The passion Maria Banda, Messiah Church member and 2017 LAUNCH participant, has for her God Dream is unmistakable and contagious. The Dream was ignited by an experience Maria had witnessing The Blessing Closet in Buffalo, MN. The Blessing Closet provides families in the community with new and slightly used clothes, free of charge to kids and their parents who are in need of help. Anyone from anywhere is welcome.
“I was so touched by the fact that the clients dignity was maintained in how they are able to shop for and select clothing without having to prove that they meet certain financial criteria,” Maria said.
As a self-described adopter, when Maria sees a good idea she wants others to know about it. Sharing this idea with leaders at Messiah and those within her community would likely have been her next and only step – if not for LAUNCH.
“I was excited to share this idea, but I didn’t consider it as my dream at that time. If not for LAUNCH, I wouldn’t be pursuing it in the manner that I am today,” Maria said.
Messiah Church, a place where life and purpose connect, held its inaugural session of LAUNCH, finding your purpose, in August 2017. LAUNCH is a program designed to help each person fulfill their God-designed purpose in the world. Participants spend time reflecting on their God Dream and then work with a coach to bring that Dream to life.
“So often our faith moves from our head to our heart through our hands. This can be the catalyst that sets you on fire,” said Kami Pohl, Messiah Church’s Director of Community Engagement and Maria’s coach.
Maria shared her Blessing Closet dream with Pastor Steve Richards at the training, where they prayed together that she would be guided. When Maria met with Kami a week after the training, she shared a detailed plan on how to pursue this dream. Though excited about the possibilities with The Blessing Closet, she also feared that she may not have the passion to see it to fruition and that she might not find people to share her passion and be willing to walk alongside her. She then realized that “the fear indicated that it wasn’t just my dream, and, therefore, boast about it,” Maria said. “I realized that it is not my dream. It’s God’s dream to be fulfilled through me. I am just the instrument.” Maria embraced her fear and relied on her faith practices to guide her.
Maria’s detailed plan identified a purpose, specific action steps, and timing for each step. She documented her personal “Why” statement, personal belief statement, and a prayer from Pslam 143:10, “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.”
Maria met with leaders at The Blessing Closet, BLOOM Early Learning & Child Care, Interfaith Outreach and other organizations to gain insight on the beginnings of the original Blessing Closet and to help identify where the greatest need is. Every encounter was preceded by prayer for discernment. Her faith practices became even more critically important to her journey.
As her coach, Kami loves how Maria is combining prayer and hard work. “She’s prayerful – and she’s created a plan. She’s inviting God to work through her but also doing her part, which I think is beautiful,” Kami said.
Maria has read devotionals for years, and at this point, they began to guide her. She had never before felt what she would have termed a “calling,” but then scriptures, sermons, and books she was reading lessons aligned around her new journey. She received affirmations through daily devotionals, time spent watching Rick Warren’s messages online, and daily prayer – and she documented them in her project plan. Almost every day, something spoke to her and reassured her that she was actively pursuing her true God Dream.
In Rick Warren’s Six Steps for Biblical Decision-Making, Maria was uplifted by the teaching that God has often given people a dream and then they have to make a decision to act. Whether that was Noah building the ark, Abraham setting out into the unknown, or Maria’s work on The Blessing Closet, fulfilling the God Dream requires stepping out in faith.
In October, Maria started a planned 40 days of prayer where she is committed to praying a specific prayer daily, reading A Purpose Driven Life, and discerning God’s dream to be fulfilled through her. And that’s her hope for all 2018 LAUNCH participants – that they come to LAUNCH with an open heart, and not just an open mind, to fulfill God’s dream for them and through them.
“Be open and don’t start listing barriers to accomplishing your dream. Whether a particular dream materializes, the personal growth in faith during this journey will be significant,” she said.
Maria plans to attend the next LAUNCH training and to share the story of her journey – wherever it takes her. Whether she achieves her initial plan for The Blessing Closet or goes down another path, she says this journey has significantly deepened her faith. Starting out with what she thought as her dream, to realizing it is God’s dream fulfilled through her, to thinking that perhaps God’s dream is for her to deepen her faith such that she can then share with others and walk alongside them in their own life journey. In a sense, perhaps the strengthening of her faith and relationship with God was His dream He wanted her to fulfill.
Maria is grateful to LAUNCH, with special thanks to Kami Pohl who has been a prayerful and encouraging coach. She knows that they made her relationship with God deeper and affirming, and wishes and prays the same for all of those who participate in LAUNCH.
Messiah Church leaders will hold another LAUNCH training on Saturday, January 20, 8 am-12:30 pm. Anyone who feels like God has something more planned for them is encouraged to attend. Contact to Kami Pohl (firstname.lastname@example.org or (763) 473-6968 ext. 114) for more details or to sign-up.