Were you ever asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I’ve learned only God knows our future, and what we should be asking is:
Lord, what do YOU want me to be when I grow up?
While in college, I changed my major about as often as the seasons change. After trying my hand at various majors, I finally settled on Physical Education and Coaching. I felt I had found my calling.
After four wonderful years teaching PE to high school students, I switched to teaching elementary students. For the next 11 years, I taught great kids and worked with an incredible team of teachers. I had all the confidence I had found my niche, and I was content to press on until retirement.
But, while busy with the plan I had made for my life, the Lord was slowly leading me toward His. He revealed it in ways so subtle I wasn’t even aware the plan was changing, let alone, my heart. Through public education I had witnessed my fair share of innocent children growing up in scenarios harder than some adults face. I knew war and suffering existed in the world, but for many years, I lived in a sheltered, little bubble.
Then, in 2013, the Lord popped my bubble, and nothing has been the same since.
A friend invited me to a W.A.R. Party – a fund raising event she was hosting in her home. W.A.R. stands for Women at Risk, an international organization aiding women and children who’ve been sex-trafficked overseas. Though I wasn’t able to attend, my friend educated me about the organization. My interest was piqued. Horrified and heartbroken at such atrocities happening to people at the hands of others, I felt the Lord calling me to do more than pray about this issue. I had to act.
Over the next few years I volunteered for W.A.R. I began telling everyone I knew about the devastation of human trafficking. I encouraged them to host events. While fundraising was important, God was unfolding a passion in me for building awareness about the terrors happening in our world.
In December of 2014, I met a gentleman who had devoted his life to fighting sex-trafficking here in the U.S. He invited me to breakfast, and that morning I was introduced to Lighthouse for Life, an anti-trafficking organization in my hometown. As we discussed their need for volunteers, I was simultaneously heartbroken and excited. I was thrilled to have a chance to minister on a local level, but also devastated there was a need to combat something so horrible.
Another bubble popped.
I was paralyzed by the knowledge of innocent girls enslaved in my own state. This devastating information kept me awake many nights. I would lie in bed staring at the ceiling, scared to death of what might be happening to victims that very moment. I prayed for God to show me how to help, with no idea how He would answer.
In the summer of 2015, I began volunteering with the Community Relations team for Lighthouse for Life. With my background in education and my love for talking to people, the work was right up my alley. The Holy Spirit had set a fire in my heart, and my dedication for working with Lighthouse for Life increased over the next six months. In August, I began a new school year, but most of my time outside work was consumed with this newfound passion.
In December of 2015, my biggest bubble was pricked. The Lighthouse for Life Board of Directors offered me the opportunity to serve as their Executive Director. I prayed, cried and wrestled with my decision for a month. Finally, I said, “Yes” to God. POP!
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.
– Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV
On February 1, 2016, I accepted the role in an official capacity, working part-time until I fulfilled my teaching contract. It was a very busy season. When the school year came to a close, I announced my decision to leave the teaching profession. Although it was sad leaving the love and comfort of my job and wonderful students, I was excited to begin a new adventure.
My full-time role as Executive Director for Lighthouse for Life began on July 1, 2016. I’m still amazed I no longer teach Physical Education and embarking on a path I never envisioned. If you had asked me one short year ago if I thought I would ever stop teaching, I’d have said, “God can only use me to teach kids PE. It’s all I know.”
But, that’s the point. We aren’t privy to all of what God knows and sees. We are incapable of anything noble or worthwhile alone. Only by God working in us through His Holy Spirit can anything virtuous come from our lives. God doesn’t need us, but chooses to use us. And, if we will trust Him with our lives, He will do extraordinary things. We so often are more concerned with the mapping out of life plan, we forget God is patiently asking us to trust Him one day at a time. If we trust Him, He will not only direct our paths but also walk alongside us throughout the journey.
One day someone may ask you, “How did you do it? How did you make such a drastic change in your life?” And as you look back and realize just how far the Lord has brought you, you’ll be able to answer, “I followed Jesus – one step at a time.”
Jen Thompson Executive Director, Lighthouse for Life
I seek to build partnerships between L4L and faith communities, civic organizations, private citizens and local businesses.