In 1993, my life’s course changed and I became a “woman interrupted.” God interrupted my life and called me to found a new organization for girls, the American Heritage Girls (AHG), as a response to the major changes in direction of the Girl Scouts USA. His voice was clear as to the need for a God -honoring program that utilized some of the scout-type techniques that made the Girl Scouts an effective, transformative organization for generations of girls.
For thirteen years prior to His calling, I served as an active volunteer in GSUSA, using my influence to share the Gospel with my Troop’s members in West Chester, Ohio. When a choice had to be made as to whom I would serve, Abba Father was my clear choice.
In retrospect, God had prepared me for the journey on which He had asked me to embark. He had peppered me with leadership opportunities, instilled a love of country and youth in my heart, and gave me a mind that was inquisitive and determined. I did not have the educational background, financial resources or experience to launch a nonprofit ministry, but God assured me He would provide all that I needed.
And so it began as so many new ventures begin. A perceived community need - (God- honoring scout-type organization for girls) - sparked a founding idea and a vision of what could be. The other founders around my kitchen table brought their program ideas for the new organization and, together, begin creating badge requirements and a skeleton of a program. Passion ran high which produced quick results and American Heritage Girls was launched within 18 months of its conception.
|Laurie Cullen, Patti Garibay - remaining founders|
Many of the founders’ passion evaporated when roadblocks seemed to be everywhere. Without systems and processes developed, issues arose daily. The pipe dream became an albatross around the necks of the few that remained. The mission of the new organization was contested. “God- honoring” was too broad and did not clarify the intent of the mission and seemed to extend the tent too wide. Confusion resulted, and theological challenges were posed daily. A mission change was needed. As believers, the leadership team of this new organization knew that confusion does not come from the Father, but from the adversary.
After a prayer -filled Board retreat in the year 2000, five years after its founding, AHG made the bold step of proclaiming its program and goals as “Christ centered”- allowing Churches and private schools to use the program to extend their reach to youth. Despite the difficulty in making this transfer, the calling on the hearts of the Board of Trustees proved to be ordained. More people than ever before came forth to offer their talents in organizational management and training. New ideas erupted from a more diverse community. And all the while, we were learning. God allowed us to make small mistakes -skinned knees rather than face plants- which taught us valuable lessons for the future. We made critical adjustments and once again our faithful Father blessed those changes. Passion was reignited and prayer was a consistent element of all gatherings of volunteers and girls. Blessings of resources flowed to allow for paid staff. No longer was the operational unpaid staff simply friends or family members of the founder, but people whose lives had been transformed by God through the work of His ministry. Christ was blessing our obedience.
The metamorphosis of the fledgling ministry became noticed by the public. During this time we grew from 100 girls to 10,000 girls. Forty five percent membership increases continue to be the new norm, and attempting to keep ahead of the growth is AHG’s current “modus operandi”.
Organizational structure is important to reevaluate during this season of AHG as is the management of cash flow. Governance has changed from operational to policy driven and the Board of Trustees hail from across the nation as do the Troops AHG serves. I am working diligently on succession planning and building a bench of talent for AHG to enter its third decade of “building women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country.”
For me, challenges are no longer considered albatrosses, but opportunities for Him to grow me into the leader He knows I can be. I have learned humility- that my worth and my ability come from Him alone and the importance of unceasing prayer. I have learned that His plan is perfect and that He is faithful. I have learned to open every door He provides in faith and expectation, as He brings His followers to serve AHG with diverse talents and giftings.
Daily I see His love pouring out on other women and men as they too enjoy His divine interruption and call to ministry. And I, once a woman interrupted, am eternally grateful for God’s calling on my life and look forward to the future of American Heritage Girls and His eternally significant imprint on our nation’s daughters.
How has God used AHG to interrupt your life so that you could make an impact in the lives of girls? Share your stories of growth and learning in the comment section of this Blog to be registered in today's birthday celebration contest. One winner will be chosen to receive paid tuition to AHG’s 2014 National Leadership Conference June 26-28, 2014 in Washington D.C/Northern Virginia. To learn more about the 2014 NLC, visitwww.ahgonline.org/2014nlc.
Must be a currently registered AHG Adult Member to win. Winners will be chosen at random and announced next week via AHG’s Facebook Page.
Until Next Time,