Story - Jason G. - as submitted.
It's difficult to condense a story that spans over the course of 5 years, much less a story-line that begins to develop earlier in life than that. When I sit down to revisit the past 5 years, my mind goes to singular experiences, situations, and conversations - including the fun, life-giving, corrective, and well, somewhat traumatic moments. But you don't need to know that much, at least not while reading. We should get coffee sometime for that.
As a college student, I had grandiose plans for after graduation. Much like today, these were usually organized on a timeline (in my mind, not paper) with specific bullet points of what needed to happen when. Peace Corps after graduation, graduate school after that, a job overseas in disaster relief, a relationship somewhere along the way, and a teaching job in the states where we would begin a family in my late 30s: these dotted the next 20 years of my life. Obviously that didn't happen. During my junior year of college, I made a personal decision to follow Christ, rather than myself. This wasn't the salvation decision you may think of, but more a decision to follow Him, to search Him out in where he was leading me.
By my senior year of college, I had to make some concrete decisions. Applications, immunizations, and deadlines were waiting. But all it took was one phone call with an unexpected opportunity to turn my attention to actually follow Christ and be led. Because honestly, following Christ isn't one decision; it's many small, daily decisions. That opportunity, of course, led me here to The Harbor to serve as an AmeriCorps Volunteer. Lesson #1 isn't the notion that what we plan doesn't happen; rather, it's that our Father [God] knows best.
As an AmeriCorps Volunteer stationed between our local food bank and The Harbor, I was given the opportunity to serve two populations that I had determined in my undergraduate work not to serve - the young and elderly. This determination was more of a selfish preference than anything. That which we resolve not to do, apart from sin, can usually be the hard ground God chooses to cultivate His character in us: Lesson #2.
Through a hot meal feeding program, I organized volunteers to deliver meals to homebound elderly who were in need - both of a hot meal and general companionship. This relationship with the food bank also sparked a movement of hundreds of volunteers serving together at Thanksgiving Servolution each year. And through a student ministry here at The Harbor, I was given the opportunity to serve teenage students.
These students and student leaders have proven to be some of my best friends. I've experienced and endured those fun, life-changing, and traumatic situations with them that I referenced above. In serving them, I have planned, organized and accomplished the basic tasks required for student ministry, but I also was given the space to follow Christ as He led me to develop my own teaching style and use my personality to communicate biblical truths in a way that hopefully set a standard of authenticity in the students' lives.
Comparably, I have fallen short in a few areas that student ministry requires. But I wasn't called to compare and do; I was called to follow and do my best. The opportunity I was given to serve these students over the past 5 years has generated the most transformation in my life. I've asked for the personal transformation and renewed mind that would come through the Holy Spirit in my personal times of prayer, but rarely did I pray with the expectation that this transformation would happen weekly, daily, hourly and moment-by-moment with my basic decisions to remain faithful to the call, place and purpose that Christ had led me to. Lesson #3: service is a present work of faith inspired and fueled by the Holy Spirit that will transform your life.
Over the course of the past year, Sarah and I have felt a call and pull toward other areas of ministry. It would seem counterintuitive to have followed Christ over the past 5+ years to accomplish His work in us and not follow even now. We've prayerfully sought counsel with Pastor Marvin Poole. Because while we believe God has a plan for us, we also understand that He has a plan for each student, and He would never call us on to something else at the expense of an entire generation in our church. We are excited and filled with joy at the thought of having Brandon and Carol Kelley lead a team focused on calling our students deeper and higher into the heart of God.
What now? A season of my life is up. Granted, I may not hold a certain position of ministry, but we know that the relationships we've cultivated supersede any position or lack-thereof. The planner in me is poised and nervous enough to begin making my own plans for the future. But my spirit knows His voice and has learned to only move when He calls. I know that the future He has for me is dotted with His promise-filled faithfulness.
First of all, I am still actively on staff at The Harbor and will continue to be. I am intentionally pursuing His leading me to do my best in whatever is before me presently. And, well, I am a bit focused on the prospect of leading my own little church with the birth of my first son coming in a month or so.
Over the course of the past 5 years, I have learned a few lessons that have developed me and pushed me to accept and pursue flexibility. A season may be over, but we're not done learning. Lesson #4 is best sung aloud: How loving and patient He must be; He's still working on me. And, honestly, I'm just happy [joy-filled] to be here.