Working with God

Some of the Knysna and Cape Town teams went to pray at parliament.

Just over six years ago, Milton left campus ministry for the marketplace. Even though he knew theologically that every Christian is called to work and business, God still had a lot to teach him.

This past November I had the privilege of traveling to South Africa to serve as a Kingdom business consultant with Rep. Rep (short for Repurposing Business) trains and consults business leaders and entrepreneurs in aligning their businesses with biblical principles so that societies are transformed and impacted for the Kingdom. I had just finished Rep training earlier that year, and I wanted an opportunity to put my training into practice. I spent two weeks consulting local businesses: facilitating discussions on core business practices, identifying areas where Kingdom impact could be increased and laying out actionable strategies to turn those opportunities into reality.

What Did I See and Learn

Business is Spiritual – While I’ve known this to be cognitively true for a long time, I experienced this truth while in Knysna. Consider the context: Knysna is a struggling resort town, beautiful but lacking any real industry (outside of tourism), losing a business a week, and 90% of the people live at or below the poverty line. The potential of small and mid-sized businesses to bring “good news to the poor” – to have a job to live out your God-given calling – is huge! The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy, and Satan attacked in the midst of this strategic development opportunity. Four days into the venture, our hosts’ parents were brutally murdered. We could have cancelled the rest of the venture, but we chose to press forward instead. Interpret the events how you will, but I saw that this venture was essential to furthering God’s Kingdom and Satan was threatened by that. What I knew in my head became much more real — business is spiritual [warfare] and one of the primary ways God redeems and restores His creation.

Note: One of my teammates wrote a more in-depth account of what happened. Also feel free to browse our team’s blog of the trip.

Business is a platform – One of the greatest deceptions Satan has ever pulled over the church is that work is only a platform – it is only a context to share the gospel and fund true “ministry.” On the contrary, I saw how valuable business is as a setting for Christians to be formed more deeply and completely into the image of Christ. It amazed me to see nominal Christians and even people who were angry with God become transformed and excited about God AND business once they understood:

  • Work is a calling to serve God.
  • There is an abundance of Scripture on work, its relevance, theological significance and practical wisdom for business.
  • Business is a key vehicle God uses to “fill and subdue the earth” and to “seek and save the lost.”

Rep comes into a community seeking to repurpose businesses, but the dirty secret of Rep is that you can’t really repurpose a business without repurposing the leader. In the end, Rep is a discipleship catalyst, helping business leaders see where their work fits into God’s Kingdom and giving them practical action steps to live out their priestly calling. I saw how work and business is often the optimal context for discipleship since it usually does a better job of holistically aligning gifts, calling and experience, instead of trying to pigeonhole individuals into limited service roles inside the traditional church.

One example of this was a real estate couple from Sotheby’s Knysna. Prior to the venture, they were getting ready to leave the business to work on a farm where operations were much more predictable. They couldn’t see the value of their work in God’s Kingdom. But after going through the program, they saw their work as ministry. Specifically, they were excited to learn that theirs is a ministry of hospitality and connection. Providing much more than transactional house-buying services, they can actually care for people by facilitating the community and network development crucial to making a house into a home.

What Next?

The Rep training and subsequent trip to South Africa have been valuable experiences in living out the integrated spiritual life. One of my biggest takeaways is to pray regularly and consistently for daily breakthroughs and miracles in the workplace. In the day-to-day, it’s easy to forget the spiritual nature of work and our dependence on God for favor, success, and transformation. More than the training content, I was blessed and challenged by the culture of dependent and expectant prayer on the trip. I was surrounded by fellow brothers and sisters who modeled and encouraged me in that dependence; they not only understand that work is spiritual, but they also endeavor to prayerfully live out their callings.

Work matters to God. He started it all in Genesis 1 before the Fall, and He grants us the privilege of partnering with Him in His work. Work does not exist just to evangelize to coworkers or to make money so we can support those who do the real ministry. Work is ministry (the Hebrew word for work and worship are actually the same). May we remember our God as we participate in His work to serve our neighbors and create beauty in the world around us.

For more on this topic, I recommend the Rep training and Tim Keller’s Every Good Endeavor.

Milton

Photo by Lyn Johnson

That’s not for me

Matthew grew up thinking missions is “for other people, but not for me.” But God had a different idea.

I grew up in a Christian home, and I became a Christian in sixth grade. At our house, it was important to “be” a Christian, but going to church was not a priority. Thanks to a few classmates who reached out to me, I started to attend a youth group where I was captivated by my Savior, who He is, how I fall short, and how He saved me.

At Resolved Conference 2006, I heard John Piper mention that all Christians should have a heart for the lost, including those overseas. Up until then, I thought missions was for other people, but because I live in the US and am not gifted with people skills, I certainly would not be the right person. I can love the lost from afar, right?

