From the Change Blog
“When my wife and I moved to Florida for her career, I wasn’t sure how this older congregation would receive my spiky hair and outside-the-box personality, but they embraced me and encouraged my vision for the church and reaching out to young persons.”
Russell Clark: Pastor
What do you do?
I serve as the senior pastor at First United Methodist Church in Reddick, Fla. As the only staff of this small, rural church, I am responsible for preaching, worship, teaching, visionary leadership, pastoral care, evangelism and coordinating volunteers to help with our ministries. A regular week includes 30-60 hours of work. I spend most of that time researching and preparing for the Sunday morning worship service (including my sermon), attending to pastoral care needs and attending church events—such as committee meetings, fellowship gatherings and Bible studies. I spend the remainder of my time completing district and conference paperwork, preparing for weddings and funerals, managing conflict, preparing ordination paperwork and brainstorming/preparing for future events. I am blessed with great volunteers who I trust to prepare the youth and family activities and take care of the financial responsibilities, building management and marketing/evangelism needs. Even though I do not have a staff, these volunteers make my job much easier. Part of my job is to oversee their work, educate them on how to improve and continually celebrate the work they have done for the church.
How did you get there?
My senior year of high school, I delivered my first sermon at the youth Sunday service. This time (and every time I delivered a sermon after that), I received an overwhelmingly positive reaction from the congregation. I knew that preaching was my gift, so I majored in Christian Education at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth to prepare to be a minister. I served as a youth minister at three different churches before becoming an associate pastor while I finished seminary at Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. In The United Methodist Church, there is an ordination process to qualify each minister for a lifetime of service, and I am pursuing ordination as an elder in The United Methodist Church.
When my wife and I moved to Florida for her career, I wasn’t sure how this older congregation would receive my spiky hair and outside-the-box personality, but they embraced me and encouraged my vision for the church and reaching out to young persons. I have served in Reddick for 2 1/2 years now. In this time, the church has transformed from having an average of 15 during worship to 115. The church started with 5 youth and we now have more than 25. Before, the church was unable to pay bills without constant fundraisers and now we are self-sufficient and able to meet 100% of our conference apportionment payments. Now, funds raised help families in tough situations and help support the family, youth, and children’s ministries. We recently had 26 new members join the church in one Sunday. This is a testament to the excitement in our church, the motivation of the leadership and the joy that new, younger families bring to our congregation.
Why do you like it?
Tommy, Julya, and Luke Sims started attending our church when I first started my appointment in Reddick. I saw them every Sunday in worship, so I was surprised to learn that they were not attending church as a family at all before.
Tommy and Julya enjoyed my passionate and genuine sermons, and Tommy appreciated the fact that he could wear shorts to church. When Tommy’s lung cancer progressed, they asked me to pray for his upcoming operation. They informed me then that my sermons, leadership and attention to youth saved their family, their marriage and their faith.
Tommy died in September 2011 at the age of 42. At his funeral, I was touched to see he was wearing a wristband that says, “God is Big enough,” which I gave all of our church members during a sermon series I did on dealing with suffering. Julya told me he never took the wristband off. She said, “Russell, Tommy didn’t say much, but he definitely believed God is big enough.” There were more than 300 people at Tommy’s funeral, and we have many new church members today because the witness at Tommy’s memorial service touched them.
We had a mission trip in June 2012 where we helped local families with projects such as wheelchair ramps, yard work and home repairs. Julya and Luke both attended the mission trip to serve these families and do the hard, sweaty work in the middle of the hot Florida summer. Julya told me at the end of the week that this mission trip was the most transformative experience of her life and she felt that she could move on with her life after Tommy’s death. Twelve-year-old Luke broke down in tears one evening on the trip. He told me he knows he is going to be okay because his dad still lives within him.
I don’t just like my job; I love my job. To see the transformation of the Sims family in spite of tragedy is just one example of why I love what I do. There are countless stories of families and individuals who remind me of the eternal smile that a new life in Jesus Christ can bring. I continually have more confidence and passion to be a pastor in The United Methodist Church because of the inspirational transformations I am blessed to witness day after day.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grow up?
As a kid, I did not have much confidence. I felt like I was just mediocre at everything. I played “left out” on every sports team I was a part of, I didn’t excel in band and I wasn’t the brightest student. The only place where I felt special was in church. My youth group included my closest friends and nothing excited me more than to hear about how God can affect our lives. I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I considered becoming a veterinarian or joining the military or working with computers, but I wanted a job that meant something to me.
After I delivered my first sermon, this was the first time I felt like someone special. This was the first time I felt like I could excel at something. I found the confidence to be someone through my church and my calling to be a pastor. I was the shyest, nerdiest kid growing up, but now every Sunday I stand up in front of my church and I know God gave me a gift. God made me to be awesome! I am humbled and blessed by the opportunity I have to serve as the senior pastor at First United Methodist Church in Reddick, Fla.I believe God made everyone to be awesome! My ministry is to empower people to do the ministry they are called to do.
