Deep Roots, Wide Branches
We have watched so many lives transformed by collisions with Jesus this past year through many programs and projects! Our Bible Study Curriculum Project that some of you helped make possible has now reached 800 women in the last 12 months! We had a vision to see our ministry travel to women wherever they are at, and that is happening through these books! Last year we set out a strategic plan with measurable goals, crafted a team of staff to take it on and we accomplished it! Female camp staff leaders, women’s ministries, small groups, Young Life groups, work groups at schools and businesses and groups in our office have all collided with Jesus engaging our books and have seen incredible growth in their life and faith! We are so excited about this!
I was recently told a story about a woman who is not sure yet what she thinks of Jesus and her friends invited her to come to Collide during a really hard season in her life. She came to an event and liked it, but soon afterwards was hospitalized for a life threatening condition. It was actually a Christian nurse that God used to help recognize what was threatening this woman’s life and so she now calls that nurse her “angel.” It was after having just been to a Collide that this non-Christian woman was in a hospital room and fearful, that this Christian nurse angel saved her life and handed her a Collide bible study book in the hopes that it would minister to her. The hilarious part of the story is that the Christian nurse who gave her the study had never been to a Collide event. She had been to a Bible study at a local church with a women’s group who were studying it. The idea that we have created ways for women to collide with Jesus no matter where they are in their faith, no matter how hard of a circumstance they find themselves in and even in their worst condition, far from God, sick, steeped in doubt and hospitalized, or full of faith and in a Christian small group- that all kinds of women can collide with Jesus… that’s my dream. I want to do more of that!
This past year we also felt God leading us to start the We Collide Podcast. Because one individual wrote an initial check to launch it we were able to get up on iTunes, hire an editor, and create a podcast recording room where we launch weekly podcasts. No matter where a woman is now, whether she is on a run on the sandy shores of California, walking her dogs at Boulevard park in Bellingham, whipping up a mean beef stew in her kitchen in Portland or commuting to work in Washington DC, she can run into Jesus. She can hear about His second chances, she can be inspired by His purpose for her life, she can be reminded of His truths so she can let go of the lies she battles. And she can be transformed weekly by Jesus on the We Collide podcast and crazy enough, in a matter of six months since launching we have seen 5,638 unique downloads from as far away places as Australia, Turkey, and Peru.
We have seen life change in so many ways and one has been cool to see unfold. By way of God’s great provision we got an office three times the size of what we had at the same cost. This new space has become a dream come true. We have in-house Bible studies where women are growing in God’s word, squad groups meeting for accountability and intentional spiritual living, staff vision meetings, Collide ministry team planning meetings, fundraising team gatherings and we even have room for up to 50 women to attend our Next Step classes. We have room for storing all of our event supplies. We have a podcast recording room. We have a workroom for volunteers to come and use their gifts weekly. We have a cozy space to pray with women. This office has become a daily Place of Ministry and Refuge.
A woman walked into our office one ordinary day recently. She looked lost, deciding if she was at the correct address. I asked her what she was looking for and the next thing you know she sat down on a chair and wept. She said this was her last straw. She had nothing left. She didn’t want to be here anymore. Someone had sent her to Collide but that someone was now no longer alive. She had no money, no phone, and years and years of pain that she said she has never dealt with. You know what you guys? I was able to sit with this woman in her grief and disparity and tell her with full assurance “I’m so proud of you for coming here. You have come to the right place. We can get you the help you need.“ I could say that with confidence because so many of you have made that statement possible. (if that’s you, thank you from the bottom of my heart.) And we need to keep making it possible. We need to keep being able to create a refuge for women to not be okay, to be broken, to be steeped in grief, to have so much doubt about Jesus and yet to meet them there and assure them there’s a way out. That’s what Jesus does and that’s what He calls us to do.
