Thursday, February 06, 2014

Six Words That Changed My Life

 A few years ago, my former boss, Matt, shared with our staff a story about Ernest Hemingway. Supposedly he was trying to win a bet with some colleagues. The bet was that he couldn't write a complete story in six words. He took the challenge and won the bet. Here was his story. "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

This story grabbed me. It was so sad. Matt then challenged us to write our own six word story and I wrote several. I don't remember what they were but I want to tell you a story about six words that changed my life:

A little over nine years ago I took a role at the district office for the Christian & Missionary Alliance. I was the next-generation ministries director. My role was to come alongside youth pastors and basically help them take steps towards becoming a better youth pastor. That has included training; one-on-one time at Starbucks; coaching calls, running events for them so that we can "do better together than on our own"; volunteer training; and much more. It has been a privilege to serve in this role and I, and my family, have been hugely blessed as a result of it.In those nine years I have had four different assistants and four different bosses. I am the only person on staff who was there when I first started. Everyone is new.

My new boss, Randy, is a church planter who is very much about change. In our first staff meeting he asked us all to hold our job descriptions with open hands. He said there will be a lot of shifting around and it would be clunky for a while, but in the end it will be good. Part of his change will be moving the office from Wilsonville (25 minutes from home) to Portland, near the airport (50 minutes from home...without traffic). This would also mean a move for our family to Portland, away from our "family" and home town of 17 years. This has been a significant conversation between Jeanne-Ann and I. Not knowing for sure what my role would look like we wondered if we could live in Portland. I recognize that in ministry it is a rarity to live in one area for that long and so I am thankful. Growing up in a military family I was uprooted from friends every couple of years or so. This is home.

Randy and I have had a number of conversations during the last four months about what the future of next-generation ministries should, could and it might look like. He told me that we could not build the new job description around me but that it needed to be built around what the needs were of the district. I completely agreed with that.

One of the major changes within the office is that we are moving the building from Wilsonville, about 25 minutes away from my home, to Portland near the airport, about 50 minutes away from my home. We have been in Salem/Keizer area for 17 years. It is home. It is the only place my children have ever known.

As the future has begun to unfold, there are some very exciting parts to come. We have talked about what potentially could be in my job description, and although it would require a significant shift, I was beginning to get excited about it. Five days later...

On the Saturday before Thanksgiving, I sat down with Randy and he told me six words that would change my life forever, "I think it's time for transition." In that moment, I was not expecting to hear those words. If I pulled back to the 35,000 foot, level I am sure I could see the writing has been on the wall but not in that moment. My world was shaken.

We had a follow-up conversation the Monday after to talk about more details. As of March 1, 2014, I will no longer be serving in the Alliance Northwest District office. During our conversation I told Randy that, although it was not my choice and I would not have made it, I totally see God's hand in all of this. One way I have seen that to be true, is that during all of our hard conversations, I have always felt peace. Usually in conflict, especially with "my boss", I feel like the room temperature has dropped 30° and I can feel my body shivering. That has not been the case here. Philippians 4:7 clearly says that God gives us peace that passes or transcends all understanding. The peace I have does not make sense except that God is giving it.

I need to be clear about something here. There are other pieces to the puzzle, but nothing anyone is hiding. There is no maliciousness. Randy likes me, I like him. He wasn't looking for a way to get rid of me. Nothing inappropriate has happened. There are no cracks to go searching for. If that is what you are looking for, you will not find it.

As for the future, we have no idea what's next. What I know is that we are listening to God and ready to follow Him wherever He leads. I believe God has shaped me in such a way that I will continue to impact and influence young people for the rest of my life. I thought that would always be in a local church, but that perspective changed direction nine years ago when I was asked to take a role in our district office working with youth pastors. 

So I honestly have no idea. We are living in faith and trusting in God completely, knowing that he will care for us.

You may be wondering how you can pray for us. We would be honored if you would. You can pray for my family, especially my children who are dreading the possibility of leaving their lifelong friends. In some ways, it is probably hardest on them. You can pray for Jeanne-Ann, who is a kindergarten teacher and loves her job. The thought of looking for another job in another school is not high on her fun list. She loves the school that she is at, the people that she works with, and the kids that she gets to teach. She is an amazing teacher!

You can pray for me that in my weak moments I will only listen to God. Pray that I follow after wherever it is He leads us. 

Below is a copy of the newsletter that was sent out so you can read what others have read.

For nearly a decade "Erik w/a k" has tirelessly served, led, and invested in youth pastors and students across the region. His influence and impact have been far-reaching and I've personally been blessed by the influence he's had on my son. Erik and I have been processing the future of the Alliance NW ministry to the emerging generations. In those conversations, I’ve come to believe the timing is right for a change in leadership for Next Generation Ministries. Erik and I have both seen God’s hand in our conversations and in this decision. I am very grateful to Erik for agreeing to continue to lead through February 2014, including DYC, and his willingness to speak into the redefining process of Next Generation ministries. As a self-described “lifer” to students, I believe that Erik and Jeanne-Ann, together with their children, will land in another role that will continue his impact in the lives of students. I know that his friendship and servant's heart will be missed in the office!

Sidenote: If you are looking for a camp speaker or worship leader at your retreat, I am currently available. I have no idea what is next, but we are listening to God and dreaming together.





5 comments:

Clyde said...

You are a gifted leader and communicator. That means you are also a gifted teachers. There are more doors available to you than you can imagine at the moment and some maybe right in your own back yard. Think about it.

LorieN said...

News like this is always a big shock, but never comes as a surprise to God, who is leading and guiding your family. I will always remember when we were in Kenya, on the bus heading to the orphanage with the students from Rosslyn Academy. You were casually talking with the students about Jesus and his teachings and they were hanging on your every word. To you it was just what you did! You were so comfortable with it and I was impacted by what an effective communicator you were (are)! Gifted, as Clyde said above. I have no doubt that God is preparing you for your next wonderful assignment. And He's preparing Jeanne Ann and the kids if it will mean a move. It will be hard and will completely suck from a human standpoint. But He knows that too.

Erik Williams said...

Thanks for your kind words Clyde. And a great reminder.

Erik Williams said...

Lorie, I remember that well. Great memories!! Thanx commenting. It's so encouraging.

Kenny Engelking said...

Erik,
I'm excited to see how God will continue to use you. I am sure of this, it will be awesome, powerful and full of His Spirit. I've gone from being a student at a camp you were speaking at, an intern at a camp you were speaking at, and now a friend. Thankful for the passion you have to proclaim the good news of the Gospel! Alex and I will be praying for you.

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