Come Find YOUR Passion
Associate Senior Pastor, Gateway Outreach
In Ephesians, Paul challenges the Church to discover the glorious nature of God and the vastness of His love: “I ask Him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17–19, The Message).
Paul mentions four dimensions of God’s extravagant love: breadth, length, depth, and height. I know it can be a stretch to think about four dimensions of love when we live in a three-dimensional world, but consider this: God fills the world with expressions of His love and adds one more dimension—time. He is faithful from generation to generation and has patiently expressed His love for the human race for thousands of years.
Take Israel for example. God promised Abraham that He would bless all the nations of the earth through his descendants, but it took centuries to unfold. From 70 AD to 1948, the Jews waited patiently for God to fulfill His promise of returning them to their land. For 400 years, the children of Israel were in captivity in Egypt, and God delivered them with a mighty, outstretched hand.
Today, many believers in the Middle East are building on centuries of God’s demonstrated love, trusting Him to help them in the face of war and persecution. At one of the many refugee camps in Lebanon, I met a man named Ibraiham, a new believer, who had to flee the fighting in Syria with his family. With a face full of hope, he told me about God’s faithfulness in protecting his family and leading them out of a war zone to peace.
When our team was in Nimes, France, earlier this year, we learned about the history of the French protestant Huguenots who spearheaded a move of God with millions of believers. Their belief and desire for freedom of religion resulted in severe persecution in France from the crown and the Catholic church. As they faced exile, death, and imprisonment, many would gather at the Rock of Exile and pray for God to heal their land and that His love would once again cover France. Five hundred years later, we can look back and see God’s faithfulness in protecting and shepherding His people during a time of persecution and in answering their prayers to move once again in France.
I pray this encourages you! Expressions of God’s love are manifesting all over the world. Whatever you are facing, however long the battle, you can be confident God will stand with you and reveal a fresh expression of His love. In this section of Gateway Life, we’re highlighting expressions of God’s love from Dallas to Washington, D. C., and from Virginia to Beirut, Lebanon. As you read about the faith of individuals and ministries who partner with Gateway Church, I hope you’ll be challenged to firmly plant your feet on love and do something about what makes your heart burn.
Get ready to launch into something great—an expression of God’s love that will capture your best for all He has done so that together we can reach out and experience the length, depth, height, and fullness of His love.
We Care for Refugees
David & Kim Morter
If you had asked my husband, David, and me five years ago where we’d be living today, I’m sure we would have said Texas! We never dreamed God would take us to a foreign country, much less one in the Middle East. But six years ago, God spoke to us about His love for the Muslim community and called us to be His hands and feet to them.
Inspired, our desire to serve Muslims grew and we took classes, went to conferences, and learned from others who were reaching out to that community with the gospel. We even had meetings in our home as God called us to love new believers with a Muslim background.
Meanwhile, a brutal civil war in Syria pushed an estimated two million refugees into neighboring Lebanon. Food, water, shelter, clothing, toilets, showers, and medical help are in short supply, and the Lebanese infrastructure is strained while even more refugees pour in daily from their war-torn homelands.
During a short-term mission trip to Lebanon, we saw the effects of the civil war firsthand and both heard God speaking something crazy to our hearts. He didn’t command that we go, He just said, “I would love for you to join Me in what I’m doing here. Would you consider being My ambassadors in this region?” We came home and immediately began preparing to return to Lebanon. As we prepared for the transition, we experienced one of the most difficult seasons of our lives. We faced attacks from the enemy on our marriage, finances, and health—but we didn’t give up. We prayed, “God, we want all of You and all you have for us!”
Now, two years later, we are living and ministering in Lebanon. Our joy is bringing the kingdom of God and the good news of the gospel to this struggling region. God gave us the name GlobalTechArts for our ministry, and we host short-term ministry and medical teams coming from the United States. Our goal is to use technology for the glory of God and help organizations here become all God has called them to be. David uses his skills to help equip and train churches and organizations in worship arts, and I have been able to use my skills in coordinating, training, and networking.
