Yesterday, the Engage! Work Seminar kicked off for the folks in the UGM recovery programs: People in the latter phases of the program preparing to re-enter the workforce.
Also yesterday, technology and server issues cut me off from my email and the network drive where I save 99% of my work. I had hoped to drop in and listen to some of the seminar, and this was a clear sign that there was nothing better I could do with my time!
I was not disappointed.
Stories of overcoming. Stories of hardship redeemed. Stories of people pursuing excellence without requiring recognition. All of them inspired not only the intended audience but also inspired me to do my job wholeheartedly out of gratitude to God.
There are two more days left in the seminar to cover some of the more pragmatic content; first, it was important to establish that being a good worker is still about our hearts, not just our behavior. Our attitude and our obedience honors God when we work faithfully for him.
Here’s a brief recap of what the Engage! presenters had to say:
Phil Altmeyer: Why work?
“Those who work hard make a profit, but those who only talk will be poor.” - Proverbs 14:23, NCV
Phil did the math to show why hard work matters in alleviating poverty. Statistically speaking, the chance of someone getting back to work plummets after about 6 months of unemployment. That’s one reason getting back to work ASAP is so important.
He also showed one real-life example: A person in their early 30s getting off of government support and into a self-supporting job not only improves the quality of their life but over a lifetime saves the taxpayers a minimum of $1 million. That’s right – $1,000,000!
Most importantly, though, Phil explained how the Scripture speaks about work: Over and over again, the book of Proverbs expounds on the benefits of hard work and the consequences of slacking off. Those in our programs come with many challenges and obstacles, and UGM is here to help them overcome those things – but in the end, they will be the ones who choose to take grateful advantage of their opportunities and work hard in faith that God will provide as he promises.
Working alongside others also helps us become better people if we come with humble, teachable hearts: “As iron sharpens iron, so people can improve each other.” (Proverbs 27:17)
Ultimately, Phil emphasized, none of our work opportunities are about us. For those in their business practicum, it isn’t just about that opportunity for a permanent job, or a good letter of reference – it’s about representing Jesus and making a path for others who will come behind and need the same opportunities we’ve been given.
Kari Kelli: How do I overcome barriers?
Just doing Kari’s personal story justice would take more than one blog post. But when she talks about overcoming barriers, the development director for Christ Kitchen speaks from experience. She came to Anna Ogden Hall in 1998, in her late 20s, addicted to amphetamines and having exhausted every survival option in her life. The Lord met her there and clearly showed his love through the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in John 11.
When Jesus says to the dead man, “Lazarus, come out!” Kari writes her name in that verse. “Kari, come out!” (Try it with your name.)
Imagine hearing that if you are Lazarus. He may have been confused about what was happening. He knew he was still stinky. He was still wrapped in grave clothes. He must have wondered what would happen when he came out. But he came, still stinky, with nasty grave wrappings still hindering his movements.
Then, “Jesus said to them, ‘Take the cloth off of him and let him go.’” He’s speaking to the dozens, possibly hundreds, of people who were present for Lazarus’ funeral rites. Lazarus needed their help to shed the nasty outer wrappings and become his true self again.
Kari urged us that we all need “thems” – the people around us who will encourage and help us to take off the “grave clothes” of our hurts and sins and mistakes. There is no shame in being helped by others – along the way, we must pay attention for opportunities to be “thems” to the others around us.
That’s how we’ll overcome the obstacles in our way. God raises us from the dead; through his power, we help unbind one another from the things that hinder us from following his call.
Jerry Sittser: How do I make decisions?
Don’t dwell on the past. Don’t fret over the future.
“What matters most to God is what you are doing right now.”
Whitworth professor of theology and author Jerry Sittser reprised his wise counsel on decision-making, bringing his experiences to bear on how to live in God’s will.
In a nutshell: Prepare for the unknown future by how you’re living in the present moment. Let God redeem past mistakes rather than dwelling upon regrets.
As Jesus said, “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:34).
The Engage seminar is ongoing today and tomorrow. On the agenda are some really important workplace topics: Communication. Working with integrity and character. Resolving conflict in a healthy manner. Soon, these recovery programmers will be applying these principles in their Business Practicum opportunities. If you’re a business owner or manager, you can help someone in recovery by becoming a UGM Business Partner to help provide these 240-hour, unpaid work opportunities. Click below for more information!