Several years later, shortly after returning to the Bay Area post college, I started attending Maranatha Bible Church. For multiple years in a row, Vince invited me to WCC, but each year, I let the invitation pass. Missions is going overseas somewhere unfamiliar and uncomfortable. That’s not for me. But I can support others; I can give money.

Summer 2011, Joyce shared with me her passion for missions, and a few months later, Vince emailed asking for help with the children’s program at OMF’s Heart for Asia Conference. Why me? I work with youth, not kids. I teach math, or Sunday School, but I don’t know much about missions. How could I be useful? Vince insisted, so I decided to let God be my guide and show me how He wanted me to use my gifts, even if I couldn’t see it. I learned many things at the conference, and for some reason, the kids seemed to like me.

Once again, Vince and Bonnie urged me to attend WCC, but this time, I decided to let God show me His heart. It was so powerful and amazing to be surrounded by so many believers with the same goal: to glorify Him and bring the nations to Christ. Many wanted to go and serve, giving up years of their lives. I’m like a fish out of water. I don’t belong. I don’t feel called to go. My vision is to be a “missionary” here, serving my students. Thankfully, Vince corrected me. Being called to go is not the goal, but rather, to see your place in God’s global plan. Whether to be sent or to send, He has a place for each of us, and all are important; you don’t have to be the “sent” to have the heart of a missionary. Still, after being around so many missions minded people, I determined that if God wanted me to go just to see His heart for the lost, I would go. If I’ve never been on a missions trip, can I really say it’s not for me?

Everything fell into place. Maranatha had plans to go to Ensenada, Mexico with Francisco and Elva to work with young kids and several churches there. The plan was to fly into San Diego on July 21, and well, my annual trip to San Diego ended on July 21… I felt like God was telling me, “No more excuses. You have heard from friends. You have the heart. Your youth need someone to watch over them. Now go.”

Fourteen teammates came to pick me up, and from there we made the trek down to Ensenada. We went not knowing exactly what we would be doing, but as Pastor Jerry said, “Be flexible. Do whatever Francisco needs. And prepare your testimony.”

Each morning, we woke up early to buy pan, jamón, y queso (bread, ham, and cheese) to build 80 sandwiches to serve the kids in the poor part of Ensenada. We helped out with a five-part VBS: hang out and prep lunch, praise/worship, skit Bible story, a craft activity, and then lunch with the kids and moms. With no predetermined roles, we dove in.

Tuesday, we went to another church and showed the movie “Courageous” in Spanish. Many men were inspired by the movie and came to the front of the church to to receive prayer. There we met a pastor with an amazing story: he was saved while in jail for murder in the US, and after acting as chaplain, was released many years later. Now, he is a pastor in Mexico.

Wednesday we took the kids to a park and played with them all day. It was awesome to see that, despite the language barrier, we could communicate through fútbol (soccer) and seesaws. When we learned that one young girl’s mother had passed away the previous night from a drug overdose, we were acutely reminded of the fragility of life and deeply saddened by what these kids struggle through every day.

Thursday morning Pastor Jerry challenged us to each pick one child or group of children and, in pairs, walk them home. No matter how far, no matter what kind of house, go with them. If you get invited in, go in; if not, say bye and go back. I went with one of my youth, Sarah, walking three kids back home who lived on a giant hill. When we got there, the parents were so kind to welcome us in and they even wanted a picture of us.

Thursday evening we joined the worship service at Francisco’s home church. I recognized two of the songs, and sang them in English while everyone else sang in Spanish. We can sing in English. They can sing in Spanish. Together, we are worshiping a holy and good God. At that moment, I caught a glimpse of His global Church. There are believers all around the world, and it does not matter what language we speak. Then a US missionary to Congo spoke, urging the people to stand and minister to the kids that are poor and do not have much, as she did in Congo to many leaders there. I was reminded of my calling as a teacher, to minister to my students and help them grow closer to Christ.

Francisco asked for volunteers to share how prayer has impacted your life. Dead silence from the older people… but one youth volunteers, then another, and another, and finally the last youth. I was so proud of them! I was chosen as the last to share. Not knowing exactly what to say, I prayed that God would speak through me. I started in Spanish, but stopped after two sentences, and continued in English about praying and trusting God in my career as a teacher, losing job after job, but continually seeing God’s providence at each school, knowing He will place me where He wants me to serve.

Coming back from Mexico, I am very glad that I went and got to see the world outside. God took what small skills I had and used them in amazing ways. Hanging out with the kids, worshiping with them, walking them home, talking with them, it was great to see His love for these people, and how His kingdom stretches to places that we don’t see. I will not forget this trip; it gave me a glimpse of His global kingdom.

