Embracing the Unexpected: Finding Purpose in Returning Home


I am a fifth generation Seventh-day Adventist. I have a degree in sustainable food and bioenergy systems-food systems concentration and a minor in Native American studies. I love sharing the gospel, EGW, vinyl, and Mr. Rogers.

In the fall of 2019, I was making plans for after graduation that spring (2020); although I was not sure what I was going to do next, I had a three-item checklist:

  1. I did not want a desk job.
  2. I wanted to use my degree.
  3. I did not want to move back to my hometown.

But for all my planning, I did not know to factor in a global pandemic and found myself back in my hometown. Although I tried to remain optimistic about moving back, I could not help but occasionally feel and sound like an ancient Israelite, only instead of being led out of Egypt and into the desert, I was led out of my proverbial Egypt, through the desert, about to step into the promised land, only to be whisked back to the land of captivity. But I began to recount all the ways God had led me thus far: the tuition refund in the exact amount of money for a car when I needed it most, the ways my tuition costs had been covered that led this first-generation college student from a working-class family to graduate debt-free, the times my car made it to school and work and back with my gas gauge sitting just above E with only four dollars in my account and four days until payday, and so many more examples that I knew that as much as I thought this was a step back, that God had not and would not let go of my hand. I only needed to keep holding on to His.

Through a series of events that began a year before the pandemic, I found myself serving for the summer after graduation as an AmeriCorps VISTA, co-operating the Summer Lunch Program in my hometown. Through this service, I earned a spot working in the kitchen at my old school. Most schools refer to the kitchen and cafeteria as the nutrition department. However, here we were, still just plain old lunch ladies, and becoming a lunch lady at my high school was not exactly what I had in mind for life after earning a bachelor’s degree. But again, remembering all the ways God had led before, I began trying to put a positive spin on the situation and realized it checked two of the things off of my initial pre-graduation list: 1. This certainly was not a desk job, and 2. I was using the knowledge I had gained in university. My degree in sustainable food and bioenergy systems-food system concentration focused heavily on nutrition.

During my studies, I focused on food insecurity, nutrition education, and the relationships between hunger, education, and the cycle of poverty, and here I was working in those areas. By sharing my knowledge with those working around me, I have made a few changes such as increasing the amount of fruit served and getting nutrition programming/ meal planning software. This software will help ensure that all future meals will be healthy and match federal guidelines ensuring that students get the nutrients they need to help them learn and develop properly. I was also able to encourage participation in the National Summer Lunch Program extension without the help of the food bank, meaning we could serve over 36,000 FREE breakfasts and over 49,000 FREE lunches to kids this year while getting the full reimbursement ourselves – an incredible win in terms of food insecurity for the students and a massive win in terms of finances for the kitchen.

One of the most important lessons I learned at university was in an interview with a nutrition program manager regarding creating lasting impacts in a community. He stated: “Having people in the program who already have a connection to the community is the key to making sustainable, successful change.” Someone else could have come in and made these changes, but God used me because I already had an established relationship with my coworkers. I already had a connection with the community. Now I had the knowledge and passion that could actively make a difference in my hometown. This experience has also opened up new avenues for me to share my faith. With more time on my hands than I would have at another job, I have spent more time creating faith-based content to share with others. I have also been able to lay some of the groundwork for church planting in my community-something I would not have been able to do otherwise had I not been sent back here.

In the Bible, there is a story about a man who was reluctantly sent back to his hometown. He was not sure what would happen. He was hesitant in going at first, but he went, nonetheless. This man is, of course, Moses, who was led out of Egypt for a time and then sent back to make a difference in and for his community. God never let go of the hand of Moses, and Moses held onto God.

Maybe the pandemic or other circumstances sent you back home too. You may be confused as to why you have ended up back in your hometown feeling like an Israelite in the desert, thinking that God has let go of your hand, but I assure you that is not the case. Consider that maybe God has brought you back to your personal Egypt to do a work for Him that only you can accomplish through your connections, your passions, and the knowledge you have gained while away. It is not easy to be back in a place that you thought you were out of, but if you hold onto the hand of God and continue to seek His will and work at what you are doing as though you are working for Him – you will find yourself feeling like a Moses, triumphant, instead of like an Israelite in the desert.

The God I used to know, and the God I know now, are the same. It is I who has changed. It is I who now understands better that even if it looks like Egypt, if we hold on to the hand of God, He will lead us out, and He will never let us go.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Colossians 3:23).

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