*The following is written by a current CLDI/Fellowship House intern, Sarah Beth. Having graduated from Covenant College this past spring, Sarah Beth joined us in September to participate in a nine-month internship to: live in the community we serve, work alongside CLDI to assist in development and our women’s ministry, devote time weekly to study the Scriptures and what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, and finally,to participate in an international exposure trip in the spring. We are blessed to have her!
How did I end up in Billings? That’s honestly a question I’ve been asking myself over a thousand times since I got here. It’s not that I don’t like Billings or Montana or the people I’ve met here, or the work CLDI is doing -on the contrary. It’s just that I’m still trying to figure out how I, Sarah Beth Woodrow, should be here when I was trying so hard to stay in Chattanooga, TN.
In my first week of being here, a good friend of mine sent me an email reminding me of the sovereign leading of a Wise, Good Shepherd. That thought has stuck with me on days when I start to doubt and wonder if maybe I didn’t quite hear God right, or when I feel far away from friends and family and the familiarity of a place that has grown close to my heart, or when I am confronted with my “finitude”, and worst of all, when I worry about my insufficiency to love well, both God and the people He puts in my life.
In a nutshell, those are the reasons I shouldn’t be here. Left to myself, I shouldn’t be here. And yet, here I am. So, here’s my story. There are a lot of moving pieces and it’s somewhat hard to follow but these confirmations of God’s leading remind me that it was God who brought me here and not I and in knowing that I can rest assured that “He will fulfill His good purpose for my life” and use me and grow me for His glory, however that looks like.
Spring Semester I was dead set that God wanted me to stay in Chattanooga. It just seemed to make sense and every graduate I talked to kept telling me that the most important thing needed post-grad was good community. Of course, that meant Chattanooga. I had found my “niche,” I was getting involved in a local church and I knew a lot of my friends who would be staying in the area, plus I had some solid housing options.
Finding a job in Chattanooga was another story. I didn’t anticipate how challenging it would be. I kept being told that I should stop trying to find a job I loved and just be satisfied with making ends meet. Only weeks before graduation, I was accepted at a housecleaning business and was about to say “yes”, knowing if I didn’t have a job lined up before graduation I would have to decline a few housing offers from some friends. For whatever strange, frustrating reason my Dad encouraged me to hold off, believing God had something better in store for me. He also told me that if nothing panned out for me in Chattanooga that I needed to be open to go wherever, even if that meant moving to Wyoming to be near my Aunt and Uncle. I was adamant that that was the last option on earth I would ever consider. But after lots of praying and wresting with God, I turned down the housecleaning option, which also meant I had to turn down my housing offers.
During this time I had offhandedly and months past the deadline thrown in an application for a summer job at school, simply as a backup. The supervisor at school was waiting for a response from me and gave me a deadline. Timing was tricky here because I was also in the process of a fairly long job application for an insurance company, Unum.
I thought the interview with Umum went horribly. I kept talking about “helping people” (a phrase on their webpage I decided I would try to use) and my interviewer basically scoffed at me, “How is working for insurance helping people? How is this job helping people?” When I asked what his reasons were for working at Unum, he had no satisfying response. Right after my interview I went to Habitat to drop off a grant. The moment I walked in, I remember thinking, “This is the type of work and environment that I what I want to be a part of!” I went home and once again wrestled long and hard with God about this.
Since I didn’t feel my interview with Unum went well and I wasn’t hearing back from them, I went ahead and told the school I would stay on for the summer. Two days later, I received a call from Unum. If I hadn’t already made a commitment, I probably would have said yes to the job offer. The doors to Chattanooga were closing in bizarre ways.
Since, I didn’t know what my housing options would look like after the summer, I started to tentatively look for options outside the state. I saw a posting for CLDI at my school and excitedly emailed my brother, “Look what I saw after having just said ‘no’ to Unum!” I read over the Fellowship House description several times, resonating with every sentence, “taste and see that He alone is good”, “to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God“, and “ to have my heart burdened for the things that stir the heart of God. Yes, yes, yes.
I sent out an email so I could call and find out more. After calling, I was even more excited about the work of CLDI and the Fellowship House program but I wasn’t entirely convinced that it was for me. The financial aspect, location, and not having a car were the primary roadblocks. I turned in an application though.
The phone interview was refreshing on many levels but a crucial element especially stands out. Eric prompted me to talk about my pipe dream (though I wasn’t intending to bring it up even though I had put it down in my application) and afterwards told me about Katapheugó. It was so uncanny and I knew I couldn’t ignore this. I was also struck with Eric asking to pray and the prayer at the end of the interview. CLDI became a much more serious possibility.
I talked to my parents. And they were ecstatic. I looked up Billings on a map and saw it was only 2 hours away from where my Uncle and Aunt are living and couldn’t help thinking how God really likes to surprise us in ironic ways.
A wise friend told me how following God’s leading often meant just doing the next thing, taking the next step and seeing which doors God would open or close. So, I took her advice. And the checklist for coming here kept getting marked off. Everything kept falling perfectly into place. Through graduation gifts, savings and other unexpected, surprising income (a security deposit I had forgotten about and being on credit at my school) I had the $5000. My parents told me I could take the “college car.” While I was worried about making the drive up to Montana by myself, my Aunt in Jackson, TN, was planning to visit my uncle (her brother) in Wyoming. So, we made arrangement to drive together.
It was neat to see how everything kept coming together. The transition process has been more challenging than I expected it to be though. I think this could be in part because I didn’t realize how much I would miss Chattanooga and I also think that subconsciously I felt that if God really brought me here, then everything would come together easily and naturally, just like how I got here. But processes are processes for a reason-baby steps and living day by day are the way to move forward sometimes. Trusting that the God who brought me here is incapable of making mistakes and is entirely sufficient are encouraging reminders.
Honestly though, for the most part, I really am excited to be here. I told a friend that I don’t know what God wants me to take and learn from being here yet, and just how He will use me here (which I hope He will), but I am trying to be open and receptive. There is a line from a song that goes, “Let’s love and let’s do loving well.” At the end of the day, that’s really why I’m here, to love God and others well, in whatever capacity and through whatever process that looks like. Even if I fumble my way through it.
– Sarah Beth, Fellowship House Intern