I remember the moment I received my calling. I was drifting down the Amazon River in Brazil when it came to me, “I’ll give my life to advocating for children living in poverty”. I was 19 years old and traveling through South America on a ‘gap year’. Five days later I met my family’s Compassion sponsored child for the first time in La Paz, Bolivia, and if my mind hadn’t already been made up, it definitely was after that.
But how do you take a ‘passion’ so huge like, “I want to help children living in poverty” or “I want to make the world a better place” and break it down into goals you can work towards achieving in the midst of your busy day-to-day life?
Fast forward seven years to now and I’m living in Nepal with my wife where I work for a number of large international organisations, writing, filming and speaking up for children living in poverty with an audience around the world. I’m doing exactly what I hoped I would be doing (though I never would have imagined the paths God has used to get me here)!
I’m not an expert and I’m still on the journey but let me share with you a few tips I’ve learnt along the way.
1. Start with what you’ve got
Don’t think you have to move overseas, have a lot of money or work for a charity to make a difference. You don’t!
Setting achievable goals usually means working them into the fabric of what you’re already doing in your job, neighbourhood, family and church. Sure, sometimes receiving a calling results in a radical upheaval of everything you thought you knew, but for most of us, it’s more about finding ways of doing what we’re passionate about alongside the day-to-day chores of life. And that’s okay.
My wife and I have developed a little saying that says “our community will always determine our ministry”. What this is, is a commitment to serve our neighbours and those around us wherever we live. In Newcastle, Australia, this meant hanging out with newly arrived refugees from Central and Eastern Africa, and taking the kids of local single mums out for brekky weekly to give Mum some time off and the kids a steady male figure in their lives.
And now, living in Nepal, it’s the lessons we learnt and the confidence we gained whilst reaching out to our neighbours in Australia that have paved the way for us to do the work we’re doing now in communities here.
So stop waiting and start looking for the opportunities you have now, no matter how small.
2. Identify your unique gifts and skills
You don’t need a Master’s degree to help people.
Looking at the needs of the world, it’s easy to assume you have to be a doctor, nurse, teacher or engineer to do anything really worthwhile. Wrong!
I know dance teachers who run classes for at-risk youths, accountants who give of their time to help maximise the resources of struggling not-for-profits, carpenters who volunteer their holidays to build low cost housing, and mums who use their experience to take in foster children long-term or just for the weekend.
If you stick to what you already know and love, you’ll serve others from your strengths and have a lot more fun in the process.
3.Pray and listen to God, but don’t sit there forever!
God might not tell you exactly what you’re meant to do with your life and but that’s okay.
I’m all for prayer and trying to discern God’s will, but there comes a point where you have to be willing to just do something. What do I mean?
Too often Christians reach the point of decisions—whether big or small—to change jobs, move house, begin a new ministry etc., only to back down from doing anything because they didn’t ‘hear from God’.
But God has already given us a pretty clear roadmap of what He wants us to do. He tells us in Micah 6:8 (NIV), “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Watching my wife and I, you might think we do some pretty crazy things and that we jump headfirst into the next big adventure without giving it enough thought. But we figure if we’re loving others, serving the poor, and sharing the gospel, we’re heading on the right path.
And sure we make mistakes, take wrong turns, and go a little too fast sometimes, but our God is pretty good at using broken vessels to do amazing things.
Make 2015 the year you ‘have a go’ at turning that passion into real goals no matter how big or small. And if you’re not sure where to begin, remember: start with where you are, what you love and the promise of a good God who is going to be with you every step of the way.
Want to help Compassion achieve its purpose in 2015? Become a Compassion advocate and join a community of like-minded individuals raising awareness and support for children living in poverty.
Words and photos supplied by Matt Darvas