I have been listening to a new(ish) podcast called The Pivot by Andrew Osenga (a fantastic musician) and he always includes the tag line, "Stories of people who have made a change." These are conversations about seasons in life, the pain of letting go and the grace that can be found in stepping out into unknown territory. You can find that podcast HERE.
For quite a few years, I (Chris) start out January at a prayer retreat with pastors and leaders from my city. We go away for 2 days of reflection, singing, meals and listening. Classically, this has been in a location with little to no cell reception.
Two years ago, while at this retreat, we were taking a few hours to spend in solitude and meditate on a scripture in Isaiah, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?"
While pondering this in my room, in very spotty cell reception, a text came through from a friend of mine. He was on vacation in Nevada. The message basically said, "Do you want a job? I think you'd make a good activity director for our care facilities."
I knew that something was coming. Change was in the air. Our friends that we started YWAM Modesto with were all transitioning. Also, I knew that we were about to lose half of our personal support due to budget cuts at one of our supporting churches. I also had the feeling that more cuts were to come.
It took a while for me to "perceive it" but in June of 2017, I began part time employment that grew into full time employment by October. I've been working as an activity director for people with serious mental illness. I took the job, seeing that this was God's provision with the council of close friends and our board of directors.
The people in the facility are much like the people we have been connecting with on the streets. Many have struggled with addiction and have lived on the streets. It is definitely an extension of what we have been doing all along. I am able to lead Bible studies, sing with residents and create fun, hospitable activities to enrich suffering people's lives. I even do a once a month "Cafe" for our residents. It is truly rewarding.
So, we are in bi-vocational ministry. YWAM Modesto is still operating. We are still on 9th Street Friday mornings and, as a family, we continue working with youth in our neighborhood. Also, Amie works with our local refugee community and, partnering with lots of folks, we have opened a hospitality house for refugee families.
I am also still on the leadership team for Mission Greater Modesto, connecting regularly with pastors and leaders to pray for the city. We are still able to host teams to the area as my work is providing me with flexibility to do this. And, we continue to offer hospitality to visiting artists and missionaries, hosting creative events for the community.
We are still serving with a congregation at New Hope Church.
The change is that all of our personal support is now coming from my work with the care home. It is enough to cover what was lost. But, while earning a paycheck is nice, the sense of calling to broken, wounded, outcast people is still the motivation.
I often think of a quote from Eric Liddell (Chariots of Fire) when I think of the work I am doing.
“I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast! And when I run I feel his pleasure.”
Now, God didn't make me fast, but he did make me...well...me. So, when I am laughing and driving and bowling and watching a movie and swimming and singing and sharing food and praying and shopping and walking with our residents, I feel his pleasure.
I wish I could show you pictures. We have a lot of fun. And really "bi-vocational" is a bit of a misnomer. It's not 2 vocations (Vocation...taken from "voice"...think "calling"). It's one vocation, several different jobs. But they are so connected that it's hard for me to tell the difference sometimes.
When a basketball player pivots, he's still playing ball. He just needs to change direction to move the ball forward. When a dancer pivots, she's still dancing, the pivot adds nuance and beauty and grace.
And that's what this pivot has done in our life. Far from easy but lots of grace and beauty has come to our lives because of it. I think I'm beginning to perceive it.