Friday, May 22, 2009

Next steps

We met a few times as our “BOARD OF DIRECTORS” for Women Refreshed at the Well. Originally, I was encouraged to surround myself with people who believed in me, my walk with the Lord, and were willing to come alongside.
The original board was: Ken and Carolee Neufeld, Jody and Tim Thomas, Maxine Gacek, Josie Schellenberg, and Alvin and I. However, with that mix, too many of us were “not at arms length” so at that time, upon suggestion by our lawyer, we changed to the Board of Directors being: Carolee, Jody, Maxine, Josie and myself. And Tim, Ken and Alvin became and “Advisory” part of the board, with non-voting rights. You just can’t have too many relatives on the same board when it becomes a registered charity.
As well, in 2005, after some prayer and asking ~ I asked another friend with both private and non-profit background, to give us some advice. John and his wife Brenda met with us to get a feel for what was happening and what needed to happen.
2005 and 2006 came and went in a blur. I landed up in the hospital in June of 05 and then again in March of 06 and as a result was slated for surgery in May that same year. As well, God chose to take our Dad (John Klassen) to be with him, following a brief struggle with liver cancer. We did not meet as a Board of Directors during those years. I had some conversation with John during the year about fundraising. John said he felt we would need about $500,000! I think my eyes likely rolled back when he told me this. But what was I expecting? We would need to buy a house, furnish a house, and maintain it. Plus we were also hoping to raise enough for a salary for a year while we established the retreat house.
I will be honest with you ~ fundraising has never been something I enjoyed. I had more experience with fundraising during my non-profit childcare career. I knew how tight it was for non-profit organizations to make ends meet. I felt completely stopped dead in my tracks, so to speak, whenever fundraising was discussed. I continued to feel that God wanted us to have the retreat house in the city, and that it was to be somewhere in North or East Kildonan. I did remember however, one comment that was made to me. Ken had once said “sometimes God takes something and puts it to death, and something rises up that looks a little different.”
The one part of Ellie’s vision, the part about coming upon a house that was completely burned but whole ~ this intrigued me a lot. When I spoke with our discerning/prayer team about it (in 03 after Ellie gave it to me) some of them thought perhaps God would “burn” something to do with the Vision, so that something would rise up out of the ashes. Sort of like when a farmer burns a field so that it comes up better the next year.
In the summer of 2007 I started hearing God speak again. I love when I hear Him ~ and I have come to quit doubting if it is really God, and just trust that it is! I often record His thoughts as he rolls them out to me, and my journal is such a roadmap of this journey with God! At the time, His words were “get the ball rolling!” That was what I kept hearing him say.
That fall (of 2007) Alvin and I met with John and Brenda and another couple, to talk “retreat” ~ I felt I needed to talk to them. Irv and Lil were friends of my sister, and I had gotten to know them. The other thing was that often when I saw Irv, he asked how the retreat vision was going. God impressed on my heart that I needed to talk with them, so we got together over supper at the Olive Garden and talked. I have to admit, I walked away from there, not quite sure about why I needed to get together with them. But, the one thing I knew for sure was that God wanted me to, and kept telling me “Get the ball rolling… get the ball rolling.” And like I have said before, I know that when God tells you to do something, I have learned (and yes, sometimes the hard way) that He means it!
It felt however, that with me employed in full time church ministry, life was so full ~ I was having a hard time “finding the time” to roll the ball. Alvin and I began to dream about the possibility of building a retreat house combination with our place to live. We did a lot of talking! I did a lot of asking God to clarify many things. I did a lot of praying. The really cool thing is that when I asked people to pray about WRATW, some of them told me that they already were because God had already laid it on their hearts to pray! I love that about God! When He wants our attention, He gets it IF we are tuned toward Him.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

"I will go before you - DON'T FEAR!"