Our absolute favorite facet of ministry is working with refugees. We join ministry partners in camps to offer English and health classes as well as Bible studies. Today, more Muslims are open to hearing the gospel than ever before. Once they hear the story of God’s love for them and the sacrifice He made for them, many respond positively. As Jesus said in Luke 14:28–33, they must truly “count the cost”—often when a Muslim makes a decision for Christ, their family disowns them and some even receive threats on their lives.
Passion for the Lord and His call on our lives is a powerful force to be reckoned with. He created us all with a deep desire to see our calling come to fruition in Him. We have found eternal treasure in the people God is allowing us to minister to—His lost sheep. If God can do it through us, He can do it through you as well—awakening a passion despite the hurdles and difficulties of life. What is God speaking to you about? What makes your heart burn with a passion to do something?
I Fight Human Trafficking
Alliance for Freedom, Restoration, and Justice
Human trafficking. The phrase seems incomprehensible, and yet the sale of souls in our world is a reality that is as widespread as it is horrifying. It’s modern slavery—for the purpose of sexual exploitation, organ trafficking, or forced labor or services. This evil profits billions of dollars, enslaves millions of people, and is happening all over the world—even within our own communities. While this reality is rather discouraging and overwhelming, there actually is hope.
I watched my parents become this hope for someone when I was only a child. When I was 11, I went on a youth retreat. One evening, the Lord used a worship song to pierce my heart and convict me. He said He was waking me up every day, but I was not asking Him what to do with my day. I felt heartbroken over how selfishly I had lived and promised the Lord from that moment forward, I would wake up every day and ask Him, “Lord, what would You have me do?”
A few weeks later, my parents brought home three young children who had been horribly abused in every way. This moment was my first introduction to the evils that exist in our world. For six months, I watched my parents fight a broken system to protect these little souls who struggled to comprehend they were finally in a safe environment surrounded by love and care.
During this same time, I was reading Scripture about God’s heart for the oppressed and vulnerable and His call for us to fight on their behalf. At the end of six months, the Lord worked a miracle to rescue these children, and they were all adopted by a wonderful couple in our church. I saw this resolution in their story and knew then the Lord had shown me my calling.
Today, I serve as the president and CEO of the Alliance for Freedom, Restoration, and Justice. Our mission is to mobilize a global collaborative network to end human trafficking and the exploitation of the vulnerable. Many Christians struggle with the questions, Do I have a calling? Has the Lord created me for a special purpose? If this is you, rest in this truth: the answer is a resounding “Yes!” Think about it this way, if the only goal of your walk with God is salvation, why would He not take you straight to heaven in that moment? Why would He wake you up the next day? And the one after that? It’s because He has something for you to do.
It is an exciting moment when we realize before time began, the Lord knew us and designed a good work for us to accomplish in this time and place (2 Timothy 1:9), and it is the greatest adventure of life to discover and pursue that calling. But we must understand one truth or we’ve missed the whole point: our calling has very little to do with us, and everything to do with others. Scripture is clear the Lord has uniquely gifted and positioned you so you can serve others, particularly those in great need.
Now, if this is what the Lord came to do, His calling for us is to join Him in this work every day.
To discover what your calling might be, walk in relationship with God, anchor yourself in His Word, and understand your destiny has everything to do with serving others. Ask Him every morning, “What are you waking me up to do today?” and keep your eyes, ears, and heart open to the direction He will most certainly provide.
I Feed the Hungry
My journey from the hotel industry into the disaster relief world started with a little “Yes.” Hurricane Katrina smashed ashore in Louisiana and Mississippi in August of 2005. I watched from Portsmouth, Virginia, as a 20-foot storm surge flooded 80% of my hometown of New Orleans and surrounding parishes. Over 1,400 people were killed, and it caused $108 billion in damage. Seeing people I recognized standing on overpasses in hopes of being rescued and familiar neighborhoods completely underwater struck my heart in a way nothing had before.
