I once attended a church leadership conference that will forever stand out in my mind. I have been to this conference several times before and I always found it inspiring and encouraging. In the past, I gleaned wisdom on vision casting to my volunteers, training and equipping leaders, and setting high goals for the ministry. These talks were all extremely beneficial and applicable. However, the next talk and speaker were altogether different. I knew immediately that God was leading us into a new arena when a petite woman walked onto stage. She was dressed in an all-white garment from head to toe, and her face showed the years of her life. Before speaking she knelt in prayer, asking God to speak through her. Without any hype, she humbly presented herself to the audience who were all anxiously anticipating where this message was going to lead.
Her name was Maggie Gobran. She has often been referred to as Mama Maggie as she ministers and reaches out to the children of the garbage slums of Cairo. Maggie once lived a comfortable life who loved God and enjoyed her marriage and two children. Yet, despite the comfort, she was troubled by the persecution and poverty all around her. Mama Maggie eventually founded Stephen’s Children ministry and daily with her team, care, provide, and love the poor. She has been called the Mother Teresa of Cairo.
As I listened to her speak, she reminded the 400,000 people listening all over the world at satellite locations that God does not lead everyone to highly visible, highly praised, and highly rewarded ministry in this life. Many who were in attendance lived nice comfortable, suburban lives. They were leading ministries and churches with adequate resources and had obtained what many may see as success. But as I listened to her speak in soft, humble tones, I was drawn to her story as a woman who rejected a goal of her life to live safe and comfortable. The very voice of the Spirit led her to go to the forgotten and the poor. With no fanfare or applause, Mama Maggie and her team look into the eyes of slum children and remind them that Jesus has not forgotten them either.
My eyes filled with tears as the Holy Spirit moved in my soul. I recalled in a much smaller way, a decision I made to leave my hometown to go take a position in a downtown Las Vegas church. Led only by the sense that God was leading me there, I said goodbye to my family and friends. I wanted to be counted among those who would just go when and where God was leading. Filled with excitement and anticipation of the great things God would do through me, I was quickly reminded that His callings do not always lead to what we would deem “success”. It was challenging, hard, and defeating at times. Even though I am convinced that God moved in great ways, it was a calling during which I mostly felt discouraged. I wondered at times if I had made a mistake or missed what I was sensing God telling me to do. Listening to Mama Maggie, the Holy Spirit reminded me that His measure of success are not measured as how we measure. God’s approval on our lives is not revealed only when we experience what we see are earthly blessings, but whenever we are obedient to whatever He leads us to. That is not always easy or comfortable.
Romans 8:17 tells us that “we are heirs of God.” But it also reminds us that when we are adopted as children of God, we are open to suffering as Jesus suffered. We don’t like to talk about that in the modern church so when we experience trials, or persecution for our faith, or struggles, we are tempted to believe it is because we have somehow disappointed God or we failed. Scripture reminds us to stay of great courage because what we are experiencing in this life may be because we are where God wants us to be. Not because He desires us to be in pain or struggle but because He is doing a greater work in and through us. God’s love for the world is so great, He calls us to live lives of obedience to show up where and whenever to reach those whom would not be reached if it were not for the path God leads us on.
Who better to reach the poor in Egypt but the one who lives among them? Who better to reach the alcoholic than the recovered alcoholic who found Grace? Who better to reach the cancer stricken feeling hopeless than the believer who is also battling the disease? God tells us to not be surprised, but rather “consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” James 1:2-3 NASB. God will use enduring faith to reach the world in despair in despair. We need people of courage who will walk through hard callings, remembering that our reward is not here on earth but in heaven.
Paul writes these words of hope, “For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” Romans 8:18 NASB.
The evil one has come to steal, kill, and destroy the work of God in this present life. So whether you struggle today because of hardship, sickness, or persecution from this broken world, stay encouraged for God is with you, working in and through you to do far greater things that will be revealed one day. Your trials are neither useless or because you have failed. You are secure in the center of His Hand.
Will we speak the words of Jesus who prayed at the time of His suffering, “Thy will be done”?
Mary Quillin is a city-girl-turned-country-girl in her new life in North Dakota. She has been married to her hubby for 16 years and has 3 wonderfully, different kids who have begun their teen years (and she would appreciate all the prayers as possible on that note). After many years in full time ministry, Mary is learning how to show up and daily discover the journey of being available for whatever Jesus leads her to. She spends her days trying to build a welcoming shabby chic home in the heartland of North Dakota while learning to write and run.