I am grateful for 2023! I will most likely say this about any other year because when I stop and remember all that God has done, I can only be grateful and thank God, family, friends, and the various opportunities that have been entrusted to me.
But yes, 2023 has been an incredible year with many joys, risks and challenges, failings and learnings, renewed friendships and new friends, travels, speaking opportunities, connections and networking, trying out new things, and experiment.
As I try to fill my thankful jar every so often and have read them at the end of this year, I am reminded of God´s provision, care, and most generous love, even in places I did not expect and in times I would not have considered.
The verse that stood over my year comes from Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God´s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he has planned for us long ago.”
So I am celebrating the good things God had planned for us long ago. And here is one of those. At the end of July 2023, when I was just about to end ten months of official unemployment (though I had never felt a minute being unemployed), God spoke very clearly to me through two different podcast episodes and different speakers: “Evi, just because you enter employment again, I challenge you not to play safe and embrace risks also in the future.”
I was debating with God about it. Honestly, the last ten months of unemployment (from October 2022) were a huge gift to learn, trust and discern (thank you, German government, for your help and support) but when I entered them, although I knew God would lead me through, I had no idea when and how they would end. God had challenged me at the start to trust him once again and walk on water. I really did but why would he say later, “Don´t play safe and embrace risks”? I felt I had just risked a lot and that my courage had already grown. Was this not enough for one year?
I have no idea, besides often choosing to play a little more safe and venture out as far as I can still stand on rocks in the water – figuratively. Just because God had provided miraculously through unemployment (read my other blog) and now God had opened the door to be employed by my own organisation LeadNow (of which the Lausanne Movement covers a big amount), I knew I was up for more adventures and God´s leading into the next few months. And so I said yes to playing less safe and embrace more risks.
I wondered how and where to apply it. In the next few months, it led me to take more risks in preaching, in being bolder while sharing my faith, in investing differently in relationships, and just becoming a bit more risky. This led to surely more fun and maybe also a bit more heartache. It also meant flying to the States and spending six weeks at the end of 2023 while focussing on some important projects and, even more importantly, on my PhD studies. Yes, this needed another leap of faith and risk-taking, as I have just heard I will need to hand in my dissertation in November 2024. Will I say yes again to playing less safe here?
But before I dive into the future, here are some of my highlights and lessons from 2023:
- Travelled more than 200 days (of which 188 were for ministry, the rest for studying, etc.)
- I visited 10 countries, some multiple times, like South Korea and the US
- Added three new countries to my scratch-off map: Malta, Israel and Thailand
- Had a very weird and painful illness on my legs for the first three months (got treated wrongly at first, but through different antibiotics, it was finally cleared) and I am so grateful that whatever it was has not returned. I will thank God more for my health.
- Hiked with some girls the picturesque and famous painter´s way (my second time) near to Dresden. My youngest sister Kirsy persuaded me!
- Mentored and coached younger leaders, event organisers, ministry leaders, and pastors. The whole year, I was busy with coaching modules and have learned so much more about myself. O dear, I needed to address my core fear of rejection… Very helpful indeed! And what a privilege to learn to ask better questions and see breakthroughs happening in front of your eyes.
- Led various events and weekends this year, all around young leaders and for people investing into young people. This gives me so much joy!
- Spoke at many events this year, probably like never before. Some of them were huge for me, some were small, and I loved them all. For me it has never been about numbers, but looking back over the past year, I probably spoke to more than 35,000 people online and offline. Quite surreal really, and probably will go down the books like 2023 hit it out of the park – at least in numbers. What I love out of these though are the connections, heart-to-heart chats, meeting leaders and inviting them along to other events, pave the way for them, share my space and stage etc.
- Created two online modules for an online Bible school (Mosaix Academy) and a global leader´s training launched in 2024. This has been such a battle. I really wanted to do it when invited but I realized, my fear here was producing something that will have to last for some years and wondering how to make it worthwhile, interculturally sensitive etc. Once done, I had survived but what a test to my faith!
- I worked with more than 40 different organisations and churches or church denominations. What a richness! The FeG (Free Evangelical Church in Germany) won with their many bookings this year!
- As life was so full this year, I missed many birthdays in the family. Therefore, in the summer I visited all my 7 siblings and their kids and treated them all to whatever they wanted. It was hilarious, life giving, funny and mind-blowing engaging with kids between 6 months and 18 years. The things they have said will be treasured forever. One of them was from my 6-year old nephew who told his mum that I don´t have to be sad on Mother´s Day because I have got them! And he is so right! They are the best!
- I helped my brother renovate his house for 5 days. I had not done any painting in many years so a wonderful distraction from sitting at my computer. And I even got his approval at the end. Well, mostly!
- For the second time, we siblings went on a weekend away. Imagine 7 loud, entertaining, energetic sisters and 1 brother sharing a house, beds and hiking up the highest northern German mountain “Brocken” and no, no train or bus was allowed to take up! Everyone made it, mostly in one piece and I am very proud of them all!
- My organisation LeadNow turned 3 years old and under its umbrella we finished our second intake with 30 female leaders “she leads” and started with 12 new ones.
- Several older women this year blessed me with extra love and care. I don´t have a good relationship with my mum so this came as an extra bonus and much appreciated.
- I saw people again I had not seen in 26 years: My American parents (Dale and Mary Ellen Schreiber, WEC) back then in Cote d´Ivoire and Amy who was one of my house mates at the boarding school at the same time. Reunions for my heart!
- Started working part-time with the Lausanne Movement (volunteered over the last 15 years) and serve as the Congress Event Coordinator for the 4th global Lausanne Congress happening in Seoul, September 2024.
- Started getting engaged with Next Gen from the Global Leadership Summit and had the privilege of attending the GLS in Chicago for the first time. Totally loved it! I help Europe in getting more Next Gen activities started.
- Fighting injustice comes with a prize tag. There is an ugly court case against my dad. He was interviewed by the police for 7 hours and they really wanted to help. I was with him. Now it is all revisited while the same evil man is suing me now. Either standing up against injustice or letting it pass? I chose the first.
As you might have glanced through my adventures, I pray you are encouraged to go onto yours. Whatever God has in store for you in 2024, maybe it is also time for you to raise your voice and take next steps.
Thank you to everyone who has journeyed this incredible year with me, who has loved me unconditionally, who trusted and booked me to write, speak, preach or simply have an Earl Grey tea with me. I am indeed a blessed person!
Thank you for 2023, off to 2024! With God´s blessings!