Finding a Calling – Guest post by Rafael Barahona

April 26, 2017

When your organization is one person, there is a lot of freedom, but there is also a lot on the line. Vision, direction, motivation, practices and sensibilities all rest on your own shoulders. It’s all you. So, how to find a way forward?

Three years ago, I never would have pictured myself an entrepreneur with a burgeoning business operating in a beautiful downtown Goshen studio space. In all honesty, before my business venture, my professional life resembled a pinball game, as I bounced around racking up experiential points, but lacking a clear (career) path forward.

Following my graduation from Goshen College, I served in Montreal with Mennonite Voluntary Services (MVS) for a year, toured the country as a musician, worked in education with English as a second language (ESL) students, was part of an artist community and microchurch, before eventually moving into marketing and communications with the University of Virginia.

A generation or two ago, someone might backpack through Europe to “find themselves.” In my process of doing so, I struggled with a couple of cultural notions that were becoming increasingly burdensome:

Pick a career

This idea is embedded from an early age, as we are asked what we want to be when we grow up all the way through school, college and “professional development” opportunities.  While it is no longer very common for individuals to work at one job for their entire career, there are certainly strong remnants of the expectation that we as individuals have one thing we are supposed to do with our lives.

Find a (religious) vocation

Another struggle that I had was a latent expectation that in order to properly live out my faith, I needed to find a vocation that was more overtly religious in nature. Simply stated, I needed to “work in the church.” While my parents never explicitly instructed me to do so, their lifelong roles as church leaders provided plenty of inherent pressure.

Multipotentialites

These two notions can be summarized as “finding my calling.” For many years, I yearned to know what it was, and found myself often wishing I was just good at one thing, and that one thing could provide the answer I was looking for.

Only recently have I learned about an alternative philosophy for people like myself, who enjoy doing many different kinds of things.  They are called multipotentialites.

Multipotentialites are defined as individuals with interest and capacity in many different areas or disciplines. They excel in idea synthesis (seeing and applying connections with different ideas), rapid learning (devouring a new topic or area of interest) and adaptability (being able to function effectively in a variety of circumstances). These characteristics have become crucial in my ability to effectively wear the many hats needed when running a business as a sole proprietor.

I have also come to terms that there are many ways and methods to do kingdom work both in a career and outside of your day job. Additionally, as I had bounced around from job to job for several years, there was work going on inside of me, helping me to understand who God created me to be and firmly establishing the divine nature that creativity plays in all of our lives.

Embracing ‘secondary’ skills

The final piece fell into place when my family and I moved from Charlottesville, Va., to Goshen, Ind., and I had the opportunity to more fully pursue the creative endeavors that for many years were a hobby, or secondary job skill I could list on a resume.

Unable to really find the kind of job I really wanted, and with plenty of encouragement of those nearest to me, I took the plunge and started my business. As I embarked on this new journey, I had to embrace another common mantra: don’t be afraid to fail.

More than the learning curve with setting up internal processes, time tracking, invoicing, taxes etc., I had to make some important decisions about how I wanted to run a business.  It was all new, so I did plenty of research and looked to other designers and business people for best practices and finding success. The sources ranged wildly on their philosophies, each promising a different definition of success.  Some emphasized the practical, others focused on how to find meaning and happiness with what you are doing.

I confess that I tried out several different things, and I still occasionally question myself as to whether there might be a better way to do something.  What has become clear to me, however, is who I want to be as a business owner. I want to keep learning and growing, but I also want to be intentional in viewing clients as people, not as numbers, each with their own unique story to tell.

I love that the design field allows me to keep exploring many different worlds. In any given week, I might be working in the food sector, or cosmetics, or in the education field, or entertainment, or a church or other non-profit.  I get to witness the work God is doing a variety of fields and in a variety of people.  With each new project, I have an opportunity to work at character, embracing my convictions and gifts, and treating others not just how I would like to be treated, but as unique children of God, each with their own gifts and story to tell.

Connect with Rafael:
Email / Website / Twitter / Instagram

Rafael is a board member for MennoMedia. In addition to running R3 Design, Rafael and his wife Elisabeth are raising their three young children, Isabela, Thiago and Ana Sofia. They currently live in Goshen, Ind., and are members of Berkey Avenue Mennonite Church.

This blog post appeared originally at The website ValuedLeadership.org, sponsored by MHS and developed for non-profit leaders and organizations to support them as they reflect on and integrate Anabaptist values and themes with organizational life.

God’s Abundance: Inside the MennoMedia Board

By Melissa Miller

MelissaCamping

Earlier this month, I joined my husband and a couple of friends for a few days of camping in the Canadian wilderness. (Nopiming Provincial Park, Manitoba, to be precise.) We canoed the lakes and hiked the trails, fed the mosquitoes and ate the fish we caught. We woke to the call of the loons, and at night, tucked into our tents under a splash of starry lights. A short vacation packed with gratitude for God’s beautiful world and offering deep peace and relaxation.

wildblueberries

On one island, we found a mass of blueberry bushes, loaded with plump juicy fruit. The plentiful sunshine and rain this summer likely contributed to the plants’ productivity, and the island’s isolation meant no humans (or bears) had harvested before us. We gathered lots of berries, eating some and carrying more back to our site, to add to the evening’s bannock. Another example of how God provides – abundantly.