I am not sure what God has in store for me, but I know that God sent me to show me His heart. It is so great, I will never fully understand it. I don’t know whether I will go back, but I will let God lead. Either way, I know my calling as a teacher is to mentor and inspire youth. Whatever I have, here I am Lord. Use me.

Matthew

Photo by Megan Mark

Sometimes it’s not all peachy

This Is Not The You I Know

Tiff went to change the world.. But everything seemed to fall apart, and she came back jaded and bitter. Thankfully, our good and gracious God is not content to leave her that way. 

When I think about obedience to His calling, I think about my parents. I was born in the U.S., but my family moved to Asia when I was 8 yrs old to follow His calling. Maybe it’s genetic, or maybe the seeds were planted deep in my heart since before I can remember because I feel a similar tug in my heart for Asia. In college, I seriously began considering missions.

With a healthy dose of bravado and naivete, I decided to just GO after graduating college. I didn’t have a plan, but this felt like something God put on my heart… and I thought if I didn’t move forward, I would regret it forever. So I went.

That year in Asia was the hardest year of my life. I felt I had nothing to offer, and I was acutely lonely. I questioned my calling. I became resentful. Daily, I cried, “God, if this is what you wanted me to do, then where are you? Why do I feel abandoned?”

In the 3 years since returning, I’ve been to grad school and begun working as a social worker. It’s been a time of questioning, humbling, healing, and redemption. I needed God to redeem my experience in Asia, and He has been so faithful—revealing His truths and shattering the lies I believed. Following my spontaneous journey to Asia, this current chapter has been filled with learning endurance, faith, and how to wait for His timing. He’s teaching me how to live my life with Him and for Him in the day to day. What sustains me? at home? at work? How do I bring Him into my relationships? my time? I want it to be His Spirit that guides and gives me life.

My heart for Asia hasn’t changed, but when I am honest with myself, the thought of going back to Asia really scares me. In some ways, that’s how I know that this is His calling; God-given dreams can only be accomplished by His power, not mine. I can’t but love His people, and despite my fear, my heart is still drawn to His work in Asia. This must be God, because if it were up to me, this journey would have ended 3 years ago. So now I’m in a season of waiting… and during this time, I really hope that I live with a missional perspective, that I form life-giving relationships, and most importantly, that He would be glorified.

Tiffany

Photo by Nathan Chang

Just Another Ordinary Life

Photo by Megan Mark Photography

Linda has been to multiple missions conferences and gone on several short term trips, but still, she’s felt like her life was just so exceedingly ordinary. What might God be calling her to? Does he have something more?

I am a CIA (Chinese Indonesian American).  Born and raised in Indonesia, I went to college and now work in the US.  Growing up in a non-Christian family, I encountered Christianity through attending a Christian School. The things I learned in school and at home about God were mostly contradictory. I longed for the true God but got confused. You see, my heart longed to worship, but who should I worship? I  remember praying at my great-grandmother’s grave,”I am not sure if you are ‘the God’, I just want to claim that I am currently praying to the one true God, whoever You might be. You have to help me.”

Fast forward some years later, my prayer was answered; I accepted Christ when I came to the US. I was so fired up in response to His grace, I took any church volunteer post offered. I was energized, then, burnt out. Energized, then, a bit more burnt out. After going through that cycle, I started to focus and listen to God.  I went to WCC and other missions conferences, and I began to feel in my heart that there must be something more.

I told myself that WCC 2013 would be my last.  I’d attended so many missions conferences and been on so many short term trips, but, here I was, still, in the bay area running my ordinary life. Don’t get me wrong; I know that everyone’s calling is different and unique. It can be right where we are, or maybe somewhere else. But, how could I know for sure?

I “happened” to stop at a ministry booth. I talked to someone about a position working in a foreign country. I’d have the opportunity to learn the language and live there, and I might get the chance to share about the Gospel. I asked many questions; it seemed interesting because I’d served in a similar position for many years. But when I left the conversation, I just pushed the thought aside.

A while later, I heard a missionary speak about going. What he said kept ringing in my head:”It’s not about our abilities. It’s not about what we can or cannot do. It’s about taking the first step and seeing how God will lead.” My thoughts turned toward the conversation I’d had at the ministry booth. Should I apply or not? I applied.

Now, during this time of waiting, I keep going back and forth between wanting to go and wanting to stay. I’m afraid of being rejected and disappointed. But at the same time, I’m afraid of being accepted. The thought of leaving my comfort zone scares me.

I don’t know what the outcome will be. When it’s time to make the decision, I guess I will know then. But for now, I have taken the first step and will take that second step prayerfully. The facts is I am a daughter of our King no matter what I do.

I am thankful for the WCF community who has made it possible for me to walk this journey. As for not attending WCC anymore, it’s not a firm decision. If I am still here, you might see me around =p

God bless you all!

Linda

Photo by Megan Mark