Taking the Next Step
Taking the Next Step
By Scott & Debbie Nordstrom
Proverbs 16:9 “A man’s heart plans his ways, but the Lord directs his steps.”
My wife Debbie and I are typically long-term planners. Organized, figured out, written down. We plan our steps in the direction that our heart beats, knowing all along that God may choose to redirect us. And though spontaneity is not a daily occurrence in our marriage, flexibility and spontaneity is a required component as we serve the Lord. Our intent is to let God steer our moving heart. He has placed within each of us a passion to follow Christ, pursue our God-given gifting, and at the same time, allow Him to have the freedom to direct our steps. We also allow each other space to serve in the areas of our strength. We are a team even though, at times, we minister in different areas. As Ecclesiastes 4:9 says, “Two are better than one for they have a good reward for their labor.”
So, what is the next step when you know one chapter of your life is wrapping up and you feel God is leading in a new direction? This new season has been one of major changes with humanly impossible answered prayer as we have stepped out in faith and obedience to God.
One big step was in relocating to an inner-city church after 35 plus years with our previous west Omaha church. We now bring people to Providence, where they feel more comfortable being in a familiar context. God has shifted our focus to helping those in recovery, feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, providing clothes for the needy, and visiting those who are sick or in prison. On our first Sunday visiting Providence, before we left the house, I prayed with my wife that God would make it obvious what church He wants us part of. Providence’s breakfast at 9:00 found us at a table with 4 ladies from the Siena Francis House who also were attending for the first time. We had a great conversation that “just happened” to focus on the exact ministry God was calling us to. Obvious, answered prayer! Our hearts have found a home here as we have sought to take steps that God has directed.
As a young girl, I recall being raised alongside foster kids in my family and my grandmother’s many foster children. It really touched my heart that they had no family to love them like I had. Although Scott and I didn’t feel led to be foster parents, I always wanted to reach out to them in some way. We did have a few foreign exchange students in our home and even helped raise some kids from broken homes, although not in the foster care system.
In the summer of 2016, after finishing 23 years of homeschooling our children, I was ready to see what God had ahead for me. We knew that it would be in some volunteer ministry capacity rather than a full-time job. God would direct my steps. All I knew at that moment was that He wanted me to share my faith with the lost. I thought, “That’s great, God! I would love to do that! But I don’t hardly know any non-Christians.” (I am not the type to approach strangers in a public place, although I have done that a few times at the prompting of the Lord.)
The initial step was to trust His leading. I began to tell everyone in my circle that I was looking for opportunities to build relationships with non-Christians. One suggestion was to volunteer at a hospital. Another one was to get involved in a library book discussion group. Neither of those really seemed the right fit when I checked into them. Next, my mom, who wrote a 12-step Christ-centered recovery program called Overcomers In Christ, suggested maybe I could co-facilitate the OIC group meeting at the Lydia House. Upon inquiring, that door wasn’t initially open. Today, two years later, the door is wide open for me and proving to be a fruitful one.
Lastly, my mom suggested I meet Chaplain Joy Stevens of Good News Jail and Prison ministry to see if she would want to start an OIC group in the Douglas County Jail. She was interested, and we met. During that time, as I explained my heart for hurting souls with trauma, she invited me to join her in her new trauma ministry that she was starting in the jail.
At once, I knew that was exactly where the Lord was directing my steps. I thought I would help her lead these trauma classes, but after helping with one, she asked me to meet one-on-one with a few women in the jail. I began doing that, and God especially touched my heart with one woman, Lori, who is about my age. We ended up meeting once a week, from August to February, when she was transferred to the York Women’s prison in York, NE.
God had done AMAZING things in our times together. We felt that we had met God directly in the inner sanctuary, even though it was only an inner room within the jail. She found healing for past trauma and abuse that she had never felt safe to tell anyone. We let God lead and do what he does best: heal and restore. (She was already a believer but so lost in sin and its destructive paths.)
I found out that I could continue to visit Lori in York if I obtained clergy status. This was a miracle as I later discovered. Many had wanted to do ministry in York, but until the most recent Religious Coordinator arrived, the door was closed to volunteer clergy. Now it was a simple matter of some paperwork. Right before Easter 2017, I made my first visit to Lori in York prison.
We continued to meet once a week until she was sent to Lincoln Correctional Center work release in the fall. I began visiting her there until bringing her home to her house in Omaha last December. We both knew that there was something very amazing and special that God had done in bringing our hearts together. In her words, “I would have never picked Debbie as my mentor. I didn’t think she would know anything about my lifestyle and past. What did she know about hustling on the streets and drugs and the lifestyle I had led? But I was desperate and decided to trust that God had sent Debbie. What happened in our friendship is that I realized I could build a bridge in the Lord to someone so different in background. But then I realized we were so much alike! We had gone through so many similar things as mothers. When she was struggling, I held her while she cried, just like she had done with me so many times in the prison and jail.”
God put us together for healing and ministry. Today, we co-lead an Overcomers class at the Lydia House. Together, we have met practical needs of women to whom Lori has introduced me. We have led women to the Savior. Lori tells me the mindset of the addicted, and I teach her tools to help women in recovery.
What I learned when God wanted to move in our lives is to put the vehicle in gear and take it out of park. Start moving ahead and see where God will steer you. Take a step, and let God direct!
Today Scott and I minister weekly at the Open Door Mission and Lydia House. He serves in the Timberlake Outreach Center, I meet one-on-one with women and lead an Overcomers In Christ group, and we both bring residents to Providence with us.
If God would have let me be involved at Lydia House initially, I never would have become involved in jail and prison ministry as well as at Lydia House. I am also involved in a community group of women called New Community. It is with Chaplain Eunice Arant, and we support the recovery of women who God is healing and restoring to wholeness. I get to share the gospel every week, often multiple times a week.
As I look back, I see that God has taken all my gifts and experiences and pieced them together for the most exciting ministry I have ever been privileged to do. I teach and love on women, but I learn so much from them. What a gift THEY are to ME! I even get to minister to women who were raised in the foster care system. What a God we serve!
God gave me 1 Corinthians 16:9 at the beginning of this journey. “For a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” This season has also had some very personal, painful trials for us. We knew the devil would oppose us at every turn, which meant God was leading in it all. Thankfully, we follow our Good Shepherd, and He has been so faithful through it all. To God be the glory! Don’t think you can’t minister to someone even though you haven’t experienced what they have. There is nothing new under the sun. Sin is the disease of all of us; Jesus is the cure!
We try to beat in rhythm with God’s loving heart. Often feeling inadequate and not always getting it right, God graciously picks us up and sets our feet in the right direction, and we take the next step.