This post will serve as the kickoff to my series I’m doing as a creative project for my New Testament Christology class. The assignment is to come up with an engaging topic and work it into a unique presentation. This can be literally anything that relates to Christology or things we’ve discussed in lectures or readings throughout the semester (a.k.a. the study of all things Jesus, i.e. – basically anything that can be routed back to having to do with our own ideas of Christology).
The Monday Mission Project, as I’m calling it, will be a series of four or five posts featuring people in my life that don’t necessarily work in ministry or missions, but are still clearly using their career and what God has called them to as an avenue to show Jesus to those they encounter everyday. These weekday world-changers serve God in the big and small and are working to help advance the kingdom in the secular workplace on a regular basis. The name for the project represents how I hope to view my career in dentistry one day: that is, that even on the Monday-est of Mondays, I want to enthusiastically walk out in God’s plan for my life and realize the impact I can have through my profession and the specific gifts and passions God has given me. Your workplace might not be the jungles of third world countries or the pulpit of the local church, but it can still just as easily be your every day mission field. I hope that through this series we would all learn to look at our careers (current and, for my fellow college students, future) as just that: the Monday mission.
The first people I’m featuring are none other than my own big sis and brother in law. Megan and Stanley have been married for six years, have an almost-two-year old named Elijah (my favorite ginger nephew), and have another little boy on the way. They live in Tyler, TX where Stanley works as an engineer at a heating and cooling company and Megan works part-time as a speech and language pathologist while still getting to spend the majority of her time at home with Elijah. They also have worked with their small local Vineyard church’s youth group as the primary youth ministers and Megan also serves on the worship team every Sunday. Read on to see how their lives are an incredible example of this kind of kingdom-minded living and how they are embracing God’s plan for their story each step of the way.
1. Describe the process of ultimately choosing to pursue engineering and speech pathology for your careers. How did God lead you into these professions along the way and when did you know you were really walking in his calling on your life?
S: I know with me and engineering, it started in high school. It was really just a desire and an enjoyment of solving problems. It started with geometry – it was just fun. When I got to looking at career choices and college majors, engineering was the only thing that made sense to me. Mechanical engineering was the one I wanted because it’s a broad degree, and you can apply it a little more narrowly as you got into a career. I knew it was God’s calling over me because, again, it was just a natural fit. It was something that just worked. Something that I enjoyed, something that came easily at times, and something where I enjoyed the work of it which is, I think, a testament to God’s will in your life. If you can enjoy the work of it, I think that’s aligning very much with what God’s called you to.
M: I initially went into my college career undecided. I had a few ideas, and I ended up doing some formal testing through Baylor’s career counseling department. I took all these tests that are supposed to give you a list of top match careers for you, and speech pathology was my number one. I had actually met a girl on my hall who was already majoring in that, and she invited me to come observe some of the therapy sessions at Baylor’s clinic one day with her to see what it really was all about. We watched a session with a boy who was about three years old, Autistic, and had a language delay. They were doing a lot of fun, engaging therapy getting him to communicate, and it just felt really exciting that I could do something to practically help someone have an improved quality of life. I learned more about the career and the incredible variety of settings from hospitals, schools, rehab clinics, etc., and the possibilities were endless for how I could specialize further down the road. I dove in head first my sophomore year, and the more I had some hands on opportunities – specifically in grad school and my clinical practicum where I got to work more with adults – I felt like I was being called to go the medical route and work with adults who had lost some ability to function and communicate effectively. I decided to do a hospital externship which led me to where I am now, working with adults who have had neurogenic disorders. I’m able to help them restore critical functions such as swallowing, speech, language, or cognition. Working in a hospital every day really opened my eyes to how much we take for granted in our basic, every day living and I realized that what I do on a day to day basis really does impact people’s lives in simple but big ways.
2. How do you practically show the love of Jesus through your work and be a light to the people you interact with everyday? How do you see yourself serving God and others through your profession on a day-to-day basis?
