I’ve been asked a few times why I serve on the board of a ministry that helps people in far away countries when there is so much poverty and injustice right where I live. So close, that I can literally reach out and touch it.
Well, the short version of my story is that I learned the hard way that there are more important things in life beyond acquiring possessions and financial success. But I had to go into the desert to learn that lesson.
Here is why, in “Reader’s Digest” form, I chose to serve an international ministry for the last 6+ years. Maybe some of this will ring true for you. I hope so.
Briefly, I went through a very long and agonizing stint of being between jobs. After many years of success in business I went through a “desert experience” that showed me there was more to life and my faith than just sending checks to charities periodically, working hard, making sales, meeting goals, and accumulating things.
During this time I also read three influential books that would impact me greatly a little later on:
- Half Time, by Bob Buford
- Finishing Well, by Bob Buford
- From Success to Significance, by Lloyd Reeb
To step away periodically from my frustrating and unsuccessful job search, my wife suggested I volunteer at a food pantry, which I eventually did. That is where my eyes were opened and I discovered my true mission in life.
During my days there, I saw many people struggling just to get by, many through no fault of their own, and yet being so positive and appreciative of whatever was available from the food pantry. My job was to help them to their cars with their groceries.
One day, I helped an exceedingly thankful woman to her stuffed car and realized that she and her family were living in it until they could find another place. That is when I realized my priorities had gotten out of whack and I had become focused on the wrong priorities.
Shortly thereafter, I was introduced to Bright Hope, an international ministry helping people living in even greater poverty than our food pantry clients. In fact, Bright Hope’s clients made our clients in the food pantry look like kings and queens.
I came to see all the great work that was being done by God through Bright Hope and its partnerships with local churches, and others. Lives were being saved, people were being cared for, and hope was being restored to people in areas where hopelessness had become a way of life. How could one not be moved by the relief, hope and encouragement Bright Hope was delivering to towns that were long forgotten by almost everyone.
I felt called to change the direction of my life and to begin giving back. My wife and I had always supported our church and a number of nonprofits, but this time, it felt different. I felt I had only been dabbling at the fringes of community involvement and had not really “gotten into the game,” nor fully lived out my faith.
While I suppose I could have gone and volunteered in a third world country, that just did not feel right. In thinking about it, I came to realize that all along in my career, I had been become equipped with skills and experiences that so many ministries could use to the benefit of its clients.
These skills and experiences translated very well from my for-profit business work into the nonprofit world.
I joined Bright Hope’s board because I loved its mission-To Bring Hope to Those Living on Less Than $2 a Day.
I especially liked the tag line- “Hope for Today, Hope for Tomorrow, and Hope for Eternity.” That spoke to me.
I had accidentally, but most emphatically, discovered how to live out my personal life mission: To empower people with strategies that honor what God loves. I try to do it at Bright Hope all the time.
I learned through a difficult wake up call that true success is not the same as worldly success, but in helping those who had no way to help themselves.