Valley Church, Iowa
What Happened When God Rocked Our Prayer Group
By Val Bantz, June 16, 2016
You know that verse in Ephesians 3:20? The one about how God can do more than all we ask or imagine. "Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”
This verse came to life for us as a group of praying friends this year.
It was around 12 years ago when we started praying together, lifting up the needs of our young families. We were in the throes of childrearing with preschoolers and early elementary aged kids. We had busy husbands building careers. We shared the joys and challenges of raising our young families. . .to spank or not to spank? Would our faith EVER become theirs? Marriage is HARD. Health issues, both real and imagined. Those are just a few of the myriad of topics we talked and prayed over. Our delightful, yet challenging children kept us all hopping and on our knees!
Matthew 18:20 says “Where two or three are gathered, there I am in the midst of them.” Our prayer times were some of the sweetest memories of our friendship. We met monthly to share our joys, our sorrows, our parenting disasters, our concerns for our kids, our marriage struggles. Jesus always joined us. We would talk, laugh, cry, exchange requests and pray over one another. It was always a powerful and uplifting time. We experienced true community and the blessings of many answered prayers. We were doing life together!
Looking back, we had each other, all in the same age and stage of life. One of us had family in town. The rest of us did not. We saw that we lacked deep, meaningful relationships with older women of the faith; those a few years down the road ahead of us. The opportunities were no doubt there. . .we just didn’t know to seek them out!
Over the years ideas would pop into our heads. . .how could we invest and make a difference in those women just a little ways behind us in their life’s journey? Ideas would come and go. The path forward was unclear.
Fast forward to August, 2015, when the concept of MENTORING and a rush of Holy Spirit wind blew into our tidy little prayer group and tilted it off its axis! By now, one of us is empty-nesting with weddings to plan and the rest of us just a couple steps behind. Some kids in college and some still at home. Little did we know that Jesus was about to make a move and all we needed to do was keep up! (remember the “ask or imagine verse”?)
In a short span of time, God set in motion a series of events that will be called Holy Spirit “WHOOSHES!”
WHOOSH #1! Two of us were tasked by our Women's Ministry Leader to consider how we might add mentoring to the list of wonderful ways Valley Church women were encouraged and served.
WHOOSH #2! One of us just “graduated” from a leadership role in Student Ministries leading and mentoring high school girls on Wednesday nights. She was pondering her next ministry role and was wide open to God’s leading. She had a passion for PRAYER. Mentoring was never far from her mind.
WHOOSH #3! One of us had a strong connection in Valley Children’s Ministry and knew many young women and families. God had already been working on her heart and giving her a long list of names of women who might be open to a mentoring relationship.
As we sat at Qdoba, crafting an email to send out to these 15 or so women, we were cautiously optimistic, hoping that maybe 4-6 might respond with interest, knowing that each of us had capacity for one or two mentees. Little did we know that Jesus was about to ask us to take a leap of faith and stretch us beyond our so-called “capacity”.
WHOOSH #4! 13 women responded with interest. Gulp! God, how are we going to accommodate 13 women? Do you have more in mind than all we were asking or imagining? It felt like the feeding of the 5,000 and we were the fish and the loaves! Well, we all know how that story turned out. . . .God came through!
We could go on and on with the “WHOOSHES”, but you get the idea. The next few weeks were spent praying and asking God to guide our next steps and provide exactly what we needed to accomplish His work.
What did we need that God so abundantly provided? More mentors and training, for starters! God prepared hearts to be asked and we obeyed and did the asking! Within a few weeks time, we were up to 18 mentors! And a few more mentees trickled in, as well. Our mentor leadership team plus most of our recruited mentors lacked mentoring experience or training. We trusted God to equip us for this role. It “just so happened” (WHOOSH #47) that the sister-in-law of one of our leadership team members was called to start a mentoring ministry called MORE Mentoring that included resources and training calls. She was such an ongoing gift of support and encouragement for us mentors! She helped us with a plan for how to match up mentors and mentees. She even wrote a mentoring guide we could use in our initial sessions with mentees!
God gets all the glory for the 19 mentoring relationships that were formed last Fall and building over the last 9 months. Many of these women had never met before and were taking the plunge to start a new multi-generational friendship. These mentoring pairs are all unique. Some meet for coffee. Some walk. All talk! But a common theme among them are the elements of Prayer and Encouragement. We just had a celebration of all God did to put us together and how He worked to bring encouragement and blessing to both the mentors and the mentees. It was a sweet time of intergenerational fellowship and mutual encouragement.
No doubt God is not done with this story. We’d love for more women to join this Mentoring Movement at Valley and we are praying that God will come through far beyond our asking and imagining. In fact, we are sure HE WILL!