I had the pleasure of sitting down with Sheri Stanley, our Director of Operations & Mobilization, to hear her Forward Edge Story. While what we spoke about was only a fraction of God’s incredible works in her life, these significant moments were an inspiration to me, and I hope they will be the same for you.
Forward Edge stories are often, as team member Sheri Stanley puts it, “an illustration of the fruits of the Spirit.” She explains that they are worth sharing because they glorify God and His Kingdom. Sheri’s story does exactly that. It is full of illustrations of joy, love, goodness, obedience, and faithfulness.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
But as Sheri and her family have learned, these virtues also come with trials. At times, pursuing the Kingdom can feel like stepping into a fog with no sign in sight. Other times, God will literally move a flier in front of your eyes to lead you toward your next destination. For the Stanleys, in both cases, the next step is to act in faith even when it takes a while to realize how God will provide.
Initial Steps in Faith
In February of 2000, God began to guide Sheri, her husband, David, and their three young kids toward their Forward Edge journey. The Stanleys have a passion to facilitate worship in the body of Christ, and at that time, they were leading worship at their Portland church. The pastor asked, last-minute, if they would lead at a “Facilitator Gathering” for a friend’s Christian missionary group called Forward Edge International because the scheduled worship leader fell ill. Without realizing the much bigger plans that God would have in store for them, they agreed.
Between sessions, Sheri’s husband, David decided to check out the various conference materials and a flier for a mission trip to Kosovo caught his eye. Sheri explains her husband’s account, “the flier moved on its own.” Without a breeze or nudge by anyone’s hand, it, or rather God, made Himself very clear.
What David believed God was asking him to do wasn’t an easy request though. He would have to convince himself and his family that God was calling him to travel halfway across the world to a country that was dealing with the aftermath of an ethnic genocide. And David was perfectly content never to leave American soil. But the Lord continued to show up and nudged him toward Kosovo. Even a former co-worker and non-believer called him unexpectedly one day to ask if he was going to take that trip. “It just sounds like something Jesus would do, and you were always saying you wanted to be like him.” That was a real turning point. God had made the steps visible for David and so he decided to move forward even with the fog ahead.
After months of God’s pursuit through sleepless nights, dreams, and encouragement by trusted peers, David acted in faith. He drafted up an email for his boss about his plans to leave for the trip despite an upcoming project that needed his attention. This email could cost David his job. But before he pressed “send,” his boss called him in to say that project had been canceled. When he told the company he would leave for Kosovo, they fully supported him. David kept his job, the Stanleys would be able to keep their health care insurance, and David’s boss even asked that he formally share about his journey at a company-paid lunch when he returned. And so, he went.
While in Kosovo, The Forward Edge team cared for widows and children who had been affected by the recent war. They used their labor and love to repair houses and restore safe water access. Sheri recalls that her husband felt frustrated. Standing in a sewage-soaked drainage ditch, he asked God, “Why can’t we just help the local economy and hire people to do this?” and God responded, “I have seen you worship with a guitar. Now I want to see you worship with a shovel.” It was a moment of clarification; in the Kingdom, even for a family of worship leaders, worship is beyond music, it is an act of service and servanthood.
“And God responded, ‘I have seen you worship with a guitar. Now I want to see you worship with a shovel.’”