WRITTEN BY: NICHOLE FORBES
When I was younger I wanted to be in full time ministry. I wanted to teach people about the Jesus I knew. I wanted to be a listening ear and a soft place to land. I wanted to encourage and inspire. I wanted to work alongside my fellow followers of Christ for the good of The Kingdom. I wanted to lead and learn and grow and love in ministry.
This dream got tangled up and misplaced in the years I spent wife-ing, mothering, friending and just surviving but I eventually found my way back to it. For a time I lived the dream; I was part of the pastoral team at my church. It was everything I had hoped for and I felt so fulfilled and full of purpose during those years. Unfortunately, that season didn’t last as long as I had hoped. My dad passed away and I left my position at the church to be more available to my family as we all grieved.
In the year that followed that move, I struggled with my identity and purpose. Grief had drained me and all I could feel was the missing. I missed my dad, my ministry, my community and my sense of purpose. My heart knew that I was still the same well-loved daughter of the King but my head doubted my purpose and worth. Those were dark days and all I could pray was, ‘God, I’m available – for whatever, whenever.’
He answered that prayer in the form of regular, everyday conversations with whoever crossed my path. During that year I reconnected with old friends, met new friends and had random yet meaningful conversations with strangers. I heard their stories of heartache, disappointment, hope and love. And I shared my same story, too. I prayed for them and they prayed for me. We had church on park benches, in the grocery store aisle and in coffee shops.
Somewhere along the way, I realized that this is real ministry. The showing up for each other. The being available for whatever, whenever. The sharing of stories, tears and prayers. I’d been doing ministry for years without ever acknowledging it. All those everyday moments of wife-ing, mothering and friending – that was ministry, real ministry. Opening my heart to the One, the few, the many that I have encountered over the years was, and is, ministry.
This budding truth swirled around my heart as I stood in a church full of strangers, 2300km from home, yet feeling more at home than I had in ages. These ‘strangers’ shared my heartbeat. They were beautiful, loving, everyday women who were doing the hard work of life, side by side, and loving each other better for it. They were imperfect, and knew it, but showed up anyway. They cared about the Big Things while living through the small things. They talked about things that mattered, like poverty, equality, justice and mercy. They had discovered purpose in the middle of their everyday, ordinary lives; just like me!
I sat in this place of utter belonging, this Gather Women event, and soaked in every word, whisper and prayer spoken while my heart cried out, ‘There are others like me! These are My People!’ I was so smitten that I never wanted to leave. I wanted to stay in this place, with these women, forever but when we stood for communion my world shifted.
It was there in that holy moment that I looked up and saw them. Not the women in the room, not these beautiful strangers who share my heart but the familiar faces who share my life. My People. The people I have lived my whole life with. The people who have surrounded me every day of my life - with their prayer and their presence. These beautiful women of my everyday life, these strong, loving, brave prairie women, these are My People.
I had long dreamed of a day when God's daughters would link arms across Canada to celebrate, empower, dream and act on His behalf. Gather Women had breathed that dream into a reality. It was magnificent to witness but I knew, even as I stood in that room imagining My People mixing with the lovelies before me, that I had to do more than witness this; I had to carry this dream home with me and recreate it in my every day life. I knew I had to gather the women in my world, the women who care, love, think, serve, dream and live deeply and passionately.
Something powerful happens when we gather. We are seen. We are heard. We are valued. We are connected. We become brave. When we gather ministry happens. Real, life-changing ministry happens … when we gather.