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Releasing Your Grip

Misty Anne Winzenried

Trusting God in ministry isn't always easy. We read books and magazines, attend workshops, and talk with mentors to become all that we can be in ministry (and rightfully so). Yet, when we've been so equipped, we often begin to trust in our methods and strategies more than we trust in God. Deep down, many of us have trained ourselves to be the only person we can count on.

Thankfully, when situations in our lives spin out of our control, we can trust that God is faithful and is always working for our good and his glory. Walking in faith is a lifelong journey, but the more we're able to release control of our lives and ministries to God, the more we'll be able to see God's blessings.

How do we release our control to God, yet still walk in the authority and power he has granted us in our ministries? We talked to several children's ministers who've done just that.

Send Me to...Minnesota?

Why would God call me to Africa? I just couldn't understand why a loving, caring God would rip me from my desert paradise in Arizona and send me to Africa. It couldn't really be God's call. You see, my Africa isn't the continent on the other side of the world. My Africa is the cold tundra, the far north -- Minnesota.

Things were going great at church. I told God how great the kids and families were, how supportive the senior pastor was, and how I knew that kids in this warm desert needed Jesus. God responded only with, "You are called." Called to renew my commitment to this ministry, I reasoned. Called to work with kids, and definitely not kids in snowsuits.

I told God how wonderful our house, the park across the street, and our neighbors were. God responded only with, "You are called." Again I reasoned, called to minister to my neighbors, invite people into our home, maybe even start a small group, but definitely not called to sit by a fire all winter. Something just didn't feel right in my heart, though. Kicking and screaming all the way, I finally surrendered -- with conditions. "I'll go, God, but I need you to promise me that we'll have a wonderful place to live and a minivan. That my husband will get a great job, that we'll find the best caregiver for our son, and that I'll love the ministry there just as much." God answered with, "Immeasurably more than you could ever ask or imagine. You are called."

I stopped kicking and screaming and instead packed up a truck, and we headed to Minnesota. It's not too cold here -- yet. God has kept his promise. We live in an apartment in married student housing where my husband will attend school -- a wonderful opportunity for ministry and a year to save money. It's immeasurably more than I could've imagined. We were offered a minivan (with more features than we ever could've paid for) at a fraction of the trade-in value -- immeasurably more than I could've imagined. My husband got a part-time job with amazing benefits -- only God could've dreamed this. My son has the best caregiver possible -- his dad. More than I could ever ask. These may seem like petty things, but to me they add up to a confirmation.

My ministry? I've struggled to find my way, to let go of what I was so blessed to have been a part of, and to grasp what lies ahead in this new place. I've finally admitted that kids in snowsuits need Jesus just as much as kids in swimsuits. It may not be perfect. It may not be what I'd imagined all the time. Yet it's immeasurably more than that -- because it's what God imagined.

Courtney Wilson
Apple Valley, Minnesota

Curtain Call

During my fifth year leading the drama ministry, I was starting to think I might be experiencing burnout. I felt like quitting, but instead I made a mental note to bring up my concerns at the next executive meeting. To my surprise (or was it relief?) I discovered my co-leaders were having the same feelings. Many of our young drama team members were creative, high-energy kids who had trouble sitting still and listening longer than five minutes. Some kids thought it their sworn duty to apprentice as junior directors. Others lacked motivation except for at break time. We were out of ideas, and we realized how much we needed God's intervention.

We regrouped and did some heavy-duty praying about these problems. We talked about placing our problems in the hands of the parents. This seemed logical. Discipline begins at home.

But God was leading us elsewhere. We needed to get the kids to be accountable to each other and -- most of all, to God -- for their actions. How could we as leaders be witnesses for Christ? How could we encourage our team members to do the same?

God gave us an idea. We created a series of skits. The leaders wrote sketches depicting situations that had taken place in the drama ministry. We called a special mandatory meeting and created an atmosphere of celebration. The leaders assumed the roles of the young people and acted out the sketches, focusing on the positive and negative aspects of the situations they'd chosen. Soon the children saw themselves and their actions played out before them. We discussed each situation as it arose, and by the end of our session, we'd laughed, cried, prayed, and rejoiced.

God guided our group that evening and caused an incredible shift in focus. Our meetings and rehearsals are still filled with plenty of creative energy, but there's a difference. We've learned to let go of the things that are beyond our control and to place them at God's feet.

Glynis Belec
Drayton, Ontario

God's City

One morning I stayed up until 4 a.m., feeling God's hand upon me and my future as I prayed for God's leading on a new music project. The hopes and dreams I had while writing the lyrics to these songs came spilling out as I felt inspired like never before. Songs that tell children how wonderful heaven will be. A place where there's no sadness, no fear, and no unhappiness. But without a major record label behind the project, I risked everything to raise the funds to record and market the CD called GOD CITY.

Although here on earth there was plenty to worry about, there was never a doubt in my mind that I had to do what God had given me the gifts to do. Little did I know at the time that God would use the songs to ease the fears and anxieties of the children affected by the largest disaster in U.S. history. On Wednesday, September 12, 2001, the day after the attacks, God made it clear that years before the airplanes even took off from the airports, he had planned for me to declare the truth about heaven and the promise of eternal life at just the right time. I knew why God had given me the songs. The time had come, and I was ready to go wherever God wanted me to go.

I was invited to distribute the CDs and perform at the Salvation Army World Trade Center Toy Shoppe in New York City. I was excited and enthusiastic, but then they told me that at least 12,000 children would be there to receive their free CDs.

Uh-oh! What had I done? I was in way over my head. I didn't have 12,000 CDs or the means to manufacture them. So I was faced with a decision: Play it safe and take a handful, or step out in faith and have enough for every family that came.

Just a few days before Christmas, I stood right in the middle of Union Square on the hectic and bustling streets of New York City. For three days, I sang about eternal life in Jesus Christ and the hope of heaven. The fact that we had the place to personally distribute GOD CITY CDs and to sing the songs unhindered was unbelievable. It was unlike anything I'd ever been part of. More than 10,000 families walked away with the message of eternal hope.

One day my wife, Karen, and I had lunch with a woman who'd worked for Cantor Fitzgerald and was late for work on 9/11, narrowly escaping her trip to the top of Tower One. She had obviously lost her job and was telling us how she was coping. She told us about how she worked as a volunteer, and one day a little girl who was standing at the toy tables cried as she said, "I don't want a doll; I just want my daddy back." We knew we were right in the center of God's will, and that God had sent us there with a special purpose and an eternal message.

We returned home from New York City elated over what God did, but honestly, the gripping fear I felt left me wondering if I'd made the right decision. In the end, $47,000 of debt had piled up to make the distribution happen. As always, my first instinct was to figure out a solution, to fix the problem, and to make the debt go away. I had much to worry about, much to answer for, and it was beyond me to know where to turn, except to God, who had appointed the message of GOD CITY long before I was even called Dean-o. I remembered how God had been faithful in the past, and I knew God was in full control this time, too.

It hasn't been easy, but I've watched as God miraculously provided just enough to meet my needs every step of the way. In July of this year, my home church asked me to share this story with them. The entire debt was paid in full through the generous gifts of families touched by the story, and it's clear now why God took me down this road. God has changed my perspective in all that I do through the testing of my faith. The words I sing have come alive to me in a whole new way, turning my next project into a powerful testament to the unbelievable resources that God gives us to live out this Christian life.

Dean-o and the Dynamos
Orange County, California

Misty Anne Winzenried is a certified counselor in Seattle, Washington. Please keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and prices are subject to change.

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