by Erin Doherty
The older I get in my Christian walk, the better I understand the mind of the Ecclesiastes author when he wrote, “there’s a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”
To help you understand my story, I need to take you back a few years. From 2002- 003, as a missionary with Mercy Ships, I lived onboard the MV Anastasis, off the coast of West Africa. Onboard the ship, I taught the children of the other missionaries, and in the evenings and weekends, I went into the community to help in the refugee camps or orphanages. Though I felt extremely alive during this time, particularly spiritually, the difficult living conditions eventually took their toll, and I had to return home a few months sooner than planned, due to exhaustion and burnout.
At that point, I realized I needed a break from meeting people’s needs for a while, so I took a “temporary” job with a long-time Christian friend, filling in as his office manager in his CPA firm. It was tax season, and he needed help preparing tax returns.
Little did I know that I would be at that job for the next five years! God used this time to teach me about the business world – taxes, accounting, payroll, small business consulting, and marketing. I had never taken an economics course in my life, and business had never been my forte – so it was an education that benefitted me later. Also, it allowed me to be close to home – when unexpectedly, my heavenly Father called my dear earthly father home at the young age of 56.
Deep inside, I always knew that this chapter in my career was just an interlude, and that God had something different in store for me in the future. My heart always connected with ministries and non-profits, even when I was immersed in the business world. Inside, I felt a deep chasm that ached to be back interacting with people on a deeper, more meaningful level – asking them questions that really mattered, and relating with them at a level far beyond the superficial business dealings that surrounded me on a daily basis.
As the months stretched on, filled with payrolls, taxes, and financial matters, gradually I began to feel a sense of loss and slow despair inside. I wondered if I were doomed to spend the rest of my days in the financial world. Although I appreciated the opportunity to learn the ropes during a time when I desperately needed a job, over time, I realized that this world was not a natural fit for me, and I found myself changing who I was as a person to try to accommodate. I worried I would never again feel passion well up in my heart as I did work I loved and was created to do. Like Joseph felt when he was forgotten in prison – I feared that God had forgotten about releasing me.
Then, at the beginning of 2008, I began to sense an “awakening” inside, as if God was forecasting that He had something different in store coming up soon. I didn’t know what “something” might be, but reassuringly, He spoke to my spirit that a time of transition was coming up.
In the meantime, I began some research into an up-and-coming field called virtual assistance. A Virtual Assistant (V.A.) is a highly trained independent entrepreneur who provides a myriad of business support services virtually – via phone, fax and internet-based technology to support and meet the growing needs of businesses worldwide. Translated, on an outsourcing basis, a V.A. helps individual entrepreneurs, non-profits, speakers, coaches, and other professionals with marketing, technical, or administrative tasks. Outsourcing is economical – making such services affordable for the clients and making the workload interesting and varied for the V.A.
My mind began to spin with the possibilities. Could it really be that this was what God was calling me into next? Could I really start a business (the girl who had never even dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur, and who used to be bored silly by the very thought of business) that would allow me to work from home, help people, and once again do work I was passionate about? I began to pray more and more about it, hardly daring to get my hopes up, but becoming more and more convinced that I was headed in the right direction.
One day last fall, I came home from my office job and decided it was time. I was ready to start stepping out in faith and to see what doors God opened. Having never started a business before, I didn’t know where to look for clients. The only thing I knew was I wanted to work with as many ministries as possible (not that I had anything against traditional business owners, but I knew how many ministries and non-profits needed this kind of help at an affordable rate). So, I started by googling “Christian women’s ministries”. Hundreds of sites came up. I surfed through the websites, seeing if any particular ministry struck my fancy or if God would speak to me about any of them. As I went, I contacted a few, explaining who I was and asking if they needed assistance.
After visiting 20 or so sites, I came across Connecting Streams Women’s Ministry’s site. Instantly, I was attracted to the site because of the action images on the homepage. There were pictures of women hiking, talking, walking on the beach – I was intrigued. These are all activities I love to do. Also, I liked the concept of “faith adventures” – two very important themes in my life. Any ministry that was all about getting out of your comfort zone and moving into action was right up my alley!
I sent the director, Donna Mitchell, an email, explaining who I was, and asking if she needed any website or administrative help. Later, I realized that the ministry was actually located in Sherwood Park, Alberta – I live on Cape Cod!!
Very soon, Donna sent me an email that said, “I think we need to talk.” That evening, she called me up, and related how she had just sent out a newsletter to her supporters that asked for prayer for an assistant. Now, she explained, the needs were almost urgent. She hadn’t known how God would provide…but provide He did. He knew that a young woman on the East Coast of America was yearning to be involved with a group of like-minded women in ministry, and that a women’s director from a Christian organization in Western Canada was desperately praying for some help.
In that first phone call, our hearts connected. We could tell right away that spiritually, we were on the same page. Since then, each time we’ve talked, God has confirmed that He’s still doing a similar work in each of our lives.
I believe God hates stagnancy even more than we do, but if we truly place our lives in His hands, and if we’re ready for a life of adventure and obedience, He can show us the steps to take to get “unstuck”. Try Him!!