S: One of the things that God has laid on my heart is to fund the mission field. I know God’s called me not to be a full time minister or missionary, but to use my career and degree to help fund those efforts for the people who are called to missions. He’s called me to be very generous with that which he’s given me through my career to do that, so that his work can be made whole on the earth. Another specific event at work recently was when a lady I sit next to at work was visibly upset, so I asked her what was going on. She said she really didn’t want to talk about it, but came back a few minutes later and told me her husband had recently told her he wanted a divorce. I knew she was a believer, so I knew it was a fair question to ask if we could pray or what can I do to help, so I prayed over her at the time. Then when I was driving home and continued to pray for her family, I felt like the Lord gave me a vision of three or four of us at work all sitting around a picnic table just praying together. The next day I basically told her here’s what I want to do and is that OK if we did that, and she said of course. It’s crucial to not put up boundaries at work to say,”Well, this probably isn’t appropriate.” When we have relationships where we know things will be received well we can walk into what God has in obedience. There are five or six of us that have already met to pray as a group and we’ll be meeting again this week simply to pray. It’s neat that God’s guided me into that and that it’s something as simple as coming together and centering ourselves around prayer.
M: Especially when I started out working in a hospital and was around very critically ill patients who might have bleak prognoses for their recovery, I really saw people at their worst. In their place of fear and the unknown, I can be a light and comfort to them. I can be very real and human with them, and sometimes maybe it’s okay to not be so professional or clinically minded. I can look at them as a person and reassure them that I get it. For example, “My grandfather went through this” or, “My friend just went through this.” I really just take a minute and consult them or comfort them without having to be overtly spiritual about it. It doesn’t have to be me asking to pray for every patient, although I’ve had several that have asked if I would pray for them. Some times the little things like that reassuring hand squeeze, a few extra encouraging words, or taking the time to counsel them through some terrible news from the doctor can really make a difference. I would just tell them that’s what Jesus would do – he’s going to meet the practical needs first and the spiritual needs second. Another instance is doing menial tasks that don’t feel like my job. I have a master’s degree, so naturally I don’t think that I should have to put their dentures in or clean them up after they go to the bathroom, but those basic tasks where I can be a servant to help someone else who might be having a bad or overworked day are huge opportunities to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a small way. Just having a kind demeanor in that very high stress environment where people are on edge and quick to snap, knowing that I could be that gentle encouraging person to make their day a little smoother is enough. We should never think we’re too good or that we’re above others we work with. I think it’s important to realize that nothing has to be too below us for us to be willing to step up and do it.
3. What opportunities, big or small, has your career given you to partner with God and make an impact for his kingdom that you wouldn’t have had otherwise if you weren’t doing what you are.
M: While I was at Baylor I had the opportunity to travel to Honduras with a group that was actually mostly deaf education students, but it was also open to speech pathology majors. Getting to experience another culture and interact with those people who had significant communication barriers was really eye-opening. I loved the chance to work with the kids and teach them about the bible and Jesus but also to give them something practical through teaching them a language and giving them a functional way to interact with their family friends. This was a really neat experience, and I wouldn’t have had that had I gone a different route with my major or career choice.
S: One of the biggest things is the ability to give to missionaries. We’ve done this a few times where we’ve been able to contribute to somebody’s long term missions or help them get a place in Brazil or Mexico for six months. To me that’s the biggest advantage of being able to work in the field I’m working is that it gives us the ability to help fund those who are walking in God’s calling and really just reach the poor and needy and those who are in desperate need of Christ.
4. What do you love most about your career or even your current season of life?
M: Right now specifically, I am loving the flexibility of my career and that it allows me to spend a lot of time at home with Elijah. I love that I get to be the primary person pouring into him spiritually and emotionally. I get to be his mom and his main teacher right now. I get to be the one reading books, doing nap time and meal time, or reading bible stories to him and hearing him say “Amen.” I don’t feel deprived of these early formative years which a lot of moms don’t get to be as directly involved in, and it is a luxury for a lot of women to get to stay home. It’s also a choice, and there’s nothing right or wrong and everyone does what they need to do for their family. I also get to be the one that disciplines him. I like being able to meet up with a girlfriend and get coffee or meet someone and their kid at the zoo in the middle of the week. There’s all this stuff I couldn’t wait to do while I was working that I get to do now. I love getting to experience the community of young and older moms, and that’s so important for your emotional health to talk about how hard it is but how grateful we all are at the same time. It’s a hard job, a lot of people will say it’s the hardest job, but I also think it’s the most rewarding.