“We can help you,” I told her. She said she doesn’t know if she believes in God but she believes in acts of kindness because she has experienced those a lot lately and she said she was experiencing an act of kindness sitting in our office when we were getting her connected to a counselor. We want women to collide with Jesus because it’s not acts of kindness that will transform a woman who wants to choose death into one who wants to choose life. Only Jesus can do that. So I assured her that the acts of kindness she was experiencing were indeed our God who loves her trying to help her see just how much. She wept some more. I am convinced this work we do is important and that we need to keep inviting women to collide with God because when they do, they will find the hope and healing they need to walk into the good life.
This past year as many of you saw, we had our largest attended Collide event that was sold out, with hundreds more women that hoped to get tickets. We had 1,100 women come in the fall and let me tell you, that’s 1,100 desserts, 1,100 registrations, 1,100 nametags, 1,100 programs, 1,100 chairs, 1,100 gold medal ribbon giveaways. It’s also a million prayers, a jillion hours of work and an immeasurable number of blown up balloons and we would do it all over again for just one life because we know that each woman in each chair was forever changed. Each woman was challenged to know she was loved and to then go into the world and bring that love to others. The ripple effect was more immeasurable than the balloons and will last into eternity changing lives all over our county and beyond. We continue to see that when women come to our events and gatherings and collide with Jesus they leave changed.
I got an email from a woman after our last event where we inspired women to use the talents God’s given them- to leverage their life for that of another. This woman sent me a picture and said, “This is the picture of my manuscript for a book I just finished a week ago. No one has seen this except for Jesus and me. I have been so afraid that it is too insignificant and simple to share and that I will make a fool of myself if I try. God spoke to me so much at the event… to make this [book] available to others to read even if it makes me feel really vulnerable lives are changed and He is glorified and this is the best success we can ever have in life.”
A week and a half later, I kid you not, I got another message from this woman saying a Christian publishing company wanted to publish her book! She went on to say, “I wanted to hide [the book] away but then when I went to the last Collide. I knew God wanted to give me courage to see this through! That I need to be a wise steward of the ‘Talents’ He has given me.” This is just one story from one woman at an event. I could write pages and pages of stories!
Last summer I was thinking about all that God has done and all that He is calling Collide to do, all the programs we need to continue sustaining to change lives, all the new projects we need to pull off that we know will change lives, all the lives that we have the opportunity to impact…and all that it will take to do all of that. I sat on the beach on my summer vacation trying to fend off all the to do’s, all the emails coming in from people needing to meet, all the financial resources we need to raise to keep saying yes, all the project tasks and all the impossibilities that could get in the way of the big vision we feel led by God to accomplish…and I became overwhelmed.
I was so overwhelmed that the only thing I could think to do was groan to God – How could we do all this? How will we pull it off? How will we do what you’re calling us to do when we need so much to be able to do it?
God said two things to me. He first asked me a question. “Willow what is your mission?” I responded “to invite people to collide with Jesus.” Saying it aloud made it sound so simple. That’s when God assured me- I can do that. We can do that. Our mission is simple, it’s clear, and if we stay faithful to it, we can change lives in incredible ways. Very simply, at Collide we create conversations, gatherings, events, classes, resources, bible studies, programs and relationships, where we invite women to collide with Jesus and when they do, they are forever changed.
The second thing God said… He gave me a vision of a tree, a big flourishing tree with huge branches that extended out with leaves and foliage and life and He gave me sight to see the roots and they dug deep into the ground. In fact they are what keeps the tree standing. They were almost as wide as the branches that reached out into the expanse. They were strong and deep and many. And God said “This year you need to deepen your roots so you can widen your branches.” I was like, “What?” And He was like “Are you hard of hearing?” No but for real, God said to me ”You need to deepen your roots so you can widen your branches.” I had never heard this idea before. I had never seen this picture. And I knew He was right.
As we continue to follow God and the vision He has laid out before us and face the needs of women in front us, we are going to need to deepen our roots. We need a small village of Changemakers who wanna come alongside us as God uses us to change lives and help hold us up. Will you consider being a monthly donor? We need people just like you who can make small or big sacrifices to hold us up as we set out to continue changing lives. We want to know if you would consider partnering with us?