Over the past year, however, I have been feeling a strong pull toward ministry. My upbringing has surely affected the blossoming of this heart tug—my dad has been a United Church minister for more than two decades—but my independent journey into adulthood has opened my eyes to God's presence in personal and tangible ways.
I was at a discernment retreat in February when I decided to make 2015 a year where I would fully allow God to move in my life. I wanted to learn how to surrender, in the process of searching for what I'm meant to be doing.
I had nothing concrete lined up work-wise when the CBC project came to a close, but I did have a three-week trip to Europe planned.
At this particular fork in the road, my cousin, Lieutenant Jennifer Ivany, made an appearance.
Jenn mentored me through my teenage years and is now a Salvation Army officer in British Columbia. We hadn't spoken in a while when she sent me an e-mail with the application for a year-long placement with The Salvation Army's International Social Justice Commission.
I was hesitant; one of the criteria was that I needed to be a Salvationist.
In response to a divine conviction in her heart that I should be working there, Jenn called the director to tell him about my work experience and current situation.
The night before I left for Europe, she called me and said, “I spoke with the director. If you're up for this, he is willing to make an exception and offer you a short-term position for the summer.”
I immediately said yes, sent my resumé and the placement was confirmed.
When I got home at the end of May, however, my preparation for this imminent cross-border adventure was shaken when I got a call from a producer at the CBC's the fifth estate.
He was looking for an associate producer for a documentary for six months. Not only that, it would be a co-production with Frontline—the United States' equivalent to the fifth estate—and The New York Times.
I expressed my deep interest at the same time as telling the producer about my New York opportunity. We both agreed I would take a few days to think about it.
Those days were nothing short of an inner tug of war, marking what was the hardest decision I had to make up to that point.
I spent the week in constant thought, making endless pros and cons for both. How could a budding journalist say no to the fifth estate and The New York Times? I called Jenn. I spoke with friends and family. Most importantly, I talked to God.
The decision finally anchored itself in my gut when I read this passage from Romans 8, titled The Solution is Life on God's Terms: “Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible, but clearly present God … won't know what we're talking about. But you who welcome him … you yourself experience life on God's terms … So don't you see that we don't owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There's nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a proper burial and get on with your new life. God's spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!” (Romans 8:9-14 The Message).
And so, I went to New York, trusting that God would use this choice for something great.
As gold is refined through fire, it was through these patches of doubt that God spoke to me the most
The neon of Times Square and the energy of Midtown East where I lived grasped all my attention in the first few days before I found my own rhythm, working in the area of communications for the ISJC.
My first task was to write a research paper analyzing communication from a theological perspective. I then extracted those discoveries to develop a web strategy and used it to re-vamp the ISJC website.
I participated in dialogue during meetings and side events at the United Nations surrounding intergovernmental negotiations on the UN's post-2015 agenda.
Every Thursday, my roommate and fellow intern, Caitlin, and I led a Bible study at a Salvation Army rehab centre in Manhattan. This was my first experience ever leading a study.
I also had the opportunity to lead devotions at the United Nations Church Centre, preaching my first real sermon. (I'm quite sure my late grandfather, Colonel Calvin Ivany, would have been proud.)
Though there were high times, those moments were equally matched with deep valleys.
My decision to say no to the CBC, for one, came with residual anxiety about where my life was heading and I often got stuck in visions of “what ifs,” particularly at the start of the summer.
But as gold is refined through fire, it was through these patches of doubt that God spoke to me the most. As much as this summer's purpose was to contribute to the work of the ISJC, it was also a season of intense spiritual amplification.
I learned this summer what it means to trust.
Most importantly, I learned the truth about my relationship with God.
As much as we long for God, so, too, does he long for us. Without doing a thing, we are unconditionally and deeply loved by a being who designed us with a desire to chase after him. Not just to reach the end goal, but in the every day.
The beautiful truth is that this relationship with God I have grown to feel is available for every single person on earth. To me, this is part of what social justice means.
By recognizing that God loves the stranger walking beside me on a New York City street, the person reading the book of Job at the rehab centre, the Indigenous mother searching for her missing daughter, just as abundantly as he loves me, allows me to see myself in the other person and therefore recognize the humanness we share. My prayer is that I take this perspective with me to the next chapter.
Back here in Toronto, I have a couple of work opportunities that are both in the sphere of journalism. I am also participating in a discernment course to determine if a master of divinity program is the right next step. While I don't know for certain where this transition will lead, I feel like I am being prompted by a different rhythm than before.
In the constant flow of New York City, I learned that when we make time and space for God to move, he truly does—in ways that I could not even anticipate.
For that, I am humbled, and so very thankful.