Multiplying the Loaves and Fishes: What do I have to offer?
My journey with Ignatian Ministries began nearly 23 years ago with a simple invitation from Becky: “Hey Chris! I’ve been asked to lead a retreat, and I am putting together a team – would you be interested in joining me?” Becky and I had been friends for years, but had not yet started dating, and by that point in time we had not worked together in a ministry setting. I can remember my first thoughts in that moment with some amount of clarity – Why did Becky think of me for this? What does she see in me that I don’t see in myself? What do I have to offer?
This must have been the same thoughts the early disciples had – Why did Jesus think of me for this? What does Jesus see in me that I don’t see in myself? The early disciples often found themselves facing a great need and feeling inadequate or unable to meet that need. In today’s Gospel, Matthew 14: 13-21, we see Jesus, moved with pity for His followers, taking a meager offering of fish and bread, and using that to feed thousands of hungry people. I can imagine the disciples’ thoughts at this moment – How will the little we have to offer be enough for all these people?
The story of Becky’s ministry – from the earliest days of youth and young adult ministry to the beginning of the “Everything is Holy Now” Blog, through writing two books and traveling all over the country giving retreats, all the way through the founding of Ignatian Ministries – has always been about seeing others. It is about seeing what is deep inside, what people fear, what they long for, what they need – and pointing the way to the One who can satisfy. Similarly, so many moments along the journey towards the creation of Ignatian Ministries were graced by the spirit found in the story of the loaves and the fishes. We were invited to give all that we can, despite feeling like we have so little to offer.
Walking with Becky for over two decades on this ministry journey, I see the need to use the same gifts I apply to my daily work to support Becky’s ministry. These talents continue to apply each day in the creation and growing of Ignatian Ministries. I bring skills of project management, financial planning, technology, operations and leadership to the team – offering to step in wherever help is needed. It is my way of giving all that I can in support of such an important mission.
At each turn of God’s growth of this ministry, we faced the need to learn something new –
- How does a blog work?
- How do we change an image on the blog?
- How do we get people to subscribe to the blog?
- How do we build an actual website?
- How do we turn our dining room into a shipping department so we can ship books out?
- How do we hire employees?
- How do we pivot to an entire virtual ministry?
- How do we create a nonprofit?
Becky and I met each of these questions, and hundreds of others along with them, with curiosity, openness, concern, fear, and hope. We’ve continually looked to each other and asked, “God, what do you want us to do here? Who can help us do this work?”
Sometimes, the answer was Google. Becky and I would sit at the computer and look up articles, how-to guides, and videos describing how to do what we were hoping to do and what we felt God calling us to do. Over time, though, it was clear that the more and more Becky was called to accompany people, the more she needed to build a team to support the work. And just like the loaves and fishes that day, what at first seemed meager and incapable of satisfying the needs God showed us, the gifts, talents, and graces required to make this ministry work have multiplied beyond anything we could have imagined.
As Becky’s husband, I’ve been a witness to so many moments that are unseen by others. I’ve seen Becky bound out of bed on the morning of a retreat and before she’s even had a sip of coffee, excitedly proclaiming “I’m so excited to give this retreat today!” I’ve also seen Becky pace back and forth in our dining room, surrounded by books, binders, large post-it sheets, and a box of Sharpies, trying to discern the right way to do what God has asked her to do. I’ve reassured Becky as she wonders if this is all just a crazy idea, and I’ve held her close when she has found it hard to know if this work has made a difference to others or when her heart was breaking at the suffering she saw and heard. I’ve recorded promo videos, edited book chapters, given talks, sold books, created budgets, and even learned how to fix a webpage. (Google is still my friend!) At each of these points along the way, I’ve asked those same questions as I did nearly 23 years ago: What do I have to offer?
Along with my vocations of marriage and fatherhood, being a part of the Ignatian Ministries story is one of the most important and exciting aspects of my life. I am proud of the work we’ve done and pray for the continued grace to serve our growing community. As Ignatian Ministries is birthed into the world, I invite you to ask God the same question I ask myself frequently, “What do I have to offer?” You will be surprised, as I am, how God multiplies what we bring to God to help feed others.
- Pray for our team as Ignatian Ministries is birthed.
- Ask God, as Chris suggests, “What do I have to offer?” and pray for clarity on what you might be able to offer Ignatian Ministries.
Photo by Cassiano Psomas on Unsplash