Every summer, our partners and their families come together at DSM’s annual Wind River Retreat in Colorado for fellowship and fun. Because they have learned how valuable that time is, they requested a mid-January retreat to connect and learn from each other. They’ve found they draw strength from each other when they leave their neighborhoods, and share from their hearts about the love they have for their neighbors.

So at the beginning of the retreat, we asked them to put one word on their desire for their time together.  “Joy, peace, restore, refresh, union, surprise, soften, embrace, assure, faith, connect, fellowship, understand, rest.”

We thought we’d hear, “best practices, techniques, how to.” These things are important to them, and we do help our partners in this way, but they don’t describe our partners’ deepest emotional and spiritual needs. They wanted strength to be resilient leaders so they could walk out their calling to love their neighbors.

The more I get “under the hood” with our partners and their ministries, the more I am aware of the difference between a calling and a platform.  The platform is the neighborhood, the organization, the programs, the goals and accomplishments that our leaders are called to work within.  The calling is the unique way they are used to be God’s instrument.

Words have been used by our partners to describe their callings, such as “mouthpiece,” “truth teller,” “father,” “encourager,” “prophet,” “communicator of vision.”   The fact that the organization has an education program, or a vehicle for young entrepreneurs, or a medical clinic, is simply the way these callings get done.

But the real work is in the middle of the night phone calls, the loving confrontation to a sexually active teenage girl, the reporting of an abusive mom, the encouragement to an abused daughter. The real calling is when these leaders put aside what people may think of them, and speak the truth in love.  The real calling is believing that God will rescue the drug addict and turn his life around.  And a calling requires the Lord to show up and provide the leader rest, peace, union, assurance, faith, etc.

Poet Ranier Maria Wilke said, “Love… consists in this, that two solitudes protect and border and salute each other.” I believe this is Desire Street’s calling—to serve our partners by helping them draw strength to be resilient leaders as they love their neighbor.

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