - and groups that want to come serve and get to know our neighbors.
I see God in the opportunities for the mission teams to slow down and focus less on outcomes and more on the conversations that they're having with people who are tired and feeling invisible in the often thankless work they're doing for our children and our neighbors who are experiencing real hardship.
I've seen God in having churches with widely different theologies stay in the same home, share rooms, share breakfast together, spend time in fellowship together and find common ground because they are in the same place, loving the same Jesus and experiencing the same hardships.
I've seen God in the group leader who wept after one of our service sites because the kid in rehab grew up in the church and looked like his own son - and that was the first time it hit him that drug addiction does not discriminate based on race or income or family or faith.
I see God move in every shared laugh, every hug, every unexpected moment of connection, every word of encouragement, every heart that breaks even a little for how our task oriented culture has over scheduled our lives and made friendship difficult to fit in.
I see God in the leader who ended up working for a ministry partner as a result of her trip.
I saw God in the group I hosted during the week of the Boston Marathon Bombing - who STAYED. They continued to show up for our neighbors and our community in an uncertain and scary time. They set the bar high for groups for me, because I saw what it means to have a group actually come for the right reasons to be a support, not to use my neighborhood to teach their kids a lesson.
This place has taught me so much about what it means to 'be still and know that I am God.' It's always my sincere hope that we allow the stillness to overwhelm us in this ministry. Because too much movement and pushing on our part and our group's part tends to make our partners feel wary of us, as they're the ones who are committed to this place and our brothers and sisters in this place for the long haul. It's a stillness that my task oriented sensibilities have so struggled against - and one that makes our teams so uncomfortable at times.
Our ministry is one of friendship - and when friends come over and we can work on something together, we grow and weave our lives together! But when a new friend comes over and starts rearranging our house, we wonder just what on earth they think they're doing!
Mostly, I've seen God in the biggest ways in all of the things that seem so boring and normal and small. The things we never think could make a difference.
For me? CSM’s long term impact means so many things.
It was staying in Boston, to be a physical presence of the love of Christ in a sea of physical presences of the love of Christ. To show groups that Jesus is already in that place, and that New England isn’t “Unchurched” and waiting to be saved. Jesus is already there!
It was transferring to DC because it just felt right in my soul to leave everyone I’ve ever known and loved to live in a gross church basement and share a room with my interns for 3 months just before I turned 30 (a truly humbling experience).
I praise God for the ways that he showed up in that brave choice to leave everything behind and follow him in a way that felt as I would imagine a Lemur feels as it follows all it’s friends straight off a cliff.
3 years into my DC journey, a day before I say goodbye to CSM again, I’ve now worked for CSM in DC longer than I did in Boston - and that’s really strange for me. I've missed my home so dearly, and a lot of that hometown pride is fueled by the time I spent showing it off to everyone who came through the doors of CSM there.
My husband Jeremiah and I now own a home here in the District and are digging roots in because of my time at CSM. I work for a ministry partner, part time. I’m slowly de-programming my time so that I can be a neighbor and a friend.
I can honestly say that I’m not sad that the Boston office is closing. My city will take care of their own - just as I hope that all of you reading this will prioritize doing the difficult, thankless work in your own communities!
To every group, every coworker, every host, every partner I have met since my very first day on November 11, 2012, Thank you.
Your short term trip had a long term impact. Even if that long term impact was just on me.
Jess Creiglow Former CSM staff