Boot Camp is Over

November 14, 2019

Hello there!

Erin here. Thanks for opening up our weekly email as we continue our  series called "What I Am Learning," where we are hearing from four different individuals who are part of the Riverwood family. This week, I'm super pumped that Grace Epley agreed to write this week's Note.

As you hopefully know, Grace is the three-month-long bride of Riverwood's Worship Director, Jake. She grew up in Wyoming, graduated from Moody last December, and is currently working mornings at The Mixing Bowl in downtown Waverly and evenings at the women's homeless shelter of Friends of the Family.

May her words encourage you as you hear about what God has been teaching her. Enjoy!

by Grace Epley

What has God been teaching me? This has been a difficult question for me to answer. Erin told me that given the recent transitions in my life (such as graduating college, getting married, moving, and starting two new jobs), he thought there must be a lot God is teaching me right now. So I reflected, prayed, and evaluated the past few months... and found silence.

For the past several years of my life, God has been teaching me more about who He is: good, loving, sovereign, faithful, and a God who suffers. But all of a sudden I found myself unable to place any specific lessons from the Lord. Perhaps the sheer volume of new experiences recently numbed me to truly listening to the voice of the Lord, and noticing his work in my life. So I started paying closer attention to the things I was reading, listening to, and experiencing. Suddenly I realized “Boot camp is over.”

To understand the significance of this, let me share a bit about myself...

Life at Boot Camp
I grew up in a Christian home, to godly parents in full-time ministry. When I was young, they were part of a missions organization taking part-time teams to Mexico, then moved to Wyoming to be part of church ministry. From there, they started a non-profit geared toward families below the poverty line in my hometown. One thing they made very clear when I was growing up was that I had just as big a place in ministry as they did. They homeschooled my two sisters and me to create room for active discipleship throughout the day, as well as to maximize opportunities to minister together as a family.

After graduating high-school, I did my first year of college online through Moody Bible Institute, then transferred to their main campus in Chicago to get my degree in Ministry to Victims of Sexual Exploitation. I loved being at Moody! Never in my life had I been so completely surrounded by people so committed to bringing glory to the Lord. However, while we had Practical Christian Ministry assignments that required students to volunteer somewhere off campus, we "Moodies" were largely stuck in what was referred to as the “Moody Bubble.”

However, one professor would correct this criticism: “This isn’t a bubble, this is boot camp.” We were being trained, toned, and prepared for a life of service. That didn’t mean we weren’t active in ministry. But it meant this was an intense time to focus on being as prepared for ministry as possible so we would be the best leaders and ministers we could be when we entered ministry full-time.

Training is Done, the Mission Begun
So now what? I have been in training my whole life. I was trained in the home, then trained in college. Doing ministry was crucial to my training, yet it was never a full-time commitment. What was I called to do now?

Recently, I've been attending Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) at the invitation of Bridget Pavelec. I have loved my time with the ladies there. The group is studying the book of Acts, and I find myself relating to the disciples.

For three years, the disciples studied under Jesus. Yes, they ministered with Him, but mainly they spent their time watching and learning from Him. They were essentially full-time students. Then suddenly, after the ascension of Jesus, they were left with a job to do. Boot camp was over. At Pentecost, they received the Holy Spirit to equip them to do what the Lord wanted them to do, to preach the Gospel.

Like the disciples, I find myself no longer a full-time student. I was given the Holy Spirit when I received Christ as my Lord and Savior. Now I am being given a job. Incidentally, Erin just recently took us through the How to BLESS series on evangelism. Between the two, I realized that it is now time to be more proactive than I ever have before in furthering the Gospel.

I currently work as a crisis advocate for Friends of the Family, an organization that houses women and children who are homeless because of domestic violence and human trafficking. This job involves answering the phone to people who are in danger, being available to clients in shelter to provide for them whatever they might need, defusing conflict, and a LOT of paper work. But the hardest part of my job is watching my coworkers who are not believers try and do this job without Jesus.

As a secular organization, Friends of the Family has hired a lot of people who have compassion, but those people have nowhere to turn when that compassion wears out. They get cynical and don’t want to do parts of their job. Without Christ what is there to keep us from crumbling? What is there to keep the goodwill from running out and turning helping people into no more than a job? Now that boot camp is over, I am learning from God to be proactive in bringing the Gospel of Christ to those I work with.

Erin Bird Lead Pastor - Riverwood Church

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