Russell would love to answer any questions you have about his life or your own on his profile. Read more about his story and ask him questions on his Sokanu Profile
”Two thirds of our planet hidden underwater. Life is enriching and exciting again, full of challenges to be met and overcome.”
John Lewis: Scuba Diving Instructor
I’m a scuba diving instructor affiliated with two international agencies; individual and group adventure planner and leader; underwater photographer and videographer. I teach through private lessons, dive shops and local colleges, and have the qualifications to teach the sport anywhere in the world I am welcome.
For the first 30 years of my professional life, I worked in the trenches of retail jewelry sales and management. Became a watch repairman —even put myself through the Gemological Institute of America to broaden my technical skills and make myself more marketable within the more specialized areas of the industry.
Most folks would think of this as a dream career, and it was up until the final few years, when things got a bit tough in retailing and Corporate didn’t seem to realize that our customers couldn’t simply opt out of the recession just because they decreed it. Going in to work was less and less of an anticipation and became more and more of a burden to be endured.
Realizing I had reached a crossroads after examining where I projected things heading, I resigned my last position on 24 December 2007 and have not looked back since.
There was no way around it; it was time for a frank evaluation of where I was in life, what additional skills I had, and what I could do to make certain that I never had to grade or sell another diamond again just to make ends meet.
So I followed the well-worn path others have before me and started listing the things I had done, could be doing and most of all—interested me in doing. I was looking for something outside the ordinary and mainstream that allowed me to take advantage of skills I already could identify and develop.
I hit on the unlikely thought of becoming a professional in the scuba industry. Since I was already a certified diver, I started enrolling in classes that brought me greater knowledge and training, and so began to move up the ladder.
I also lucked into a position with a maker of Dive Computers that helped me hone my technical knowledge even further, as well as my people skills dealing with Domestic and International clientele. (Thank you Cochran Undersea.)
Even as unfocused as I was in those early days of escape from the Company grind, I had started building the foundation that today affords me the joy of showing others the wonders of a world that most on Earth never experience—the 2/3rds of our planet hidden underwater. Life is enriching and exciting again, full of challenges to be met and overcome. I go to work in swim trunks and sandals, get plenty of fresh air and sunshine plus meet a variety of enthusiastic people who come to my classes from all walks of life.
As time has gone by, I found additional ways to take that initial scuba interest to new heights as a professional in the industry and to satisfy my desire to travel to far-away places and document in photos and videos the things seen and experienced by adding another title—Adventure Leader—booking and taking divers (and non-divers as well!) on journeys to places that will give them the same thrills that I have over the years from Australia to the Caribbean and beyond.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Someone people could look up to. I think I finally made it!
Read more of John’s Story on Sokanu
John Lewis is a scuba instructor holding active membership with two international training organizations, teaching through dive shops and his local community college. An Adventure Travel Planner and Leader, you can engage his travel services through the website www.aqualifeadventures.com and get to know him personally through his website www.johnlewisscuba.com or LinkedIn . His next major Adventure will be leading a group of divers to the Republic of Fiji in November 2013.
The great thing about a career in librarianship is the range of options for specialization. The major spheres of practice are public, special (corporate, law, medicine), school (K-12) and academic (post-secondary). For the bulk of my career I’ve worked in academic libraries. Within a college or university setting you can further specialize by function and discipline. Some academic librarians work at an information desk or do instruction, support the computer system, and others are involved with content management and yet others focus on rare books or archives. Many have subject expertise.
I’ve worked in many different academic library positions including reference librarian, instruction specialist and library director. My specialty was business research, and I worked at the University of Pennsylvania/Wharton School Library. I’m currently the Associate University Librarian for Research and Instruction at Temple University. As an academic administrator my work involves planning, policy making, developing new services, collaborating with other groups, and providing leadership for our public service operations. I still work a shift at the reference desk and do some instruction; those are skills I like to maintain and it brings me into contact with our students and faculty.
One of the great things about librarianship is that it’s being part of a professional community. There are many professional development opportunities. I’m active in the Association for College & Research Libraries; I currently serve as our president. Like many other academic librarians I’ve published in scholarly and trade journals. I’ve blogged for many years, and I write regular columns for one of our professional publications. You can get deeply involved in your work or you can keep it nine-to-five if that’s your preference.
Librarianship is a helping profession and it’s all about doing work that makes a difference in people’s lives, whether it’s giving them research guidance, helping them become literate, giving them access to the Internet and information, exposing them to great literature or their first storybook, enabling them to explore the past or discover the future. That’s what gives satisfaction to the people who enter this profession.
