Following God’s call of evangelism and discipleship in my life has coincided with the development of close friendships. From my perspective I was “doing something for God,” but from God’s perspective He has been surprising me beyond what I might ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). I have seen this principle of God’s gift of friendship through ministry repeated over the last 25 years.
After a difficult four years of college, along with a season of anxiety and depression which I was unable to define or understand, I made the leap of faith into full-time ministry with Cru. Despite my interest in serving in a different region of the United States, my first ministry assignment was in Nacogdoches, Texas, at Stephen F. Austin State University. Also assigned to SFASU was a new friend named Laura who also became my roommate.
We were opposite in many ways. I was shorter and curvy, Laura tall and slim. I was a loud talker, Laura a gentler soul. Yet we bonded over our shared love for laughing, shopping, Jesus, frozen yogurt and weird healthy foods like pizza potatoes. We also shared some past hurts – though different in nature — for which we began to see God’s healing. Years and miles have changed the frequency of our contact. But I smile now to think of God’s kind intent in placing a loving friend at this insecure launch into adult life.
In the days following 9/11, I felt a renewed sense of urgency about evangelism (which having a baby and toddler had somewhat eclipsed). I had met Caroline when her husband worked on plumbing at our fixer-upper home. Caroline also had a baby and a toddler. One day while the toddlers played at the park, we talked about the gospel. Caroline read her Bible all that winter following 9/11, and at some point her eyes were opened in faith.
Though I was only one small influence on her at that pivotal point in her life, I marvel now to think how reaching out to her was reaching out to take hold of a lady who remains a very dear friend. Our children have grown up together like cousins (complete with camping memories and various squabbles), and we have shared a love for children’s books and coffee.
Some years later I learned of a need in our church’s Sunday school department and began teaching a 5th and 6th grade girls’ class. While teaching in this class for four years, I was joined by a new friend named Mandy. As we shared teaching responsibilities, we also began to share life: picking huckleberries, celebrating her son’s and daughter’s weddings, painting our fence. Mandy has challenged me to trust God in new ways and to be a more engaged parent.
What I see in all three of these friendships is that when I took the next step in obedience to God to serve Him in some new way, He was waiting to surprise me with the blessing of a friendship I would likely not have experienced otherwise. Ministry is not all about me or my blessings; it’s ultimately about the glory of God and the redemption of His people. Still, along the way my loving Father has delighted in granting me these bonus friendships.
Sacred Story is honored to have Nancy Holliday as a guest contributor. Nancy lives with her family in Idaho, where she enjoys walking, biking, cross-country skiing, and reading. See also Nancy’s post called In A New York Minute.