“Hi, my name is Holly.”
Such a simple phrase.
I learned the proper way to introduce myself from an early age. There was never a time in my life that my parents taught me how to project confidence, kindness, and respect while introducing myself to people.
I grew up in a pastor’s home, and I likely watched my parents introduce themselves to thousands of people throughout my childhood. I didn’t know what I was learning at the time, but many of those simple introductions were the start of lifelong friendships and amazing things God wanted to do all over the world.
It was not until the past few years year that I have seen how indeed life transforming learning to say that powerful phrase of introduction could be in the lives of people and in the work that the Lord wants to accomplish in His Kingdom.
Five years ago, I transitioned to the role of Benevolence Coordinator for my large church that at the time had two campuses in our city, both with a majority middle and upper class white membership.
In this new position I found myself doing things I had never done before and quite frankly did not feel qualified to do.
The duties of this new job were unfamiliar territory…
- supervising a food pantry where most of our guests were Spanish speakers
- answering benevolence phone calls from desperate people from all over our city
- sitting in my office listening to the cries of newly divorced women in our church who didn’t know how they could start over after being a stay at home mom for ten years
- helping at our Christmas toy give away events where most of our guests did not have the same skin color as those who were volunteering at the event itself
Though I was meeting literally thousands of people from all over our city through my job, I knew that there was more that could be…in fact should be done. I had the answer for their spiritual poverty, but I knew that through my countless hours of working to help them, they were not finding lasting hope for the physical poverty they were experiencing here on earth.
Ephesians 3:20 had become my battle cry before I took this job.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us”
I was working as a Kids Director for my church where I had helped launch our second location in the city. Through this job, I had seen God do amazing things as we began to have a vision to take the hope of the Gospel message to other locations in our city through starting new churches.
I was neck deep in the work that was required for a church Kids Director and being a momma of 2 young children. What I thought was a just quick lunch break from work to grab a sandwich became a life changing moment. A “chance” encounter with a black woman who appeared out of place, confused, and hungry staring at the Subway menu started my heart on a journey.
I stuck out my hand to this woman and said,”Hi, my name is Holly, can I help you?”
A quick handshake and introduction turned into lunch together, a 30 minute conversation, and me driving her home. I drove back to work at the church, and I clearly heard the Lord tell me that there was more He wanted to do in and through me for the Kingdom.
“More. Holly more. I want you to do immeasurably more than you can imagine.”
What I didn’t understand at the time was that more indeed meant less by earthly terms of number of people I “helping” by meeting physical needs. The results would be immeasurably more not by means of earthly data, because God has a Kingdom accounting system that has a running tab from generation to generation.
Over the next couple of months my church transitioned me to the role of Benevolence coordinator where I was soaking in all the new things I was learning about ministering to the down and out of our city.
I began reading everything I could get my hands on about best practices of how to truly lift people out of physical poverty. I sent emails to other churches asking questions. I picked up my “Poverty and Justice” Bible again and began reading every passage in the Bible about poverty and injustice. My days were filled with reading and rereading books like “When Helping People Hurts,” “Toxic Charity,” and any words of John Perkins.
After two years of leading in my role as Benevolence coordinator and learning from books and people about best practices in Benevolence, our church made the difficult decision to shut down our food and clothing pantry.
Not long after we shut down the food pantry, I was speaking at a women’s event telling a crowd of women about the mission opportunities available through our church. Part of the call to action was the fact that I was praying for an army of business professionals to help me put into action the vision that God had laid on my heart. A vision for the beacon of hope I knew the church could be for hurting families across our city.
(and I’m not referring to a building or a certain church…when I say church I am talking about the thousands of people in my city that meet at different churches on every corner in my city…that church)
At the end of the evening, a confident lady dressed in her professional attire which included heels a few inches high, v-lined up to the front where I was mingling. She stuck out her hand and said, “Hello, my name is Angela. I’m new here but I think I can help you figure out that Jobs ministry you were speaking about.”
It took over a year for all the people and connections to fall into place, but a year ago we started our first Jobs for Life session, and last night was the graduation ceremony of our fourth session.
Jobs for Life is designed to intentionally bring together people who would otherwise never be in the same room. Though from the outside it may look like it is about successful business people helping people who have roadblocks to employment find work, the ultimate purpose of the class can only be fully understand when you sit in a class from Session 1 to Session 16 when the students graduate.
The heart of the Gospel is the foundation of Jobs for Life. We are all indeed broken people trying to make our way through a broken world. However, the power of the Gospel message can break the chains shackling us to the brokenness and offer hope both for life here on Earth and for eternity. The Gospel compels us to see people through a different lens, breaking through the stereotypes and biases that we all have formed in our minds because of our own pasts and life experiences.
The starting point of Jobs for Life is the admission that we are ALL broken, yet still God created us and chooses to use us ALL in our brokenness for Kingdom purposes. The end goal…well I have discovered that it is teaching people to be vulnerable and introduce themselves.
A few weeks ago we had a business leaders panel in our midpoint session of Jobs for Life.
It had been a normal Monday for me. Mondays are my long day at work as a I prep for the week ahead, plan with my team, and make sure all is ready for the volunteers that lead the Monday evening classes.
We had invited business people from all over our city to come share with our mentors and students about their work and how God uses them for the Kingdom in their work. It is always one of my favorite sessions.
The evening ended, and as I was beginning to clean up the room the Lord stopped me in my tracks. He allowed me to witness a moment that will forever be one of my favorite memories of Jobs for Life.
A determined young 22-year-old black man from what some in our city deem as “the bad part,” walked up to a successful young white business owner from another part of the city. With great confidence, the black man stuck out his hand and said to the white man, “Hello. My name is De’Shawn.”
Two men from different parts of the city making introductions to each other with no regard to skin color or where they happen to live in our city.
This moment will forever be treasured in my mind as a portion of the “immeasurably more” that God wanted me to be a part of for His kingdom.
A confident introduction
A strong handshake
A conversation that would otherwise never have happened had the stage not have been set for God to work in that room in that old church building in a part of our city that would be called “unsafe” by many who live in our city.
Last night at our Jobs for Life graduation, I told the room full of students, volunteers, and guests that my prayer is not just for the students in the room but for their children and grandchildren.
My prayer is that for generations to come, the students of Jobs for Life will be remembered as the person in their families that put the stake in the ground and decided to center their family on the truth of the Word of God and the blessing that comes from using their gifts and talents and work for the Kingdom here.
Indeed, this is so much more than I could have ever imagined when I shook the hand of that sweet lady in Subway five years ago.