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No Guarantee of Results

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After my husband got involved in nonprofit work, I began to change my perspective on volunteering. No longer was it an option—it was an obligation. I prayed that I would learn faithfulness and humility as I served.

Big mistake.

For years I volunteered by producing newsletters for nonprofits. I had loads of experience but no formal training. It wasn't a problem as long as I wasn't being paid. Then I was asked to serve my community in a different way, by serving on a board. I was nervous about stepping out of my comfort zone, but I agreed.

Within a month I was sure I had misheard God. Down the rabbit hole I went, into a situation more fraught with conflict than junior high school. And I made it worse.

Instead of writing the newsletter, I was supposed to oversee the contractor who did. This man was a professional—he had his own consulting company. I resented the fact that he knew more than I did. In short, I overstepped. He accused me of undermining him by doing work for free that he was paid to do. He was right.

We worked in separate spheres for months. We couldn't even email nicely. Eventually, the board selected a new president who agreed to act as a mediator. In short, the contractor was willing to try again if I was willing to do the same.

This time I was careful not to tread on his turf. More than an editor, he needed an ally. One board member said that his work was an unnecessary expense. Couldn't I do the same thing for free? Well, yes, I could, but that was what caused all the trouble in the first place. As soon as I defended the contractor, our working relationship improved. He also produced better work for the organization.

I wish I could say that my efforts on his behalf changed the nature of the beast. It didn't. When I received a promotion at work, I took it as a sign and resigned from the board. My first call was to the contractor. He asked if his contract would be renewed without me there to advocate for him, and I encouraged him to keep his eyes open for other opportunities. At the end of the year, he was let go.

Contrary to what I was taught in school, sometimes good work does not produce good results. Not for the contractor. Not for me, either. My participation on the board did not turn out to be the spiritually uplifting service I hoped it would be.

However, the experience was a crash course in working as unto God and not man (Col. 3:23). My call to this organization did not come with a guarantee of results. And yet, I do see them. I am learning those lessons of faithfulness and humility that I so boldly asked for.

The contractor and I? We regularly exchange nice emails. We regularly exchange nice emails about his job-hunt. He may even have a lead on a new contract with someone else who used to serve on that board.

Questions for personal reflection, online discussion, or small groups:

  • Where does the idea of service fit into your Christian walk?
  • What has been your experience working as a Christian in a secular organization?
  • When have you overstepped? How did you address the situation?
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