As a professional Christian woman who started 4word to minister specifically to professional Christian women, I felt like it was fairly obvious who I would be led to mentor. God, of course, had other plans for me. He placed a mentee in my path whose life looks almost nothing like my own. Despite my initial hesitation, I felt God’s call to come alongside this person as a mentor, and the resulting experience has enriched my life beyond belief.
I’m talking about Lopez Lomong. My male, South-Sudanese, two-time U.S. Olympic athlete mentee.
I met Lopez in February of 2011, when we were both asked to speak at the Mentor’s Forum, a mentoring group for young professional men in Portland, Oregon. As Lopez shared his shocking and captivating life story (involving war, kidnapping, escape, and immigration), I felt God moving me to learn more about him. So I took a cautious first step and invited him and a friend to lunch the next week.
During lunch, Lopez shared his vision of bringing hope to Southern Sudan, his home country. Lopez knew this was God’s calling for him, but he didn’t know how God would make it happen. For me, it was a light-bulb moment. One of my closest friends from business school is Kevin Jenkins, CEO of World Vision International, a Christian relief organization interested in exactly the kind of work Lopez wanted to do.
It was at this point that I knew why God had led me to Lopez. I was able to connect Lopez with World Vision, and together they developed 4 South Sudan, a World Vision-sponsored program that helps provide clean water, health care, education, nutrition, and most importantly hope, to the South Sudanese.
I’m the first to admit that Lopez and I are an unlikely pair. However, after experiencing God make our first connection despite our disparate backgrounds, I was motivated to continue to open myself up to God’s plan for both of our lives. One part of that plan was for Lopez to live with my family in Portland, Oregon for a short time. Later, my husband Chris and I were able to celebrate with Lopez over the purchase of his own home! This past weekend, my husband participated with Lopez in the Hood to Coast relay race in Portland, competing to raise money with World Vision USA and 4SouthSudan. They were able to raise over $600,000 to build water wells in South Sudan! Visit the 4word Facebook page for pictures of the team!
One of my favorite parts of Lopez's testimony is when he is asked about his death-defying escape from his captors all those years ago. His answer is simple: “I survived because God says I matter.” That phrase has stuck with me. For Lopez, everything comes back to that time in his life when, against all odds and by God’s grace alone, he survived. No matter how much we do as individuals, no matter how much we plan, God does more, and His plans go beyond our wildest dreams.
So seek out opportunities to mentor or sponsor someone, even if the recipient seems like the most unlikely match you could imagine. Yes, you may gravitate toward those whose lives look the most like yours. But be open to unusual mentorship pairings, and don’t underestimate God’s ability to work in the most unlikely circumstances.
Do you feel called to be a mentor? Are you looking for a mentor? The 4word Mentor Program is currently accepting applications for the upcoming fall session. Visit the Mentor Program website today and submit your online application by September 2, 2016!
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