One Year Later: Learning the Greatest Life Lesson

One year ago this week, I stood before friends and family at AIM’s Gratefulness Gathering and admitted I did not know what I was doing leading a nonprofit. Maybe I should not have been so forthright, but it was true. I was far out of my comfort zone.

Growing up in corporate America, the rules were different. Transitioning to a well-run, large church staff years later was smooth. The church operations mirrored much of what I knew in business life. But, running a nonprofit without a roadmap, without infrastructure, without resources was daunting.

My request: Prayer. Yes, that was the business plan.

Rest assured, we had developed strategy documents; we had set goals; we had an advisory board and a team of wonderful volunteers. Yet, none of that mattered unless our LORD was Lord of AIM.

Susan Freese, Founder & President requesting prayer at AIM’s Gratefulness Gathering, Nov. 2018

What we discovered by prioritizing prayer led to a supernatural result explained by the following verse:

“Before they call, I will answer.” Isaiah 65:24

Before we uttered that prayer request, God already set into motion the next steps for AIM.  Only weeks before the Gratefulness Gathering we were in Eastern Europe leading women’s conferences. The first leg of the mission involved working in Romania with Orphan’s Heart (now called One More Child) led by Dr. Jerry Haag.

During a private conversation on a bus headed to lunch, I asked Dr. Haag and his wife Christi for advice on growing AIM. They suggested I find someone who could work full-time to manage operational details. Moments later, while sitting in a booth in a food court, I was introduced to Dawn Ferguson.

Dawn joined the Romania mission because of her passion for discipleship, her love for Orphan’s Heart, and her calling to serve international women. In obedience to God’s call, she stepped down only weeks before the Romania mission from her role leading operations at First Baptist Orlando, where she served for more than 13 years. She knew God would not reveal her “what’s next” until she took steps of faith to leave her beloved coworkers and trust God.

She told me her story and I asked her one question: “What does your ‘A game’ look like?” Every detail of her answer matched what the Haags suggested moments before.

I was in awe. Really God? Could it be this easy?

In February, Dawn joined the AIM team as vice president of operations and mobilization and was willing to brave the new territory of raising support as a nonprofit staff member.

Dawn Ferguson, VP of Operations & Mobilization outside a church in Jimma, Ethiopia

Dawn joining AIM was easy, but what followed would draw out our blood, sweat, and tears. As the high-growth months unfolded, hardships hit in waves: the death of a dearly loved AIM I.T. volunteer (Bill Gellerstedt), a house flood, a failed system migration, and so much more (See “The Best Worst Summer”).

Yet, in each situation, God orchestrated solutions before we called out. Dawn’s former colleagues (Janice Boggs and Brad Bamford) came to our rescue to manage all AIM technology. A fellow church member took over the house flood demo/install. A Christian peer advisory group called C12 taught us strategies on leading a nonprofit. The AIM intercessory prayer team expanded to create a prayer shield as the opposition relentlessly attacked. More volunteers raised their hands to serve in ways we did not know we needed at the time.

Looking back over the 2018 AIM Highlights (see right), I marvel at the work God did through AIM.  In every detail, God answered… sometimes before we even asked.

We simply must abide: rest, rely, release, and receive from Our LORD who is Lord of AIM knowing He hears and answers our prayers. Yes, He is responsible for producing the fruit in our lives, as we stay connected to the vine (John 15:1-17).

“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” John 15:7-8

We’re eagerly anticipating what 2019 will have for AIM knowing God is already there – lining up the answers to our prayers –and trusting He is good and His plans have purpose.

P.S. Would you prayerfully consider becoming a monthly ministry partner as we raise funds for 2019? You can do so easily at AIM is a donor-funded, 501(c)3 nonprofit. Your compassion and generosity are greatly appreciated.

Changing the World One Woman at a Time.