Discovering the Gift in Everyone

06/30/2017 .
Myra Biernat Wells  .  Volunteer Storyteller

There had been too many bad decisions in Jill’s life – too many compromises that put God on the backburner. She had been married at 24, but the marriage fell apart under the heavy strain over their disagreement on having children. She remarried, but her husband died. As a widow, she thought she found love again when she married for the third time. That union only lasted two years.

Guilt and shame became her constant companions and as they grew, there was little room in her heart for God. “With all my shortcomings, sin and failures, I doubted God’s love,” Jill said. “I didn’t believe he could ever use me. Shame was a constant weight on my shoulders. It became a part of me. I felt useless, like no one wanted me.”

In the midst of these struggles, Jill was invited by a friend to Saddleback Church. “When I first arrived, everyone welcomed me and listening to Pastor Rick’s teaching helped me take the focus off my mistakes. I learned how much God loves me. I started digging into the Bible and the words became very personal. I understood that I belonged to Jesus and I didn’t have to be more than I am for him to love me.  The more I read, the more I wanted Jesus in my life. When I prayed, he became real to me. I started feeling less alone, less ashamed.”

With her self-confidence blossoming, Jill wanted to get more involved at Saddleback. She signed up for Class 301 after becoming a member to learn how she might get involved serving. But Jill wasn’t sure where she should get involved. She signed up a one-on-one session with a SHAPE guide, who would help her discover a place to volunteer at Saddleback Church. Her SHAPE guide sat down with her, prayed for her, and talked through Jill’s interests, strengths, and passions. Jill left the meeting with four or five suggested ministries to get involved with. After praying for guidance, Jill decided to become a SHAPE guide herself.

“I knew this is where God wanted me to serve. I would pray over the profiles people filled out before meeting with me, then I’d pray with that person during our session. I met awesome people, who had overcome very difficult struggles, yet wanted to serve God. One was a 19 year old girl, whose mother didn’t want her. She grew up with deep scars from this rejection, yet never faltered in her faith. And despite this hole in her heart, this young woman longed to turn her pain into purpose. Stories like this made me realize how big God is. And he wasn’t finished with me yet.”

A short while later, Jill was summoned for jury duty. Sitting in that courtroom, God would further reveal to Jill how he would use her gifts and talents to serve others. The trial Jill sat in was for a murder case. Jill sat daily in a courtroom filled with some of the toughest gang members from Compton observing the hearing. When testimony started, Jill looked at the defendant and didn’t see a habitual criminal. Instead, she saw a heart that was hardened simply because the man didn’t know Christ. “Despite his failings, I knew God loved him! He didn’t have to do anything on his own to merit God’s love. The only thing that can overcome evil is good. During the trial, my heart began to open up to individuals that didn’t know the hope of Jesus. I knew right then I wanted share God’s grace with those who didn’t know him.”

Jill attended Class 401, where she learned how to share this message of hope in Jesus. “Taking that class was very emotional. I realized I was neither the author nor victim of my story, but rather a partner with God in the plan he has for my life. I desperately wanted to go on a PEACE trip and felt God opening up a door for me. He wanted me to taste the great adventure he planned for me. My first PEACE trip was to London. It was more difficult than expected. I didn’t feel like a missionary. I was torn with doubt about whether God could even use me in another country. But when I saw how great the need was it solidified my desire to connect people with the message Jesus.”

Now, Jill loves connecting with churches around the world to help train their volunteers to teach Class 301 and train SHAPE guides. “I felt responsible to use the gifts God gave me. Many things in this world damage our innocence: pain, trouble, and heartbreak. I learned through my own struggles that our passions are never buried so deeply by pain that they cannot be recovered. When I help someone learn how God made them, how God can use them to change the world, I see people light up. We are all gifted. From one individual to another, it will look different. Class 301 is so freeing because participants learn God has given them so much they can use to help the local church — many times in areas they wouldn’t have even considered ministry. Their hearts change when they invest their lives to impact others. Their joy brings me joy.”

On every PEACE trip, whether working with local churches in Mexicali, Moscow, or Berlin, someone inevitably asks Jill, “What is God’s purpose for my life?” From her own experiences, she tells them, “You don’t have to be a superstar Christian. You don’t have to have a specific spiritual gift; there are many different types of ministry. You have already been given everything you need. Don’t wait — jump into something that excites you, even if you don’t feel worthy. If I had waited until I felt capable, I wouldn’t have experienced all God could do through me. Whatever happened in your past, you don’t need to be perfect to be used by him.”

To learn more about discovering your SHAPE, sign up for the next Class 301. Click HERE for all Class times and locaitons.

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