In my first couple of years as a volunteer Child Advocate, I strongly encouraged a couple of enthusiastic sponsors to join the Advocate Network.
In fact, on my first sponsor tour I think I made a royal nuisance of myself, when I talked too much and, in some instances, a little too loudly about volunteering: why I did it, how I felt about it, and so on.
I wanted to add to our number, any way I could. I even succeeded with one friend.
A year later, he submitted his resignation from the Network. When we talked, he said,
“I just don’t have the passion and the calling that you have.”
It was then that I learned to back off and let God do the prompting and allow other people to respond, or not. On my second sponsor tour, when two or three different sponsors asked me about joining the Network, my response was very low-key.
Subsequently, joining the Network became much easier than it had been, bringing an overwhelming response from sponsors. As one applicant told me,
“It seems like a good thing to do.”
But within a year or two many of them were also gone because, while advocating for children through Compassion certainly is “a good thing to do,” God does not call everyone to the same ministry.
Today I would say this to sponsors interested in joining the Network: pray about it — a lot.
Be sure God is calling you to intentional advocacy, and that it is not just “a good thing to do.” Sponsors can do many advocacy-related activities, from running a Compassion Sunday, to working the table at an event, talking to friends and family, and so on, all without joining the Network.
So, why bother to join? Oh, my . . . I have friends all over the country whom I met at national conferences and, later, at a leadership conference. I was even able to attend the Global Advocates Conference in the Dominican Republic.
Every conference has provided more inspiration, more training and more sharing than I would ever have received, had I not joined the Network. In part because I can no longer travel as I did for a few years, I may have to wait for heaven to see most of my friends, again, but I treasure them and our few times together in my heart and in my life.
Wanting to do good is noble and worthy, but it is not enough to keep us going, if we’re on the wrong path. Jeremiah 29:11 shares God’s message for Israel, and I believe it is true for us, today:
“For I know the plans I have for you . . . to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
God has plans for each of us, and they don’t all look the same.
We do best when we pray, wait for and follow God’s plans for us, rather than jumping into what seems like the right thing to do.
“There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death” –Prov. 14:12, NLT
Taking a path that is not God’s choice for us may not lead to physical death, but what about the death of a vision? Of great anticipation? Of hope, as we wait for another ministry opportunity to come along?
I stand in awe of some of the ministries to which God calls some people — ministries to which I am not called!
So much of the time I have felt like a failure in advocacy. I realized a few years ago that I was in a position of seed-planter, more than reaper, and I don’t like that. I’d really like to do more reaping, please!
But for all the feelings of inadequacy, incompetence, resentment, judgment and failure, the call of God remains on my life and has expanded into related areas, outside of Compassion. It’s about serving where we’re called, and that requires prayer — and a willingness to wait.
Thankfully, it hasn’t been all failure and frustration. A pastor told me during the Global Leadership Summit that when he thinks about Compassion, he thinks of me. He assured me that I have, indeed, greatly increased awareness of Compassion in Tucson, that I have had “a real impact.”
I needed to hear that, although I would still prefer to see more of the fruits of that impact.
When I do have an opportunity to present Compassion’s ministry and see people respond positively, I experience that special joy in knowing that those who respond are making a great difference for the children they choose to sponsor. And that is a very good thing to do.