How did you get here?
Many librarians share a similar theme or story when it comes to answering this question. I’d categorize them as follows:
· Love to read/Love books
· Love being in libraries
· Had relative who was a librarian
· Loved my school/public librarian
· Didn’t know what else to do with my [advanced] degree
Many librarians enter the profession as a second-career, often coming from fields such as K-12 education, nursing and book store sales. There is clearly something desirable about being around books, reading, serving people or the library environment that is attractive. None of these quite describes how I got here, which I did quite early – right out of undergraduate studies. Many librarians start after having pursued additional degrees or working other jobs. I did not grow up wanting to be a librarian. I knew I didn’t want to do what my father did (auto mechanic). Like many of my peers in the seventies I went to college with no specific plans. I drifted. In my junior year I chose a major that fit my talents – researching and writing and I thrived. When it came time to decide what to do after college, I focused on a graduate program that would prepare me for work in a museum or archive. Then I found out about the Drexel University library program in my own city. Once I looked in to the program, it was a revelation of sorts. You mean I could get paid to do research or help others with their research? I was sold. It was a great time to enter the profession, it being the dawn of electronic research. I’ve seen enormous change in my 35 years in the profession. Librarianship is not a career for those who fear or resist change. It’s the change, the new technologies, the need to adapt to new user expectations that creates the exciting challenges of our work. Librarianship is plagued by career stereotypes: all we do is read books all day – or put them back on shelves; we stamp cards with due dates; we answer simple questions such as “where are the books on psychology”; spinsters with their hair in a bun with a pencil through it, shushing people all day. You see these stereotypes played out in the media all the time. The truth is most laypeople have no idea about the complexity of our work – until they need help with a difficult research question or navigating the world of junk food information in seek of something they value.
Now I see a new generation of young people being attracted to the challenges of librarianship, and their desire to help people and make a difference for them. They like working with technology, and using it to create solutions to information problems. Most of all they are intellectually curious, and they want to keep this profession relevant, timely and useful to their community members. That’s why I’m here – and here to stay. Getting that first professional position can be a challenge though. It takes effort, but that’s true in many professions. I’m constantly amazed that I’ve been able to sustain a career, never being without a job in thirty-five years, being able to achieve vertical mobility by working in a variety of interesting settings and never having to leave a city I enjoy. Librarianship is the kind of profession where that can happen.
I’ve thought about that in the past, and I even wrote an article several years ago in which I tried lay out the primary reasons for my passion for academic librarianship. For me it is a combination of doing the type of work I really enjoy and find challenging, and being able to apply my skills to helping other people through education or direct application of my skill set. I really like the juxtaposition of working with cutting edge technologies and exploring bookshelves for new discoveries. I really like applying the latest learning technologies to educating students to be wise consumers of information. I really like knowing that what I do, the library systems I help build and sustain, help people achieve success. I can imagine that many non-librarians must think our jobs are really boring – what with all that sitting around reading books all day – but I can honestly say I go to work every day looking forward to it, and rarely ever find myself being bored just staring at the clock waiting for the day to end. I just can’t even imagine being in that situation.
It helps that I also enjoy working in the college and university environment. I refer to myself as being a student of higher education, and I earned my doctorate in higher education several years ago because of my passion for being around students and faculty. Thanks to my career in higher education, I’ve been able to take many courses, earn my doctorate (thanks to tuition remission), send my two children to college (thanks to tuition assistance), and been motivated by being around many interesting people and all the social, cultural and intellectual stimulation that accompanies being on a college campus. It also provides other benefits, such as access to a great workout facility and fitness classes.
I also enjoy having the opportunity to be professionally active. As I grew in my career I became less satisfied with the standard nine-to-five existence, and I committed to getting engaged in my profession by being active in associations, writing for publication and challenging myself to become a good presenter (I’ve now delivered over twenty keynote speeches for a variety of library organizations). These are the kinds of opportunities that librarianship offers, and you just need to be willing to take advantage of them – and take some risks in sharing your voice. It’s not a requirement for most librarians, perhaps excepting those who will find themselves on the tenure track at certain academic institutions. But for me it has always generated much greater enthusiasm for my work and for engaging with my colleagues. Librarianship is not for everyone, but it’s been a great career for me. I always encourage students who demonstrate a passion for research to look into the possibilities that it could be a great career for them as well.
Steven Bell is the Associate University Librarian at Temple University. You can find more information about him or his projects at http://stevenbell.info Growing up he really didn’t know what he wanted to be. But it turned out alright anyway.
I am a flight attendant for a US based, domestic airline.
How did you get there?
