Show Up and Trust God: Reflections on Mentoring

August 24, 2018
jen wu

As I began to reflect in preparation for moving to Hong Kong after nine years living in New York City, I realized I was asking myself things like, What have I achieved? How have I made a difference in my community and those around me? It was all very self-centered. Especially as I looked more deeply at my experiences as a volunteer with Hope for New York, I realized it was not I, but God who was truly behind every experience and blessing.

One of the organizations I have been a part of the past few years is Center for All Abilities, a Hope for New York affiliate, which supports children and young adults with special needs and seeks to empower them through creative outlets such as art and music. When I decided to get involved it was because of this sense that I could make a difference. Since I come from a creative industry, had mentored in the past, and liked working with kids, I thought, Great! I'm perfect for this role and my skills can really benefit this organization!

But God quickly challenged my arrogance. I remember early on feeling exasperated and ill equipped. Not only did I feel as if I didn’t know how to connect with the kids, but at times I could barely keep them seated and focused on an activity. On one occasion, I tried to be playful and pick one of the kids up, but ended up throwing out my back.

As someone who was so reliant on being in control in situations and expecting quick results, the experience humbled me and helped me realize that my own qualifications and efforts didn’t necessarily matter.

Instead, as I reflect on the three years I’ve been part of the Center for All Abilities mentoring program, I realized that all the instances where I saw progress and fruit were unexpected and undeserved.

For example, during a terrible week at work, I showed up to mentoring on a Saturday feeling very little enthusiasm to be there, but doing my best to hide it. My mentee, as carefree as she usually is, gently asked me if everything was okay, because she could tell that I seemed sad that day. I found myself comforted by feeling seen and understood by my mentee.

Another week, I was working on a group project with one of the boys with autism who was very quiet and always kept to himself. To my surprise, he was interacting playfully with the other kids. For the first time, after he finished his task, he tapped me on the shoulder and motioned to me to check his work. I know this sounds pretty insignificant, but for me it was huge to see him take the initiative to connect and open up to others.

Aside from connecting with the mentees, it was wonderful to end up fostering meaningful relationships with fellow mentors as well. We would catch up over dinner, go to basketball games together, travel together—we even had a couple meet and get married from the group!

I’ve learned that moments like these, where I found surprising progress, encouragement, and meaningful community, are not ones that I can force or orchestrate by my own efforts. Instead, they require simply showing up consistently and being present in the moment while patiently trusting God’s amazing grace to provide.