The average person takes anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 steps a day. And most of them are taken with very little thought as to just how significant each one has the potential to be. But every now and again, a single step comes our way that means so much more than just a few inches in one direction or another. The first step down the aisle, the step crossing the threshold into our first home, the step onto the stage to accept the diploma, even the first steps we take in life… well, they are memorialized in our minds or the minds of those who love us because they mean something so much more than mere motion; they are steps of monumental hope.
On Jan 5th, 2016, I took one of those steps. I’ve boarded planes more times than I can count, but this particular day the step onto my American Airlines direct flight from LAX to JFK felt different. It was different. I wasn’t just stepping onto another plane; I was stepping into a new adventure that would completely change the landscape of my life.
After 14 years of being on staff at Oasis Church under the leadership of personal heroes of mine, Pastors Philip and Holly Wagner, I had transitioned off team. Los Angeles and Oasis had been my home, my schooling, my family for 14 years. This was the home I healed from the wounds of my past in. This was the home I discovered the call of God on my life in. This was the home I began ministry in. This was the home I began preaching in. This was the home I pastored people in. This was the home I was trained, mentored and invested in. This was the home I had travelled around the world for; had given my blood, sweat, and tears for; had prayed and fasted and labored for; had hoped and dreamed and dared for. This was the home with the family I rolled up my sleeves with, celebrated with and, at times, wept with. This was the home I gladly served and loved with my whole heart. And honestly, I don’t know if my affections for this home will ever change. I will always love with inexpressible gratitude this home and my pastors and the people that have so deeply shaped my life.
And yet, after months of prayer and conversations with my pastors last year, it became clear that the Holy Spirit was beckoning me onward to a new season, a new adventure, and a new expression of ministry in the Body of Christ. I had the blessing of my pastors and the support of those closest to me, but still, I was leaving home. And let’s be real- leaving home is never easy.
Sometimes, faith looks like staying when everything inside you wants to go. And sometimes, faith looks like going when everything inside of you wants to stay. Well, after 14 years of faith telling me to stay, faith was now turning the tables on me. Now, it was time to go.
That step on the plane was so much more than a few inches onto a full flight. It was the moment I kissed home goodbye, and with arms open wide, embraced the new adventure Jesus was leading me on.
Fast forward to March 4th, and that step has already taken me places I could have never imagined. I now live in New York City and have joined the Liberty Church staff as Teaching Coach and Director of Liberty Foundation, a non-profit pioneering local churches globally. I have complete love and respect for my pastors, Paul and Andi Andrew. Liberty Church captured my heart instantaneously. The work of Liberty Foundation is work I believe in with every fiber of my being. And New York is well, a daily adventure in and of itself! When I am not in New York and putting my hands to these rather remarkable responsibilities, I am travelling preaching the Gospel, teaching the Word of God, and training and equipping young leaders for ministry. This is my life. I’m not sure how it happened exactly; I blame it entirely on the grace of God.
A lot can change in a couple of months, and even more can be learned. Transitions are tricky. They can be exhilarating and infuriating all at the same time. One moment you are confident your best days are ahead, the next moment you are wondering what you are doing with your life! It can be a rollercoaster that leaves you with emotional whiplash; and it can just as easily be the soil in which seed-size faith can grow into blossoming Christ-like character and spiritual maturity.
And for those daring enough, it’s also a time to allow the Holy Spirit to shine light on the dusty and untended to places of your heart, to reveal great mysteries about both grace and truth, to speak spectacular words of life and hope and healing. Transition offers so much more than a change of pace, or a new destination. The goal of transition is never simply to resolve where you are going; it’s equally about resolving who you are becoming. Transition is the sovereignly placed space in seasons to pray honestly and vulnerably, engaging in conversations with Jesus that shape your values, your convictions, your priorities, your beliefs. In short, transition always has the potential to transform not just your circumstances, but your character.
Transition became the Potter’s wheel on which the Artist Himself continued to mold and shape me into an image of His making. In the midst of transition, with some rather big decisions to make regarding my future, I found myself quickly asking Jesus what He wanted me to do. And to my surprise, He didn’t answer that question right away. Instead of telling me what to do, the Holy Spirit began showing me who God created me to be. I wanted to know the specifics of what my life would look like in the near future, and Jesus wanted to have a discussion about the character I would embrace today. Before He would show me the next steps of my future, He wanted to work out a few things in my heart.
And I am forever grateful for it. I am wonderfully thankful to be on this new adventure, but I am even more thankful for who I am, by the grace of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit, becoming… someone a little less concerned with my own comfort and a little bit more driven by the reality of eternity.
