Have you struggled to see your work as a mission field? Sofia Fonseca, architect, professor, and 4word: Houston board member, talks about how she has learned to acknowledge that where she is “planted” is the exact place and time in which God has equipped her to be a missionary for Him.
You talked with us in January about how to find your purpose in life. How does your life’s purpose impact how you approach finding your mission field?
Knowing our purpose is an important step in finding our mission field. Living aligned with the purpose of our existence has two God-given dimensions. In the horizontal dimension of our purpose-driven life, God gives us our talents in the garden where He wants us to use those skills. We learn how to use those talents to create maximum impact in serving others. The vertical dimension is defined by our alignment with God’s way of life, His truth. The horizontal dimension of our purpose is changing and temporal because these are changes with the seasons of life. The fact that there are seasons to our purpose has never been clearer than in this pandemic. The vertical dimension does not change because God is eternal, and His ways do not change.
The key to finding our mission is trusting that God gives us the talents He needs us to use and also He plants us right where He needs us to serve. He would not have given you an engineering mindset, beautiful singing voice, or ability to decorate if that were not in some way part of your mission. These are the tools to build our career and to build the Kingdom: are you a great accountant? A beautiful baker? A creative designer? The talents God has given you are a clue to find your mission field.
The next clue in finding this field is that God plants us in the garden where He wants us to use those skills. That garden is the mission field: the accounting firm, the bakery, the dress shop. We love God and one another through these skills, and we build the Kingdom by giving glory to God with our well-lived lives, our edifying conversations, our walking in peace, and our abiding in God’s gaze in the midst of difficulties.
Why do some Christians struggle to see their workplaces as a mission field?
One reason we struggle to see our workplace as a mission field is because we stop listening to God. This can happen when we get too busy or too distracted. Prayer feeds the vertical dimension of our life. It is the antenna to connect us to the nuanced ways in which God moves and speaks in our lives. Without it we lose our North.
Another reason we struggle is that our minds easily fall to the temptation that the grass is greener on the other side, that if only we had more money, better skills, more time to dedicate to God, we could serve Him. We forget that God plants us where He needs us.
Sometimes, God can call us on personal and intimate missions to build the Kingdom. Often the mission is unexpected, and if you are anything like me, you fight God about it: “Why me? Why now? I am not equipped.” Thank God for His patience with me! One such call came to take a sabbatical from successful management consulting work to take care of my grandma who had dementia. After she broke both hips, she came to live with us in hospice saying she would die within a few months. Working, taking care of our four kids’ needs and my grandma’s, I burned out because the sprint to assist her that I thought would be three months became 18 months. I heard God telling me to “rest in Him.” Rest? I had forgotten what that was. “How am I supposed to rest, Lord, while Grandma is in the house?” God gave me this intimate mission to teach me about rest.
This was a specific mission entrusted by God that at the time made little sense, and since Grandma died in April in the midst of the pandemic, I am looking for a job again at unusual times. I am wondering again, “What God is up to?” He has gifted me the opportunity to have a summer with our children at home, to cook together, to train for a triathlon together, and to rest together.
As a professor at a secular college, how do you talk to your students about faith?
All of us are looking for truth. My students are too. I begin my seminars asking my students to tell me what their life purpose is, why they are in my class, and where they are going when they graduate. I get to hear through their answers where the longings of their hearts are. I teach strategy and research classes and craft some of the exercises to help them be introspective. Many students are really surprised about the questions but all of them are pleased in the end to have had the opportunity to ponder why they are here and what their contributions can be. The questions have opened up some side conversations about faith. Our hearts long for Heaven even when we do not know it. This desire we have to look for the greener pastures on the other side is in fact a longing for Heaven. When we realize we are wonderfully made, when we can stop to hear the beating of our hearts or sit outside and see the stars, we realize that we are a living miracle walking in a miraculous world.
How can we learn to connect our different communities together into a mission field?
I recently made a map of all the communities of my life. My son just graduated from high school and is going to Yale in the fall (we think). On the last day of school, he brought a microphone, downloaded some things onto my laptop and said: “Mom, start speaking about God the way you have spoken to me all these years. All your communities need to hear how you feel about God.” I have just completed my 70th podcast. This is a fruit of the pandemic and a fruit of motherhood. And in reality it has everything to do with my management consulting career and my architectural training. The podcast is called “The Inner Room: Emotions in the Bible.” I review highlights on daily scripture and focus on the instructions and examples they provide to learn spiritual mastery, to guide us in out spiritual journey to learn to pray, worship and listen to God’s will for our lives. This is one specific example that has been afforded by being home, by being inspired by my son and wanting to create a means to connect with Marco when he leaves in the fall. But without intending it, I have woven several of my communities.
How has 4word supported you as a Christian woman in the workplace looking to impact her mission field?
We have a Bible study every Wednesday morning that is like pure oxygen for the weary soul. In it I find true green pastures to lay down by Jesus’ feet and listen to Him through the insights of our study and my sisters’ voices. Diane Paddison showed up in one recently. What a treat! In the pandemic, we have seen the benefits of virtual gatherings and three of us have started another Bible Study on Tuesday mornings with a new group of women. 4word has become an essential part of my walk with God. To see other Christian women walking with the Lord as they work has been inspiring and encouraging. Two of us are looking for jobs and seeing what God is up to in this moment.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Jesus tells us in the Gospel of John that to love Him is to follow His commands, that when we follow them, we abide in God and God in us. Likewise in the final discourse of Moses, he sets up clearly for the Israelites a vision of the way of the Lord. He says there are only two paths: the way of life and the way of death.
This choice of the way of life sets us apart and consecrates us in abiding in God. When we choose to abide in Him and His way becomes our way, we are sanctified and our actions point us to Heaven. Work is the means for making life-giving choices, for walking our talk, and for abiding in that love. Since work provides our sustenance and supports our life through the use of our God-given talents, through that exchange of our labor, our ideas, our service for provision, God brings all we need into our life as we walk towards Heaven.
Sofia Fonseca is the founder of Kyo Consulting with 20+ years of experience in design thinking and innovation services providing visioning, workplace innovation, change management and architectural consulting for institutional and corporate clients on a variety of project types. At the University of Houston’s Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture, Sofia teaches classes and conducts research in architecture and design thinking. She earned a Master of Architecture from Harvard University and a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Design from The Honors College at the University of Houston. Her clients include Fortune 100, 500 and start ups from energy to telecoms to tech/ media companies as well as schools, universities. She has been married to George for 23 years and they live in Houston with their four children.