S: Similar to what Megan was saying with the flexibility. We’re able to work with our youth group every Wednesday night, and I have been for the past eight years. I’m able to have weekends free for youth events at the house or ministering at the church on Sunday mornings. I love my set schedule of work, the stability, and knowing what to expect. It’s been huge to in order to do what God’s called us to with the youth ministry. As far as my day to day engineering job, I think it goes back to my original love for problem solving. Even now as I’m studying for my licensure exam, just sitting down and seeing the problems and finding a solution. That’s just a blast.
5. How do you stay enthusiastic/passionate and find the motivation to continue to work diligently for his glory?
M: It’s hard. Some mornings you don’t feel like it. There are seasons and months that you aren’t really sure if that’s what you should be doing, you don’t know where it’s going, you do have doubts, and don’t know if you chose the right thing. I’ve definitely had those feelings before. At the peak of what I’ll call two or three years of really hard season at my first job, I wasn’t really sure why I was doing it. You do have days when you don’t know why, because you don’t feel appreciated or valued, but you have to think about doing everything as unto the Lord. Even when you feel ignored by people, God sees what I’m doing and sees my heart. For me when I go to a conference or do some continuing education, I have this renewed sense of loving my field and realizing I need to stay current and engaged. When I got back out there working after a year at home, it really reignited my passion because it made me think on my toes and be creative about how I’m going to do a certain therapy.
S: Part of my personality is that I’m a very duty oriented person. I know that what I’m doing is providing for my home and my family. Yeah, sometimes I don’t feel like getting up at six and commuting an hour to work, and it is difficult some days. I just know it’s something God’s called me to as a husband and father. When I walk in that there’s joy in that. Sometimes it’s trudging through muck and mire, but there’s joy in doing what God has called me to do. I have to remind myself that this is the place that God has put me and my heart. My job is providing for my family in this God-given role, so I find a great deal of joy in fulfilling that role even though sometimes it can be mundane or frustrating. I’m ultimately excited to be fulfilling his plan for my life.
6. What advice would you give to college students who are wondering how they can serve God and be the hands and feet of Jesus through their careers even if it’s not directly in ministry, missions, the church, etc.?
S: The Holy Spirit has no bounds. We can’t box in God. It’s important to keep that in mind, especially in the workplace. Always respond to what the Holy Spirit’s prompting you to. There’s never going to be a situation when the Holy Spirit can’t come in and make room for God’s glory. Another thing I’ve learned is that relationships are key. I can’t necessarily minister to a youth just by preaching the truth of the gospel, I mean, absolutely that happens. When I’ve developed a one on one relationship with someone, and then I bring the gospel into that, the drastic difference in that is incredible. It’s really great to be able to say “We know each other, I love you, this is the gospel.” Never be afraid of developing those relationships in the workplace. Also, there’s no one thing you’re going to be called to do in life. God’s will is exactly where you are, and really that’s the important thing to understand. Don’t feel like you’re going to miss it.
M: I’m not literally witnessing to people every day and preaching the gospel to every patient I have, but I’m going to be real with them and a light in their darkness. I think that’s going to open a door for their heart to be softened. You can do that anywhere. And don’t live in the fear of getting in trouble of separation of work and faith or things like that. You don’t have to always worry about getting in trouble dealing with protocols, business, this isn’t done…I mean you do have to walk on eggshells in the real world workplace (S: Yeah, those are lies from the pit of hell), but just using discernment and know when it’s definitely OK to cross some of those “boundaries.”