HOPE

Starting a blog post is usually pretty easy for me. I know exactly what I'm going to talk about so I just start typing away. The tougher part for me is generally halfway through when I realize I've been rambling about something that only I was interested in to begin with. This post is already different though. For starters, I typed the title in all caps. I never do that. In fact, I pretty much hate it when anything is typed in all caps. I HATE IT! Additionally, I wrote 4 or 5 intros to this post before deleting them and starting over. I suppose this one has been different because I'm not just writing about something that happened to me or something I did. This post is all about something that only God could've orchestrated. I'm sure some of you have probably seen my tweets about my new job and new things on the horizon for me. This post is about those big things and how they came to be. If you have any further questions or would like anymore info about the organizations I'll be involved in, you can Tweet me, email me, or just ask me in the space below and I'll do my best to answer. So, here I go . . . 

In Proverbs 13:12 Solomon tells us that "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." (NIV) For quite a few years, I felt like I had a very clear revelation of the first part of that verse, but to be honest, I was yet to come to the place where I could relate to the second half. A year ago, I had been married for 4.5 years, just had a son and felt like I wasn't doing anything to make a real difference in this world. I had been working a job for 5.5 years that I honestly never enjoyed, and was really starting to wonder if I really was meant to do something more. As I sat and questioned what was going on and why nothing was happening, I finally heard God telling me to do something that didn't make any sense to me - I felt like I needed to quit my job. Now to be honest, there was nothing I wanted more than to be able to say goodbye to a job like that, but at the same time I was terrified of the idea of not having that safety net under me. I knew it was an opportunity for me to trust in God and believe that He was my provider so after a ton of prayer with my wife and convincing both of us that it was right, I finally decided to go for it. Tiffanie and I had saved up enough money to live for a few months and between that and my brand new photography business, we are able to get by from August through October. 

Then came November. Suddenly nobody needed a photographer. Suddenly the money had all been spent. Suddenly God wasn't doing anything for me. Suddenly hope seemed to be a million miles away. I had effectively burned any bridges I had in the banking world, which I really didn't want to go back to anyway. I wasn't really skilled enough to do anything worth a good salary, and all at once I realized that if I didn't do something quick, I would be responsible for my wife and son not having any food. So I decided to get on my knees again . . . for the first time in months. After alot of prayer and alot of job applications, I finally had 2 offers. One offer was for decent hours with almost decent pay with a chance to become a manager within a few months at a Christian bookstore in town. The other offer was for less-than-ideal hours and slightly less pay at a coffee shop + a few worse hours and even less pay at a gourmet pizza place here in town. If you know me very well at all, you can probably guess that my plan was to go to the Christian bookstore. The suddenly I heard God's voice again. My guess is that probably wasn't the first time he had spoken to me in a while, it was just the first time I decided to listen. I knew that He was telling me to take the latter of the 2 options and although I tried to justify my choice by telling people that it was much more of a hip place for me to work and that I would fit in alot better and make some really good connections, deep down inside I honestly felt like maybe that was God's way of making me pay for ignoring Him for a few months. I know that's a terrible thing to think, but I realize now just how small I considered myself to be in His eyes.

Although the coffee shop was definitely more hip and I think I did fit in fairly well, I could have never anticipated that the thing that would make a difference was the connections I made while I was there. Once Morning in early December I helped a guy named Baron who everyone else seemed to know pretty well. I saw on his credit card receipt that his name was Baron Batch which sounded really familiar, but I was having a hard time figuring out why I would know his name. Regardless of who he was or why I knew his name, I really felt like I should get to know him better. After a few more trips to the coffee shop, I was able to find out that he really enjoyed photography and he had a huge heart for missions. Not only that, but it also turned out that he was taking a trip to Haiti in January and was going to be photographing the trip. He was then going to take the best shots and sell prints to people and use the profits from those prints to send back to New Vision Ministries in Haiti. In addition to finding out those details, I was able to learn that he had been the starting running back for the Texas Tech Red Raiders and was graduating at the end of December. At that point I honestly get a little discouraged because I realized that there were probably all sorts of people trying to be friends with a guy like that and I really didn't want to just be another Baron Batch fan who just thought they liked him because he was a local celebrity. That being said, I still felt like there were some sort of a connection to be made so I just kept talking with him about missions and photography and the like. 

Then something happened that I really didn't expect. As I was getting ready to leave work one Thursday evening in February, Baron told me he wanted to talk to me about some stuff. I figured he was just going to show me some of the shots he took in Haiti, but he ended up presenting me with this incredible plan that God had given him about starting an organization that directly related both to photography and missions work. As cool as it sounded and as excited as I was, I never really expected him to ask me to be a part of it. Not only did he want me to be a part of it, but he wanted to start this organization with only himself, an incredible photographer and great guy Jerod Foster, and me. Although he expressed the fact that it would be quite a few months and possibly up to a year before we would really get started, I suddenly felt like maybe there was more of a purpose for me working at that coffee shop at that point in time than I had originally thought. 

As awesome as that last paragraph was, it was only the beginning. After talking a little bit more about everything, the decision was made that we would start our organization with help from a local missions organization called Operation H.O.P.E. Baron had worked directly with Operation H.O.P.E. when he went to Haiti in January and the founder, Dr. John Thomas has been a good friend of Baron's for quite some time. It sounded like a great plan and a good way for us to connect directly with the people who would want to get involved. The night after Baron and I talked about that, while Tiffanie and I were having our devotion, Baron sent me an interesting text. He had basically said that Operation H.O.P.E. needed someone to help them out with their web presence and spreading the word about the mission and that Dr. Thomas wanted to meet with me to talk more about it. Of course, I was absolutely thrilled about the opportunity to help out a missions organization here in town and was ready to volunteer as much time as I could to help them out. It turns out that they had a different idea.

As I started my meeting with Dr. Thomas, it became quickly evident that there was no way I was going to have enough time to volunteer to accomplish everything they needed me to do. At some point I realized I had to be honest and let them know that I wouldn't be able to volunteer that much time. And then suddenly I understood what the last few months had been about. As I apologized to Dr. Thomas about not being able to volunteer that much time, he gave me a strange look, then laughed and then proceeded to tell me that he wasn't looking for someone to volunteer their time. He wanted a young creative person who was passionate about reaching the lost that he could pay a healthy salary to push this organization farther than it's ever gone! And not only would I be working for Operation H.O.P.E., but I would also have the freedom to work on this other organization that Baron and Jerod and I were developing. No more logging hours. No more having to follow a specific set of rules that made no sense and were only in place because someone said so. I was finally being given the chance to do what I knew God had called me to.

Suddenly I didn't see the sputtering photography business. I didn't see how the money had run out numerous times or how difficult it was to do something that I knew deep down inside I wasn't created for. Suddenly I saw God's providence, and realized that He had been leading me by the hand this entire time so that I would be given this incredible opportunity to change the world. Suddenly, I had Hope.

Beginning April 11, I will be employed full-time by Operation H.O.P.E. and will also be working hard to get this other organization up off the ground so I can share it with everyone. Please visit our website, follow us on Twitter - @Op_HOPE, pray, and continue to check back here to learn more about the amazing things that God is doing. 

 

-Ryan