There was no commissioning or prayer of "sending."
I held two ministry positions; I was dismissed from one, and I resigned from the other. I didn't seem to fit the mold for ministry and I didn't enjoy the administration. The amount of time I spent inside the walls of the church office was killing me. I found myself in trouble for spending too much time out of the office and in the community, neglecting significant church duties. Thus, my life as an urban missionary life began—although I didn't call it that. I called it "unemployment." Many others (and myself) also called it "ministry failure."
What came next was six years of desert.
It was hard to break out of my full-time ministry mindset. As far as I was concerned, I was no longer "in ministry." I would attend church, only to leave feeling unqualified. I wasn't clergy. I was the average churchgoer with no permission to live out a mission—or so I thought. I doubted "the call" I felt God had on my life. What was he doing with me? Had he cast me aside?
Credential renewals would come every year in the mail. Each year, receiving the letter, my reaction went from great frustration to mocking laughter. Where was the box I should check for "I just love my neighbor like an average Joe"? What was I supposed to put in the "How many times did you preach" section? How many years would they accept my "in transition" status?
Money became a source of anxiety. When your only education is Bible College and you're not "in ministry," what are you qualified to do? You don't get paid for loving your neighbor, volunteering in the community, or helping out at church.
Then the Concept Hit Me
One day I read a blog post by David Fitch about urban missionaries. He suggested that churches invest in planting "people" in communities, not just planting new churches. This caught my attention. I had moved from Vancouver to a low-income community in Calgary, where I grew up. Could it be that God had planted me in my community on purpose? Could I possibly do ministry without ordination? What would this look like?
I started living as a missionary would in another land. Every day I prayed for God to send me to the broken. It wasn't long before I was overwhelmed with the brokenness around me.
Poverty reduction and awareness has now become one of my greatest passions. I have the honor of working with many great organizations in our city, such as an organization where I deliver baby items to moms in need, and one of our homeless shelters, where my sons and I serve lunch once a month. It was easy to get involved. I just researched poverty in my city, made a few phone calls, and found that organizations were more than happy to inform me of the issues and have me volunteer. I also got involved with our mayor's initiative to reduce poverty when I produced a dance show in our city, raising awareness about poverty and breaking down the typical stereotypes associated with poverty. I was asked to be an ambassador to lead discussions creating strategies on poverty reduction around our city.