I sat on the carpet in their living room, with these friends in their home on the Navajo Nation, and shared my heart.
Last September, I’d just come from the ACFW conference in Indianapolis and then stopped to visit friends in New Mexico and Arizona. While staying with Mark Charles and his wife, Rachel, I told them my yearning to find God’s direction for my life. I was struggling last fall, and with three children and years of ministry experience under their belts, they seemed like good advice-givers.
I told them I was seeking God’s guidance, how I wanted to make a difference in the world. Part of me wished they’d just tell me what to do, maybe that I should join some pioneering ministry. That would give me some kind of goal or purpose in life. Right?
But they didn’t. Instead, they encouraged me to start where I was.
“Sometimes you have to start moving for God to guide you,” Mark said.
“Just start doing something,” said Rachel.
She shared how she’d tried out a number of different things she thought she wanted to do or thought God wanted her to, sometimes to discover that she wasn’t particularly suited for that work, but always coming closer to finding what she was. And with everything she did, she learned and grew along the way.
Maybe it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear. But it was what I needed to hear.
Since high school, the Lord had put on my heart a burden for children from difficult backgrounds and situations. But for some reason, most of my visions involved going far away, perhaps working with orphans in a different land, maybe adopting one someday.
He may still have that for me in the future. But after my talk with Mark and Rachel, the Lord showed me the transitional house for homeless families right here in our own community. Our church has partnered with this ministry for years, and I’d taken meals there a few times with my small group. But I’d never acted on any thoughts of doing more.
So I emailed the volunteer coordinator. Turned out they needed volunteers to work with the children in their after school program. Children in need of consistent love and investing in their lives right here, ten minutes from my house. And within a few weeks, I was spending Monday afternoons working through math problems and supervising playground time. It was not always easy. But it was good. And after a number of months volunteering, God started opening up other doors to serve the families there.
He answered my prayer for direction, though not quite in the way I expected. And He has been putting more pieces together in the months since.
Sometimes, God does indeed call us to minister far from home and guide us clearly that direction. But I learned that if we have burdens on our hearts but don’t see yet where they are to lead, we might do well to look around and see how we can invest the hearts He’s given us right where we are. Poverty, prejudice, and heartache are universal the world round, after all—and so are God’s present power and redeeming love. And if we aren’t willing to reach out where we are now, why should we be given the chance to do so faraway?
Last fall marked one of many times I’ve been challenged and grown through Mark and Rachel Charles. Now this spring they, along with another family I know and respect, have launched the new ministry 5 Small Loaves, an organization dedicated to truth-telling and working for understanding and reconciliation in our country, particularly involving Native peoples. Check out their Facebook page here.
You can read more about their heart and this movement here, and about their creative crowdfunding campaign “5 Small Bucks and 2 Little Shares.” I think their ministry is pretty important. Check it out; maybe the Lord might even lead you to give toward the support of these families and the healing of our nation.
Mark also wrote an article this Fourth of July that has gone viral through Native online networks and now been published here by Sojourners. I’d encourage you to take a thoughtful and prayerful look. It is a different perspective on America than we often know, especially in Christian circles, and depending on your background you may be challenged and taken aback at first…I was. But I’d encourage you to read with an open heart and consider how it feels to be Native American while a nation of “undocumented immigrants” celebrates the land they’ve appropriated as their own.
So…please share your thoughts! And have you ever sought God’s guidance, only to find He has placed opportunities right where you are? I’d love to hear your story!