Most people who know me are not all that surprised to see me in this new season continuing to travel to preach the Gospel, teach the Word, and train leaders in ministry. I have been doing that for quite some time. And even though people are excited to hear I am now working for Liberty Foundation, that part of my new adventure might seem a little left field. Non-profit work? Missions work? Planting local churches globally? How does that fit into the “brand” of Nicole Reyes? I chuckle as I type the word “brand”, but I promise you it is actually a phrase that has been used in giving “career advice” to me. I have never given much thought to my “brand”. I am not a product to be sold. I am a minister of the Gospel. I actually have very little interest in trying to convince anyone to want to listen to me or follow me. I am interested in people knowing how radically loved they are in Jesus, and experiencing the liberating life that He gave His one and only life on the cross for us to live. That being said, this blog is a judgment free zone, and if someone wants to make a good case for marketing one’s self in the Kingdom of God, then by all means, go for it. As for me, I’ll just keep leaving the “branding” and “promoting” to Jesus. I’ll leave the audience-collecting and influence-building to God. Based on what I’ve read in the Bible it seems like He’s a lot better at it anyway.
Since Liberty Foundation is a new adventure, I understand that it may be a little bit of a surprise. It’s not to me, but then again, I’ve been a part of every one of the conversations I’ve been having with Jesus during transition. Understandably, you have not, so I’ll try to give you a small glimpse into my prayer life over the last couple of months…
My talks with Jesus and time pondering His teachings has revealed to me just how easy it is to become distracted from the things that really matter in life. There are a whole lot of things we can fill our time with, that can occupy our thinking, that can consume our efforts and demand our focus. If we aren’t intentional, we may just wake up one day not sure what mark we will have left on the world. I don’t want to waste this one and only life I’ve been given on pursuits and priorities that won’t make a whole lot of sense on the other side of eternity. When I stand before Jesus, I don’t think I am going to have a conversation with my Savior about how many social media followers I acquired or what great platforms I got invited to speak at or what circle of influential people I got to hang out with or how many fans applauded my various achievements in life or even how much money I had in the bank.
I leave room to be wrong, but I think we’ll be talking about whether or not I loyally followed Him and trusted Him with my whole heart. I think we’ll speak of the depths of His love for me and for those around me. I think we’ll talk about whether or not His priorities ever truly became mine. And I think we’ll talk about people. We’ll talk about how I loved, served, sacrificed for people, not through my own human effort but by the grace and power of God. The great question will be: was I able in my short life to see people and treat people with the love and affection that God has for them? And I imagine it will be the faces of people that I showed kindness to, that I preached the Gospel to, that I prayed with, that I sat and cried with, that I cheered on, that I believed in, that I gave for and sacrificed for, that I humbled myself and apologized to, that I served in practical and simple ways, that I forgave and reconciled with that will be the true measure of my success on this earth.
These faces I hope to see in Heaven are the same faces I am aim to serve now. Liberty Foundation is dedicated to those faces, committed to seeing people in need of the Gospel and those who are hurting, not as simply problems to be solved, but sons and daughters of God to love and serve. Liberty Foundation is loving, serving, and investing in people around the world from Cambodia to India, from Honduras to Swaziland, from Florida to Pakistan, from England to New York.
And the best part is, we do it by championing local churches. I believe that Jesus ordained His Church to be light-barriers in dark places, culture-setters in broken societies; hope-bringers in desperate times; people-rescuers in the midst of injustice and oppression. It’s His Church that He said the gates of hell would not prevail against. It’s His Church that He gave the Great Commission to. It’s His Church that unites every kind of diversity possible with the unbreakable commonality of knowing Christ. It’s His Church that the Spirit of God has empowered for signs and wonders. It’s His Church in which His fullness dwells. It’s His Church that He promises to return once again for. It’s His passion; it’s His love; it’s His bride.
Cities need the Gospel, and they need it preached and practically lived through healthy, life-giving churches. What cities need are more Jesus-centered, Spirit-led, mission-minded, people-serving churches. What cities need is to see the love of God in action through the service of the Church, and they need to be welcomed into the family of God once they choose to place their faith in Jesus.
That’s the work of Liberty Foundation, one I will gladly pour my heart and soul into. This work is wildly diverse, with new opportunities to love and serve people at every corner. In Siam Reap, it looks like funding ICF Cambodia Church’s feeding program that provides meals for 6,000 hungry and impoverished children. In Swaziland, it looks like partnering with Children’s Cup to build a Community Center that will not only meet needs within the community, but in the future house a life-giving church. In India, it looks like partnering with Binu Thampy and the work of The Bridge Institute, providing seminary graduates with church-planting training and the finances to plant local churches in the hard to reach places deep in the heart of major cities throughout India. In the States, it looks like developing church-planting training and funding for those called to spread the Gospel in major influential cities throughout America.
The work of Liberty Foundation is the work of loving people with the love of Christ. And that’s a work that truly impacts eternity. It’s a work I invite you to prayerfully consider being a part of. Your prayers, your giving, your time investing in the work of Liberty Foundation is one that won’t only bless others in tangible ways; it’s a work that will bless you in intangible ways as well. Trust me. I’m speaking from experience.
That one step back on Jan 5th was a step that has forever changed my life. It was a step of faith met by the unfailing grace of God. And it did more than set into motion a new season still unfolding. It set into motion a revolution of my heart. Dear reader, I don’t know when and where your next big step will be. I don’t know when faith will tell you to “go” when all you really want to do is “stay”. But I do know one thing, when it is time to go, go. Kiss home goodbye and beckon onward. And know Jesus is with you every step of the way.
To learn more about Liberty Foundation, visit www.LibertyFoundation.co.