January 2008 - Vol. 15

Barbara (on thes left) enjoys the beauty of Minnesota's fall colors with her missionary companions

On a Mission to Minnesota

by Barbara Stock

A transforming trans-Atlantic exchange
Sometimes a two-line email can change a person’s life.

In May 2007 Mike Shaugnessy, the director of Kairos in North America [an international federated outreach to high school, university and post university aged people] dropped me a quick line saying he had just been in St. Paul, Minnesota, and their University Christian Outreach chapter was looking for a women’s senior mission leader starting the beginning of August. Would I be interested? Well… no. I had just moved to a new apartment to start a woman’s household in a neighborhood cluster of the Bread of Life Community [located in Olching, Germany]. I had also changed jobs a few months before that. Besides, if I were to seriously consider relocating somewhere, my first preference would be some place in Europe, not the US. In addition to that, my brother was getting married and my sister was going to return from across the Atlantic after living there for two years – why would I want to go abroad at this time?

Nonetheless, I promised Mike that I would think and pray about this mission opportunity and let him know if I were to get any sense of direction from the Lord about it.

It was pretty clear to me already that the Lord wanted me to serve him within the Sword of the Spirit in some capacity, living out our trans-generational, international and ecumenical call and mission. I’d realized over the years that if I wanted to take this call seriously, I had to change some things in my life. And I had. But somehow it didn’t seem I was quite there yet…

Getting out of the boat
One question that burned in the back of my head was, "Barbara, when are you going to start doing what you really think you're supposed to do?"

For some reason I felt I definitely needed to finish the 3rd chapter of a book I was reading at that time by John Ortberg, entitled, If You Want to Walk on Water You've Got to Get Out of the Boat. Near the end of chapter 3 Ortberg writes: “It is wrong, it is sin, to accept or remain in a position that you know is a mismatch for you. Perhaps that’s a form of sin you’ve never even considered – the sin of staying in the wrong job. But God did not place you on this earth to waste away your years in labor that does not employ his design or purpose for your life, no matter how much you may be getting paid for it.” And, “To what extent does your current work express your true giftedness and passion?”

Well – my passion is probably best summed up in the Kairos mission statement: “To equip and motivate people to hear and respond to the call of God on their lives and in particular to equip them to live and contribute to the building of Christian community in the context of the Sword of the Spirit.” I had felt for a while that particular call from the Lord, that passion, and my job with a consulting firm in Munich didn't exactly allow me to wholeheartedly invest in that. It was a career that I liked but that was really secondary to the Lord's call to me.

So I decided to call Gordy DeMarais, the Executive Director of Saint Paul’s Outreach (SPO) in Minnesota, to find out more about SPO and the kind of work the position entailed. One of the first things he said is, “SPO is part of Kairos, that’s our regional youth programme in North America. You know what Kairos means?” You betcha…

Little by little the Lord made it clear that going to Minnesota might be his plan for me, at least for the next year. Finally I decided to get out of the boat and move to the States.

Barbara (second from the left) with St. Paul's Outreach staff and Gappers

Relying 100% on the Lord
I must say I didn’t expect it would be even half the blessing it’s been to me. Probably for the first time in my life I feel I’m able to do 100% what I think I’m supposed to do right now. And that involves relying 100% on the Lord and His provision which is a blessing and a challenge at the same time, at least for me.  And I truly believe God does provide. What a humbling experience for a German perfectionist…

SPO’s mission is “To Engage Young Adults in a Life of Christian Discipleship”. Together with Natalie Kebe, I’m responsible for the women’s side of things – our female staff, student missionaries and gappers (if you’re interested in finding out more about our GAP program, have a look at our website http://www.spoweb.org/ or send me an email at Barbara@spoweb.org).

We also have four women’s households this year and I’m leading one of them with six women, and facilitating the formation programme in conjunction with the Community of Christ the Redeemer (a member community of the Sword of the Spirit in St. Paul, Minnesota, numbering some 500 people). My mission chapter is the University of Minnesota.

Asking the Lord what he wants 
I think we easily tend to assume that once we’ve moved on with some areas in our lives (such as studies, careers, state in life, kids, etc.) we’re just meant to follow the path set before us… and sometimes we are. But we shouldn’t forget to ask the Lord what he wants for us and what that means for our current situation. Maybe he’s asking us to change something, to step out in faith, get out of the comfortable boat we’ve settled into. It might just be a habit we need to break so we can hear the Lord more clearly. 

When the Lord asks you to change something – take a leap! It’s so worth it. 

I’ve never heard someone regret to give God everything. However, I’ve met a lot of people who have regrets that they had held something back.

[Barbara grew up in the Bread of Life Community in Munich, Germany. She previously did a GAP year of service with Koinonia in London. She studied economics and business education and training at Ludwigs Maximilians University in Munich and worked in recruiting for two consulting firms.]

(c) copyright 2008  The Sword of the Spirit
publishing address: Park Royal Business Centre, 9-17 Park Royal Road, Suite 108, London NW10 7LQ, United Kingdom
email: living.bulwark@yahoo.com