As I prepare to begin my last day at my current job, I can’t help ruminating over the last four years of meaningful and transformative work I’ve gotten to participate in at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
Many of you may not know that I started work at CBF on a contract basis calling churches to remind them to order their Offering for Global Missions promotional materials. My friend Chris and I were tasked to call 1,800 churches over the course of two months in the fall and spring in effort to garner support for the Offering.
After four collective months and about 1,800 total phone calls, I felt so intimately connected to the churches I spoke with that I knew I had been led to CBF for more than just my pleasant voice. God had called me to CBF to hear the voices of those who desperately needed CBF to exist – who needed to know that they had a place to call home, and that no matter how isolated they felt in their small town, they were not alone. And I knew that it didn’t matter how menial my work may seem, it would be worth it to give these people and churches a face and a name in the Fellowship.
Over the past four years, I have collected and entered data in our system, ran reports and shipped boxes. I have easily printed, folded, stuffed, and mailed more than 10,000 letters. I even learned how to use Quickbooks while migrating the entire CBF Store over to the platform. I can’t say that it has always been exciting, but I do know that every task led me to where I am today, and for that I am grateful.
Those first days as an Offering for Global Missions telemarketer and data monkey were not glorifying, but they put me in the middle of a team of people who mentored me, shepherded me, and helped to shape me into the person I am and the minister I will be. I couldn’t be more grateful for the colleagues who listened as I rattled on about how important it was to click on the right boxes in Raiser’s Edge and how even the church that doesn’t look like they have much to offer statistically needs our care. I am thankful that they listened and encouraged me to dig deeper so those ramblings could become actions and initiatives for the greater Fellowship.
Four years may not seem like much, but when I can look back and see the thumbprints I’ve left behind and the ways my life has been transformed, I know it was time well spent.
Though at times it may have felt like it, CBF is not just a workplace – it is a community of creative and thoughtful people serving God together and faithfully trying to bring transformation to this world by inspiring, educating, and equipping churches and individuals who call the Fellowship home. I’ve seen a lot of change over the past four years, but that collective passion has not changed.
As I prepare to close this chapter of my life, my heart is heavy and the tears are plentiful. Two years ago, I was scared of the changes ahead. I worried that, with the departure of some of my mentors, I would be exposed as a kid who had no idea what she was doing and nothing valuable to offer. What I learned was that the gifts they saw and nurtured in me made me an asset to the organization I loved, and I flourished because they invested in me – even when they couldn’t be a constant presence.
Now that it is my turn to follow God’s calling through a new door, I am scared to leave the people I know and the place I’ve called home for so long. I’m scared to learn a new environment, and to take a step further away from my safety net of mentors and colleagues who value me even when I fail, and lend a hand to help cover the mistakes.
But my fear is overcome by an excitement to see how the lessons I’ve learned at CBF will express themselves in my new context. My nerves are calmed by the knowledge that the people I hold so dear hold me close too, and can’t wait to cheer me on as I start this new chapter. I know I will flourish because they have invested and will continue to invest in me, and I in them.
Four years after I made my very first phone call as a CBF employee, I’m still making phone calls, but for a different purpose. Today, the numbers I dial still belong to churches and individuals, but rather than trying to garner support, I call to listen. Over the last two years, I have heard numerous stories of CBF individuals, churches, and partners being the presence of Christ in real and tangible ways, and I have gotten to share those stories with the larger Fellowship.
When Suzii Paynter first arrived at CBF, she met with each department. And when she met with my team, Fellowship Advancement, she asked the hodgepodge of communications, marketing, and development officers assembled what “Fellowship Advancement” meant to us. After a long silence, I spoke up and said something to the affect of, “We advance the movement by finding and developing avenues for people to invest in the Fellowship.”
Over the years, it has been a privilege to listen, learn, and share the many ways CBF is making a difference in the lives of people across the globe. I have been honored to hear people say, “your story made me excited about what CBF is doing.” If I helped one person to be more invested in CBF, I feel I have succeeded.
At my going away party at the office, I shared a story about the day I was hired. My boss said to me, “Young Em-leh, you know there’s a difference between eating hot dog and watching the pig get slaughtered. I know you love CBF, but are you sure you want to see how the sausage gets made?”
I joked and said, “Well, Ben – it doesn’t bother me… I’m a vegetarian!”
But after my tenure at the CBF factory, I can tell you that he was right. It is hard to watch the sausage get made sometimes. But if he was insinuating that I would love CBF less because of it, he couldn’t have been more wrong.
I’m leaving CBF today a more gifted and passionate person than I came in. I am leaving with great hope that my sharp, innovative colleagues are going to carry CBF through exciting new doors. I leave the CBF office prepared to enter a new facet of CBF life, where I will carry the Fellowship with me and continue to create avenues for people to invest in the movement from my place inside the church.
Thank you, CBF, for preparing me for this day. I am grateful for the lessons, the community, and yes, even the phone calls.