January 5th, 2004 my journal entry says: “It’s Monday. One of the sweetest times was spent this morning in the (prayer) chapel (at church) ~ sharing, praying, waiting on you Lord. At the end when Diana prayed that you would speak to us, I saw a “picture” of mountains and hills, with a road entwined back and forth through them. I heard (God speak) the phrases “I Love You” ~ “Don’t fear” ~ and “I will go before you” (not sure if that’s a verse portion or not?).
It is! (I checked my Bible concordance) Deut. 31:8 ‘The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid – do not be discouraged!’  Thank You Lord.”
April 7, 2004 my journal entry says: “Lord ~ I know, without a doubt that the adventure with you has begun. I know you have called me into ministry. I feel the call is specific to women. I also know that right now, in the interim ~ my ministry is with all at McIvor (my church). I have no idea what you will ultimately do. At this point God gave me John 14:20 which I just recorded but did not look up.
Lord, you know I so badly want to see the Vision for the retreat house come to fruition and I do want to be involved there. But I believe that my heart beats strongest for women’s ministry. But that being said, Lord I know I am called to ministry and I know you will do your will through me. Lord ~ help me to not fear. Help me to fall more and more in love with You Jesus!”
At that point, I looked up the verse in John 14:20 which God had given to me while I was prayer journaling. John 14:20 says: “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me, and I am in You.”
Later, in the month of April (actually the 20th) I was told that there had been many applicants for the pastoral position, but that I was being asked if I would allow my name to go forward. I was shocked. After all, I knew that they were looking for someone with a seminary degree. That was not me. I said I would gladly let my name stand, and the official process continued. I was asked to give my testimony. It was here that I testified to the grace of God, as well as to his direct leading in my life. From there, I knew that, as it is the custom of our church, the congregation would discuss it and put it to a vote.
During this time, the verse from Joshua 1:9 became my mantra! “Be strong and courageous ~ for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
I read a devotional called “The People God Calls” and part of the reflection said “In today’s church we are often concerned with professional qualifications for those we call to ministry. How do we react when God calls unlikely apostles and prophets to challenge us today?” I kept finding that God would send me little “kisses” along the way to affirm that I was following Him…even though I couldn’t quite see the path!
May 11th ~ my journal entries are full of thoughts and quotes on SURRENDERING TO GOD!! “Surrendering is not for cowards or doormats! Surrendering is best demonstrated in obedience! You say, ‘Yes Lord’ to whatever He asks of You” (sorry I do not have the author of the quote written down).
William Booth ~ Salvation Army said “surrendered people are the ones God uses!!” Oh boy, God was teaching me a lot about this!!
The congregational meeting was to take place in May. That day I struggled with God (silly me!) and asked God “Okay Lord, what do I do if the vote is 92 or 89… I know you have told me it should be 93!” I shared that with Alvin and Ashley as we drove into the meeting. After the first part of the business, we were dismissed, and the debate began. Even for our church, “women in leadership” was still a debate. Alvin and I went home to await the answer. Later that night, Bob (the moderator) called and said “Joy the vote was overwhelming affirmative – it was 93%!” I was literally blown away ~ God had done it once again ~ showing me that HE IS IN CONTROL RIGHT DOWN TO THE VOTE!
I told Bob the story, to which he replied “Hang on Joy, I am putting this on speaker phone, I want you to tell the rest of the Council executive!”
I was commissioned early in June ~ blessed as a woman, to minister in a pastoral leadership role. At the time people were thinking, and some were bold enough to ask if I had let the Vision die? To this I replied that for some reason God wanted me in the pastoral role at McIvor for whatever time He saw fit for me. He had made that absolutely clear in my “call into ministry” in the church setting. While it hurt to hear people express that they thought the Vision was dead in the water, I assured them that NO, the Vision was not dead, but it was “simmering on the back burner” until such time as God saw fit to bring it to a boil again.
It simmered, and simmered and simmered. 2004 seems like a long time ago. I have to admit that back in 2000–01, when God laid the Vision on my heart I never thought it would take so long! But someone told me that “God’s TIMING IS ALWAYS PERFECT” and I believed that He would let me know when I needed to get going with it again.
In the meantime, I saw how God was using me in my pastoral role, for HIS purposes and making it very clear to me why WRATW was on His heart. Since I was a woman in a leadership role, I worked a lot with women of all ages. I also got the opportunity to present the story of the Vision at women’s groups, and churches other than my own. I loved this, as I felt that it has always been God’s heart to have this ministry for women of all ages, from all walks of life, from all denominations, as well as for women who were just getting to know God, or maybe don’t even know that they need God!
As I worked with women within my ministry ~ a few things happened. I got to hear the “hearts” of many, many women of all ages. I have had the joy of seeing God at work in many lives, and have also had opportunity to pray for many, many women over the 7 years I have been in my role.
If there is anything that I have seen is that women of all ages need to experience, and know the amazing grace they are covered with, and the love that God wants to lavish on us (men too, but this became obvious in regards to women)! I have seen too many women who do not know how beautiful, how precious, how loved and treasured they are in the eyes of the Father! I have felt His love, His blessing, His embrace and have realized how much I want other women especially to just fall more in love with Jesus and also feel this amazing unconditional love! This is one thing that is so obvious to me reagarding why God put me into ministry for this time. He just really wants women to know how loved you are!! We are precious in his sight!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

God speaks directly as well as through dreams & visions!

