As a professional Christian woman who started 4word to minister specifically to professional Christian women, the most likely scope of my mentorship is pretty clear. Over the past few years though, I’ve had the unique experience of mentoring someone whose life looks almost nothing like mine.
Nevertheless, I felt God’s call to be a part of this young man’s life, and the experience has enriched mine (and his too, I hope) beyond belief.
I’m talking about Lopez Lomong. My male, South-Sudanese, professional athlete mentee.
I met Lopez in February of 2011, when we were both asked to speak at the Mentor’s Forum, a mentoring group for young professional men in Portland, Oregon.
As Lopez shared his shocking and captivating life story (involving war, kidnapping, escape, and immigration), I felt God moving me to learn more about him. So I took a cautious first step and invited him and a friend to lunch the next week.
During lunch, Lopez shared that he had a vision of bringing hope to Southern Sudan. Lopez felt strongly that this was God’s calling for him, but he didn’t know how God would make it happen.
For me it was a light bulb moment. One of my closest friends from business school is Kevin Jenkins, CEO of World Vision International, a Christian relief organization interested in exactly the kind of work Lopez wanted to do.
I knew that God had brought me together with Lopez for a reason. I was able to connect Lopez with World Vision and see them work together to develop 4 South Sudan, a World Vision sponsored program to help provide clean water, health care, education, nutrition, and most importantly, hope, to the South Sudanese. Their partnership has flourished.
Team World Vision 4SouthSudan raised $500,000 to be used to build water wells in South Sudan.
I’m the first to admit that Lopez and I are an unlikely pair. But experiencing God make that first connection despite our disparate backgrounds gave me confidence to continue to open myself up to God’s work in both of our lives.
Lopez even lived for a short time with my family in Portland, Oregon, and my husband Chris and I had the honor of joining Lopez in celebrating the purchase of his own home and praying with him over it.
When Lopez is asked about his death-defying escape from his captors all those years ago, he likes to say simply that “I survived because God says I matter.” That phrase really sticks with me.
For Lopez, everything comes back to that time in his life when, against all odds and by God’s grace alone¸ he survived. No matter how much we do as individuals, no matter how much we plan, God does more, and His plans go beyond our wildest dreams, let alone our comfort zones.
So seek out (or offer) mentorship and guidance and friendship where you can, even if the recipient seems unlikely. Yes, you may have special knowledge to share with or gain from those whose lives look the most like yours. But don’t underestimate God’s ability to work in the most unlikely circumstances.
Diane Paddison shares more advice, Balance Starts with You