After graduating from University, I moved back in with my parents, while looking for a full-time job in marketing and advertising, and teaching Pilates on the side. I had always excelled in school and whatever I chose to do, but the move from student to career person was a tough and challenging transition that left me depressed, confused, and lost. During this time, I ended up having an opportunity to travel to Egypt with a friend that worked in the Airline industry. On this trip, he advised me to apply for a job as a flight attendant. Even though I had grown up in a family with an aviation background; dad’s a corporate pilot, brother flies for a cargo company, and I had soloed a private plane when I was 16, I had always thought that I would HATE being a flight attendant. I wanted to do something different, make my own way.
Well, I took my friend’s advice, and applied to all of the airlines that I found to be hiring at the time. I really had no idea what I was getting into, and although I was nervous for my interview, I felt like I had nothing to lose, so I displayed the bubble and outgoingness that is a signature of my personality. And I got the job! I was lucky enough to be based in Southern California, close enough to family, but far enough to be independent. I’ve had the privilege of developing deep friendships with my colleagues, have a schedule that allows me to see many new places and meet incredible people all over the world, and been able to share that through a website that I started, chronicling the tales of a life as a flight attendant.
There are so many reasons that I love my job. I love working as a flight attendant because the schedule is always different. I have time to pursue interests outside of work, one being that I am IN LOVE with travel. I like that I am not at a desk, and that I get to meet new people every day. I even like the customer service part of flying, and the job has developed more patience, assertiveness, and communication skills within myself. I have matured as a person, and although I feel that working as a flight attendant is not my life long dream career, as I hope to pursue more in the area of volunteer work writing, and learning languages, I believe that somehow, the universe landed me right where I needed to be, now, and that’s when I didn’t even know that I would like to fly! Because, becoming a flight attendant has been the answer to my lostness, sometimes I promote it as the answer to everyone’s life direction solution, but it’s not for all. It was, and is, my answer to opening a life that is better than I once ever dreamed, and if anyone asks me, I still bubble in delight that I love my job and gush that “I just spent twenty days in Vietnam and Thailand.”
This job has made me dream on an entirely different scope, and I’ve been forever changed. Traveling to Haiti, Costa Rica, Istanbul, Slovenia, Portugal, Guatemala, Czech Republic, and the list could go on for paragraphs and paragraphs, in the time span of less than four years, will do that to you.
Follow Kara’s adventures on her blog The Flight Attendant Life
I am am award-winning board certified holistic health practitioner and wellness educator. I work with clients individually and in groups in the Philadelphia area, and nationwide via telephone or video conferencing. I am also a holistic aesthetician and I make all-natural skincare products. I teach natural skin care classes in the Philadelphia area, hold free monthly webinars on various health and wellness topics, and write the popular blog www.holisticallyhaute.com. I also write for a well respected aesthetics trade journal, as well as other online publications, and speak at national aesthetics and health-related conferences.
It’s been a long and winding road—I began my college education as a design major and ultimately graduated from Philadelphia University with a Bachelor of Science in Architectural Studies with a minor in Humanities. I liked architecture, but I realized that my interest was more in the history and theory behind it rather than the actual design work. I had a sales background from working years of retail jobs through high school and college which helped me land my first job after graduation as an advertising sales rep for a healthcare publishing company.
I moved from sales into marketing and copywriting, and from then I moved more into editorial writing and editing. I continued my writing and editing work on a freelance basis for several years (and still continue) for one of the best known medical publishers in the world. I became a mom in 2004 and again in 2007 and continued to freelance while staying home with my kids. Skincare and makeup were always strong interests of mine (much of the retail sales I did was in the beauty industry), so I decided to go back to school for aesthetics. I realized I needed to set myself apart in the job market to try to find the perfect part-time job, so I used my writing and editorial skills and began writing www.holisticallyhaute.com. My focus within the realm of aesthetics leaned more towards the holistic and more natural approach.
Personally and professionally, I began to see the connection between a healthy diet and having great skin. I decided to go back to school again for nutrition, to enhance my education in this area and open more doors for my career. I started taking health coaching clients and quickly realized that the importance really lies more with overall health and wellness rather than just having healthy skin—but great skin is a bonus you get from taking care of yourself on the inside. I had no idea I’d be doing the work I do now because of it.
I love my work for SO many reasons. I help people improve their overall level of health which greatly improves their overall happiness and quality of life. I help people feel great about themselves. I empower people to take control of their own health and their own lives and become educated consumers. I spread the message about the importance of making healthier diet and lifestyle choices as well as choosing skincare products with safe ingredients. My work is incredibly rewarding and I feel that I make a difference in the lives of individual people, and help to broaden the minds of larger audiences with my writing and public speaking.
A model or a performing artist on a Broadway stage…maybe in my next life :)
Follow Rachael Pontillo on Twitter
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