Little did I know what God was going to do next! One thing I have learned through these past few years is that God speaks clearly! He uses many ways to get His word to us! We just need to be open to hearing Him!
Our church council meets on the second Tuesday of each month (our Council is like a “board of elders” ). The meeting was over, and one of the council members asked if she could speak to me. At the time I didn’t know that Betty had prophetic gifting, but I was soon to find out! She asked me if I had applied for the pastoral position, to which I told her yes, that I had, but I had not told anyone. Then she told me that she needed to share something with me. It was a recurring dream that she had been given and God wanted her to share it with me. I also asked her to write it down, which she did and emailed to me so I had it in written form (for such a time as this!).
Email from Betty, sent June 17, 2003 ~ Subject: Women at the Well Dream
Betty writes “I can’t even begin to tell you how honored I feel that my dream meant something to you. I will attempt to describe it for you: You were wearing a blue robe with long sleeves. It had a tie at the waist, but tied to the back like a dress. You didn’t speak, but your expression was calm and searching, and you were very focused on seeking need and meeting it.
You went to the well (which had a few other women around it too, but they didn’t interact with you) and dipped in your dipper. You then proceeded to seek out a woman who needed a drink and you went to her with your dipper. I wondered why you didn’t use a bucket, as this would be more efficient. It came to me that you were meeting people’s needs individually, and that what one person may require from the well is very different than what the next person would need. You were indeed honoring people by quenching their thirst on an individual basis rather than being efficient and thereby risking missing needs. This use of the dipper also ensured frequent trips to the well for yourself. It also seemed that the women you were ministering to couldn’t quite make it to the well themselves, and required you to intercede on their behalf. Perhaps that is why you didn’t interact with the women who were already at the well (actually, it was not that you didn’t wish to interact with them, but I had a sense that they were already engaged amongst themselves and it would have been an interruption if someone had approached them). You seemed focused on going where the need was, rather than where a need was already being met.
This dream struck me as quite significant, and I experienced an ongoing nudging: that I needed to share it with you.”
The night that Betty told me in person, once she was done I asked Betty if she knew anything about my story, to which she said she did not. I told her what God had entrusted me with ~ His Vision for women! Women Refreshed at the Well! Her eyes filled up with tears, and I felt like the hair was standing up on my arm. To this day, as I recall that story, I still get that feeling!
Well, little did I know that God had even more in store for me! Later that week, on Thursday morning, I received a phone call from another woman in our church named Ellie. Ellie also had prophetic gifting, which included receiving visions. I remember asking her that morning, how the visions happened. Ellie told me that when she had a sense that she needed to pray for someone, she also would ask God if He “had something that He wanted to give her, to give to the person that He laid on her heart”. And then the vision would roll before her eyes like a movie clip. She is fully awake, but seeing something that God gives her. After Ellie shared her vision with me, I asked her if she could give it to me in writing. Here is what Ellie gave to me:
“I saw you standing outside looking up at a night sky. You were alone looking at one star that kept getting brighter and brighter. The start suddenly shot out of the sky like a comet and swirled around you. You kept dodging the comet, but showed no fear. Suddenly the comet shot away and you began to follow it into a dark tunnel. You lit a match because it was pitch black and the light seemed to comfort you. Moving ahead in the darkness a train appeared and you stepped aside just in time. The tunnel came to an end and train tracks continued on far as you could see. To the right, and left, were sharp drops so you had no choice but to follow them. You were fearful of another train coming, (thinking) where would you step out of its path. Suddenly a stair case appeared on the left side of the tracks so you began to descent, relieved to leave the tracks. You saw a hut ahead that was black and burned, though whole. You walked past it into darkness. Hope this blesses you Joy.”
Now this vision was strange. Betty’s dream seemed very straightforward. Ellie’s vision had me wondering. Ellie told me that she did not have the gift of interpretation. I asked her what her “gut feeling” was, to which she told me that she felt this vision had to do with my work at church, and directly related to WRATW. She encouraged me not to lose sight of what God had called me to with the Vision. Even though she said the work at church was very good. This was an encouragement to me to keep moving forward with the Vision. Don’t lose sight!
Later that month, the Prayer Ministry team at our church, met for a prayer evening. I went, and they spent some time praying for me, and for some intrepretation of the vision that Ellie had given to me. One woman (Ursula) who was there that evening had a strong impression of the train track. Her words to me were “You are where God wants you right now.”
Regarding the part about the hut that was black, burned and yet whole ~ some of the impressions were that perhaps it was the death of the original vision ~ or a “changed” vision. These are some of the things that I tucked away in my heart and have pondered often over the last 6 years!
Well needless to say, I went into summer with these many thoughts on my heart! Here is an excerpt from my journal, dated Sunday, July 13th ~ “And Father ~ WRATW ~ what is your will for us ~ please reveal it to us. Thank You Lord for this opportunity!”
During the summer it became clear that more women were hearing about the Vision, understanding what it was about, and aligning themselves with its purpose. One woman told me that if I needed someone to clean toilets, to count her in! I had many offers of help during the summer months. I felt a peace and an assurance that the Vision God entrusted to me, was growing. And even though He had affirmed that I needed to apply for the pastoral position at our church, that He was still ultimately in control, and had everything in His hands…even though I could not see it all at the time!
During the summer, I also heard God speak again, and this time He gave me the number “93″. At the time I was not sure exactly what that was about but had no doubt that this number (for whatever reason) was a detail given to me ~ from God (and some people have told me they don’t think God cares about the fine details!!).
In fall the “search” committee did a formal interview with me. At one point, one of the men asked me if I realized that there would be a vote (if my name went forward as the candidate) and if so, what would I expect? I said without hesitation “93”. People looked a little surprised. One of them even said that “that’s a little high!” Me ~ all I knew is that is the number God gave me ~ and if there was one thing I had learned was that God speaks and I needed to listen! Little did I know how hard that would be over and over again!
All summer I fretted about applying for charitable status. Ken Neufeld encouraged me one day through a phone call, to just complete it and get it in ~ and not to see it as so daunting. So I did! And that fall we were excited to see that our application to become a registered ministry was processed! Women Refreshed at the Well was officially a non-profit ministry with a charitable number! Now, we could give tax receipts for donations given to WRATW.
** note: Should you feel that God is calling you to invest financially in this Vision for women ~ please contact us. All donations are tax receiptable and will go into the bank account for this ministry! There will be many opportunities to donate in the future too, BUT perhaps God is nudging you now, just let me (Joy) know. Thanks in advance for your participation in this ministry.