Immediately, I knew I had to help. As I served, I saw the incredible difference a hot meal could make. In Cajun culture, food is love. My Cajun grandmothers cooked for everything—celebrations, losses, family, friends, pop-in visitors, and often, for no reason at all. Life was centered around the kitchen and a shared meal. But as a disaster-relief volunteer, I became surprised and outraged by the quality of food served. People were grateful for every meal, but there was little to no food safety practiced and love and passion weren’t put into the food—it was all about fast, cheap, and plentiful. I felt strongly that God calls us to excellence in all we do, and if I was going to serve people in His name, I needed to do it well.
Sitting on the floor in my living room months later, completely broken by what I had witnessed, I cried out to God. Something had to be done. I wasn’t sure what, or how, or who would do it, but someone needed to step in and give relief to the suffering. This is when I heard Him say, “Gary, just go feed people.”
It was so simple. I’d spent 35 years in the hospitality industry. I knew how to feed people and feed them well. The possibility of excellent food service in a disaster zone inspired me to the point of distraction. For weeks I would wake up in the middle of the night with ideas of how to create the same quality meals we served in our restaurants, but on a mass scale. Out of this, Mercy Chefs was born.
Once you hear your call, the only choice is whether or not you are going to obey. At each decision point, I stepped out as far as I could and trusted the Lord would support me.
In the early days, I used what I had in my own kitchen and put essential purchases like groceries on my credit card, trusting that somehow God would provide. And He did. Time after time, He has continued to bring the resources, equipment, and connections needed to sustain and expand Mercy Chefs’ ministry.
Today, Mercy Chefs has served over one million meals, responded to countless disasters both in the United States and abroad, established five permanent kitchens, provided clean water to thousands, and developed multiple outreach opportunities for homeless and low-income communities. Our fleet now consists of three state-of-the-art mobile kitchens—one of which was funded by Gateway—and two refrigerated trailers. We have two bases—one in Virginia and another in Texas. Talented chefs with a heart for service regularly seek us out to help, and our base of core supporters has continued to grow. Though we certainly don’t have excess funding, somehow we always end up with just enough. I can only credit all of these accomplishments to the One who called me those 10 years ago and to the generosity of His people—even in the midst of my confusion.
Looking back on 10 years of God’s faithfulness, I am amazed by what God will do with a flawed person who simply says “Yes.” What is burning your heart? What have you watched with a passion to change what you see? Even if you are confused about how to change what’s in front of you or who should step in, God could simply be asking you to just say “Yes” and all you have to do is trust Him to fill in where you are lacking. All you have to do is obey. Who knows, He could be calling you to join hands with our mission to “just go feed people”!
I Help the Poor
The Hub: Urban Ministry
I would love to say when the Lord called me to ministry I stood up and boldly proclaimed, “Here I am, Lord, send me!” I had believed in God my entire life, but I didn’t have a relationship with Him and I was deep in my own depression and anxiety. Then one night in desperation, I opened the Word and asked God to speak to me. I landed on Isaiah 61:1: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” This verse gave voice to my desperation. In that moment, the Lord told me He had a unique purpose for me and was going to break me out of bondage and anoint me to reach down into one pit after another to pull out people just as broken as me. This word gave me the one thing I lacked: hope! The same rope the Lord threw me that allowed me to climb out into freedom was my destiny. He placed a calling on my life to find the pits in my city and start throwing ropes in.
In 2007, I started The Hub, an urban ministry in Shreveport, Louisiana. We serve the homeless, working poor, families in poverty, at-risk children, addicts, prostitutes, and anyone who finds themselves without what they need physically, spiritually, or emotionally. We love the poor because God loves the poor. They are no different than you or me! We understand we were once poor in our own right and were found, rescued, and given life.
People in material poverty face more than just the stress of what they don’t have. They might also be caught in life-controlling addictions and feel isolated and lonely. In an effort to bring them value and worth, we walk with them through a process that inspires hope, friendship, and community and creates a place where they can belong and learn the skills needed to become self-sufficient. We want those in poverty to discover all God made them to be: happy, healthy, free, and walking with Him. The Hub uses an earning-based approach to ministry to teach the value of hard work, participation, and accountability.
As children of God, we are called to love the broken, orphaned, widowed, strange, and desperate. This “we” is not just some or only the crazy ones. It is everyone—you and me, our children, and our families—we’re all called.