Abundance and scarcity have been on the minds of MennoMedia board members recently. One of the results of a self-assessment inventory that we completed in the spring identified shortages on the board. We find ourselves wanting to add skills in the areas of new technologies competence, board governance, and financial management. At the same time, we are grateful for the skills and gifts present in the current board.

Recently I sat down with Hilda Hildebrand, moderator of MC Canada and a member of the Joint Executive Committee, which has responsibility for managing the relationship between MennoMedia and our two denominations, Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA. Hilda, who has considerable board experience, brought a grid to help us consider who is currently on the board and the skills they possess. I found the exercise of plotting skills on the grid to be a useful and encouraging one. God has abundantly blessed us with members who have gifts they are willing to share.

For example, there are business people on the board, who bring their experiences with product development, customers, and balance sheets. There are entrepreneurs with vision and a capacity to take risks. Other skills include legal expertise and communication skills. To a person, there is an abundance of good will towards MennoMedia and our churches. Many of us have benefitted from church resources in the past, and serve on the board because we want to ensure such resources continue to be available in the future. The mission statement of MennoMedia – “to engage and shape church and society with resources for living Christian faith from an Anabaptist perspective” – resonates well on the  board.

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Even as we seek new members to strengthen the board and bring additional skills, we declare that God provides. Restful pauses where we contemplate God’s beautiful creation. Astonishing wild blueberries. Faithful and talented people to sit on boards and work in church agencies. Let’s give thanks for gifts that can be put to good creative use, like those wonderful blueberries.

Blueberrydessertmmiller

I’d love to hear from you in a comment here or an email sent to info@mennomedia.org.

Cheers, Melissa Miller, Board President of MennoMedia

Photos by Esther Epp-Tiessen

A romance, a new merger – and a goodbye.

We had a much-needed fun break recently from the intense work of getting ready for the every-other-year massive marathon of the Mennonite Church USA Convention July 1-6, 2013 (intensified by MennoMedia’s fiscal year-end madness, coming June 30), in addition to our regular work.

KimberlyAndDorothy
Kimberly and Dorothy set out party food.

So we celebrated the upcoming wedding of Evan McCarthy, whom many of you have met through this blog, or on the phone, or in emails, or somewhere else. (See Evan’s most recent blog post on struggling through inventory.)

Arrival.We had a surprise shower! Heather, the bride-to-be, also surprised Evan in our lunch/break room.

It was a bittersweet occasion, though, because Evan left employment with MennoMedia as of June 18 to go to grad school. We will miss him.

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Evan in the warehouse in 2011.

He joined us when he was just a rising senior at Eastern Mennonite University the summer of 2011; he was hired one day, and by early the next morning left for a trip with two others to Scottdale, Pa. (the former headquarters of the Mennonite Publishing Network arm of the merger with Third Way Media that formed MennoMedia in July 2011).

They went to Scottdale to check out mail room equipment and gauge how big of move we were all getting ourselves into.

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Mailroom equipment was moved and installed in the Harrisonburg shipping department.

Evan worked full time that summer, and part time while he finished his senior year as a business major at EMU. Then Evan began working full time right after graduation.

HeatherEvanGraduation
Evan and Heather at EMU graduation, 2012.

He had some great promotional ideas, as he helped to launch Mennonite Girls Can Cook Celebrations through Facebook giveaways.

Amy Gingerich, Editorial Director at MennoMedia is all smiles upon receiving the just published Mennonite Girls Can Cook Celebrations.

Amy Gingerich, Editorial Director at MennoMedia is all smiles upon receiving the just published Mennonite Girls Can Cook Celebrations.

Evan also has a great gift for numbers, or metrics, which people seem to like to call certain kinds of measurements these days.

He helped us through many difficult challenges surrounding the merger, like counting books, finding places for them, dealing with the Acumen database for our store’s website, dealing with Amazon, dealing with Amazon.

He helped launch this blog—a task he enjoyed because it was a “diversion” from Amazon.

Evan in India

He also often entertained us at lunch with wild tales of the latest Bollywood movie he had watched. Both he and Heather spent their EMU Cross Cultural term in India, which they loved—and where they also grew to love each other.

A wedding is a merger of another kind with its own challenges. But with a shower of good wishes and a few gifts to start off their humble household (with Evan being a “poor grad student” at Virginia Tech and Heather an elementary school teacher looking for a teaching job in that area)—we know they’ll persevere as they go off into the sunset together.

LaughPinwheelDecorMomGifts

In a “goodbye” email he wrote to staff, “Working at MennoMedia and getting to work with each and every person here has been an incredible experience, and I feel very blessed to have had this opportunity. I’m definitely going to be thinking of you every time I see a Herald Press title on our bookshelves. Please feel free to keep in touch or contact me with any questions about anything I may have left half finished (my inbox is currently over 3,000).”

Best wishes and congratulations, Evan and Heather.

Hug

Do you have any words of advice for the young newlyweds? He’ll still be following this blog!

All MennoMedia office photos by Wayne Gehman, photographer.