Friday, May 1, 2009

2002 - God You've called me out. Now what?

So what has happened since the beginning of 2002?
When I walked out of the daycare, having worked my last day on Dec. 31, 2001 ~ all I knew was God had very clearly called me out. I left a career of 25 years to follow God on something He had entrusted to me. Little did I know that He had something completely COMPLETELY different in store for me. 
I had been encouraged by Bill Fast to see if our church would consider allowing Women Refreshed at the Well to “umbrella” under our church until we got our own charitable status (from now on, I will use this acronym: WRATWwhenever talking about the ministry). Well, after some debate, it was decided that our church would not allow this to happen. I understand, and in hindsight, I am actually glad they did not allow it. This way I was encouraged to go ahead and just do all the paperwork involved in applying to become a non-profit organization with charitable status. This was the most important step at this point, as until we were able to “receipt” for tax purposes, we could not take donations. 
In April of 2002 I decided to apply for the half-time position of “Office Administrator” at our church. I had been asking God to use me wherever He saw fit ~ and that I was open to being called into something new (especially while I was still taking steps toward whatever He wanted me to do with WRATW!). After my interview for the administrative job, my husband Alvin (the one with the gift of discernment!) told me that he believed the church was going to call me into something more than what I had applied for. It was his “gut” feeling. Well, when I got the phone call from our moderator, he also asked if I would consider taking on an interim pastoral position (Alvin’s gifting is also prophetic). I accepted this interim position. There I was ~ no seminary ~ only “life experience” and education in childcare ~ and I was being asked to “pastor”. I was “called out from within” our church. Our church has done this before as well. It is always great to see leaders chosen from within a church family. I felt that I already had the relationship with the people, at that time it had been our church family since we got married in 1978.
After a year, a search committee was established to find someone permanent for the pastoral position that I had been doing in the interim. I kept feeling that God wanted me to apply. So, I put out a “fleece”. I asked God if He couldconfirm that He wanted me to apply by having 7 people tell me that I should. Well because GOD IS GOD ~ He confirmed the decision with more than 7 people in less than 2 weeks and I said, “Okay God – I will apply!” 
For me, really, I don’t think I ever expected to get the full-time permanent position. I knew that some wondered what I had to offer those in our congregation who were “with degrees” (after all, I was very much a “blue collar” pastor!).  I was struggling. In one hand I held WRATW and in the other hand I held “McIvor Church” ~ and I was really thinking it was an “either/or” decision. Two women, Elaine and Sherryl, spoke the same words to me and told me that I didn’t need to hold them in separate hands, as they both believed that somehow God could work them together. God continued to affirm HIS decision for me.  I continued to record in my journal the times that God spoke either directly, through other people, or through His word. 
I really fell in love with the story of Moses. Oh Moses ~ I love it when he said to God, “You want me to do that? I am so inadequate. I am not eloquent of speech ~ take Aaron my brother!” (paraphrase mine).  I was also inspired by Joshua. God continued to tell him to take courage that He would go before Joshua. I knew that if I was willing, God would show me how He takes the ordinary and does the extraordinary. He equips the willing!
So, knowing that God wanted me to apply, I submitted my resume in May, right on the deadline. I figured, if nothing else, I was being asked to be obedient!! One thing I knew about God is that when I have not listened, I don’t feel so good! I wanted to be ready and willing to do what He called me to!