A Deeper Belonging

It was May 2014 when I declared emphatically to my sister, “I am done.” I had lived in the land of women’s ministry, a foreign land, for six years and was ready to return to where I had the deepest sense of belonging—children’s ministry. I had been dutiful and obedient in this new land, but I was disillusioned and tired. I was ready to cross the finish line and resume my familiar, preferred life of ministry.

Today, I am happy to report that God had a better plan. I did not leave the land of women’s ministry. I stayed and experienced the joy of a deeper belonging because of a gracious invitation.

In the narrative of Ruth, I find parallels to my own experience. I found myself a stranger in a foreign land, knowing I had journeyed there to draw near to God. My love for God was strong, but my sense of belonging with those around me lacked integrity. Ruth was not automatically accepted by the women of Bethlehem; yes, they were all women, but Ruth was a foreigner, a Moabitess. I was graciously accepted by the women I now led in my role as national director of Alliance Women, but in my own heart, I kept a distinction between us. I desired to be a woman in ministry but not in ministry to women!

We can be on the same team, occupy the same space, and still experience a disconnect from one another. We need someone greater than ourselves to declare that we all belong. In Ruth’s experience, it was Boaz declaring, “Stay here” (Ruth 2:8). In my story, it was Jesus Himself saying, “Stay here” at the Alliance Women table; “You may not feel it yet, but I know that you belong here.”

As I obeyed and stayed, I experienced an inner transformation that can only be explained by the faithful work of God. I did not ask for it because I wouldn’t have believed it possible, but I found my capacity to love women increasing. As my love grew, my sense of belonging grew as well. Those who once seemed foreign became “my people.” I know how stubborn and willful I am, so this deeper belonging must be credited to God alone.

Now, as I prepare to conclude my tenure as national director, I declare with deep gratitude, “I am not done; I will stay.” Yes, I will step away from a title and a team, but my availability to women will remain. I will stay in this once foreign land and live day by day, keeping in step with the Spirit. Where will the next chapter of my story lead me? Only God knows.

But this one thing I know: I belong.

May it be so for you as well.

All glory be to Christ.

Jen Vogel

Jen served as national director for Alliance Women from 2015-2023; she serves in a variety of ministry capacities, including on the President's Cabinet for The Alliance. She enjoys reading, travel, and completing the New York Times crossword puzzle daily. Jen and her husband, Doug, attend Dover Avenue Alliance Church in Orange City, Iowa.

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