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.

~Nancy Holliday

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