Here’s the beautiful thing: He’s not looking for the qualified, shiny, and beautiful “sinless” ones. He wants to drag you out of your mess, clean you up, restore you, and send you—fresh out of your own pit—to do the same for others, to encounter the darkness of our world. Maybe He is calling you, but you feel too broken to be of use to anyone. All you have to do is say “Yes.” The very same thing that heals you could be the one thing someone else needs to hear: the same hope you have been given.
I Advise Ministries
Imagine me, a grandfather of two with an executive background in management at large organizations, sitting across the table from two women (younger than my own three sons!) with hearts full of ideas but without any paid staff, offices, or funding. When Amy Ford and Salina Duffy of Embrace Grace first came to me for help, I was excited about the opportunity to apply my years of business expertise to their ministry, but it appeared to be a formidable challenge.
Most churches advocate life and discourage women from getting abortions. Sadly, once a brave girl chooses life for her baby, the church frequently steps away and has little or nothing to offer her in the way of support. She is left with seven to eight months of fear, worry, loneliness, and judgement. This space is where the body of Christ can play a crucial role ministering to women desperately searching for a Savior. Such was Amy and Salina’s vision: meeting the need for churches to connect with and support young women going through unplanned pregnancy and help them choose life, choose Jesus, and learn to become godly moms.
In our first meeting, Amy told me, “You are the answer to our prayers. We don’t know how to run a nonprofit, but when we asked God for help, He said to look for an older man with gray hair and experience who could teach us!” Well, I swallowed a bit of pride (I’m not that old!), and we decided then to listen to God together, follow His direction through best practices, and depend on Him for the results. And boy, did He deliver!
Just over two years ago, we started with $12,000 in the bank and 17 Embrace Grace groups in three states, with Gateway becoming the first church to implement the program at multiple campuses. By May 2016, we have reached five full-time and three part-time staff and are planning to move and double our office space. We now have groups in 218 churches across 40 states and 3 countries! Oh, and the budget has grown to $325,000 annually with a sustainable operating balance in the bank.
But most importantly, more than 1,500 girls and their babies have been ministered to with love and care.
My early career experiences taught me the value of bringing business principles into the management of ministries, and I saw it again with Embrace Grace. Two of the three large organizations I served ran publishing entities with operations that delivered significant profits to their missions’ projects. However, when my responsibilities grew, I found the missions side of the organizations did not grasp how useful business acumen was, so I developed some simple strategies to help nonprofits gain insight into operating principles that enable growth, strength, and the success of their missions.
When I left my last ministry leadership position in 2012, a friend with a consulting firm asked me to join his team to create materials and workshops from strategies that could help nonprofits. As I worked on ideas, God clearly showed me He wasn’t stopping at my involvement with Embrace Grace; this passion to help ministries succeed was His calling on me for the next season.
My newest mission is to find businessmen and women willing to come alongside ministry organizations to help them use good business principles to achieve their goals. Since Gateway Outreach has relationships with more than 100 ministries outside of the church, they asked me to create a course to teach basic principles of business. We launched a successful pilot class in the fall of 2015 for 10 groups, rolled the class out to another 24 groups in the winter, and offered advanced classes in August and September 2016.
I have the opportunity to watch my mission play out in a classroom setting and help ministries just like Embrace Grace, who are looking for someone with expertise and a heart to share what they know, function as successful businesses. One of the most important principles we teach first is that the most important step is to see the sacred value of all God has taught you in the business arena. A well-run business runs on godly principles as much as a well-run church. There is no divide between secular and sacred—when you are a disciple, whatever he calls you to do is sacred! Then we help ministries set direction by determining their mission, vision, and values; organize properly by creating a corporation, bylaws, a board, and appropriate banking; create operations by putting people and programs in place to reach others; and find resources, including funding and expertise.
Maybe you’ve seen an area of an organization that is failing when it could be succeeding. If you have a background in a related area, perhaps the Lord is calling you to step in and resolve the problems you see. If you don’t have an expertise in that area, the solution might be to step into a classroom setting and learn what you can do to be a solution to the problem.