Shadows and Dust
Reflections on a GAP year in London
By Dallas Burkholder
The stuff of
I remember the excitement and uncertainty of the weeks leading up to my journey to London, and the joy at finally meeting the men and women with whom I would spend the year of voluntary service for Koinonia, an evangelistic outreach to university students in London. There were high hopes and dreams of the fall when there was a full academic year of potential before us, and an endless number of things we could accomplish for the Lord. I remember the bleak gray of winter when it took significant will power to roll out of bed and head to the Tube – London’s public, mostly underground train transport system – and prepare for another day in what seemed like an endless string of meetings – staff planning meetings, prayer meetings, small group meetings, endless meetings. Yet in the midst of all these memories one thought stands out – Koinonia today looks pretty much the same as it did when I joined a year ago. What difference did I make?
I had decided to spend a GAP year in London because I believed that was what the Lord was calling me to do. And today I still believe that. It's just that I thought he was calling me here to make a difference. I naively expected Koinonia to look drastically different as a result of my having served for a year. I had heard one too many stories of GAPers that had been made legends by time and fond memories, and I was expecting to follow in their formidable footsteps. But there is definitely nothing that I can point to and say “that’s the stuff of legends.” I felt for the forsaken Roman warrior Maximus in the movie Gladiator, who was on a fast track to glory and success, but lost it all in a flash and was exiled into slavery in a desert wasteland. I felt like I was in an arid spiritual environment and yet helpless to do much about it. But I remember the words of Maximus’ mentor as the gladiator slave enters the arena to fight once again, “We mortals are but shadows and dust.” Oddly enough I find those words quite comforting.
are merely shadows and dust
And it’s not only in others that I have seen the Lord at work. When I made the decision to come to London I expected the Lord to shape me as well, and in that I have not been disappointed. My trust in the Lord has been dramatically deepened. I've been stretched and pulled beyond what I thought I could handle and found that God's strength is sufficient. I've been asked to serve in areas where I knew I had no gifting, and seen that God can use me anyway. I've had to leave countless situations in his hands and trust in his provision, not only for myself, but also for those I care about – a task I find much more challenging. How marvelous, how wonderful that God can do such things with me, mere shadows and dust.
God could have
What an honor to be a part of what the Lord is doing. What a comfort
to know that the power to do the work we are asked to do comes not from
ourselves, but from God alone. As I prepare to start my work anew each
day of normal non-GAP life, I reflect on these things and take heart. God
wants to work in and through people who cooperate with him and rely on
his strength. I try to let the God who is in control of history itself
direct my work, and it is he, not I, who is responsible for the results.
All that he requires is that I remain in him and make myself available
to do his work. I can think of no other work so rewarding. We mortals are
but shadows and dust. How amazing that God chooses to use such insignificant
people in a work with eternal consequences.
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