Faith Worked Out: Amy Orr-Ewing
As Christian girls growing up, decision making is at every corner - and it can sometimes be hard to see how faith and 'normal life' can fit together, let alone how our faith can be at the centre of all we do. How can we live as Christian girls outside of the church context, or away from our families? What does it look like to live for God at school, at university or at work?
We have spent the summer speaking with women from all walks of life - from teachers to entrepreneurs, designers to stay-at-home mums, students, pupils, nurses and many more inspiring ladies - because we want to build up a bigger picture that might encourage you to pursue godly living in every area of your life. We want to use these interviews to remember that God is working everywhere, and how we are in this world to be used by Him, for His glory.
Today's post is the first small glimpse of that big picture. We had the privilege of speaking with Amy Orr-Ewing, who shared her wisdom with us and answered our questions about faith, life and decision-making. You can find more about who Amy is and what she does below... ________________________________________
What book do you have by your bedside table? 'The Mind of the Maker' by Dorothy L. Sayers.
The question you're always asked? Is *Frog his real name?
Favourite Psalm: Maybe Psalm 91... hard to choose a favourite!
Thing in your handbag you never use: I travel a lot, so I am actually quite disciplined! Probably something my kids have dumped... let's see - normally some kind of toy figure!?
Coffee Order: Americano with a little bit of hot milk in the top. You have to remember the hot milk.
Your work sounds very interesting and quite unusual. Please could you tell us about your work and what you do day-to-day?
I am the European Director of the Zacharius Trust - the European region of RZIM International Ministries. The focus is on evangelism and apologetics, trying to reach sinking sceptics, happy pagans, and people who often would be outside the reach of the church. We come alongside the church to do evangelism and also train others to use apologetics: apologetics being the practice of giving reasons for the hope that's within us (1 Peter 3:15) and engaging the mind.
Day to day that means I lead a team of evangelists, speakers and tutors at our centre here in Oxford (OCCA) training people who feel they have a calling into evangelism. I help shape the strategy and the work of our different European bases as well. We have a team in Romania and Austria, and teams in Spain and Turkey too! So we're really trying to help them reach out in those contexts and make Christ known.
Anyway - what do I do!? I write, I write books, I go and give evangelistic talks and training all over the world. I also spend my time lecturing at the OCCA and I provide leadership for our team here.
How have you ended up working at RZIM? What led you to pursue the path you have chosen?
Well it's interesting; so growing up I was always involved in evangelism, even at school - and both at primary school and at secondary school it was something that happened quite naturally for me. My friends became Christians, their parents became Christians, and it was something that I was always involved in and loved.
I was also quite academic and ended up at Oxford University, and I guess two elements that I loved came together: loving evangelism and seeing people become Christians, and beginning to use my mind and see the need for answers for people's questions at a deeper level.
I met my husband *Frog at university as well, and we prayed a lot about our future. He knew he was called into full time Christian ministry (he is now an Anglican Vicar) and I think I knew that I was called to evangelism and apologetics, but I imagined that I would probably have a job and do it within my workplace, maybe also doing a few talks on the side. I narrowed it down to two options: academia or law.
So, in my final year at university I made applications to law firms and decided that in prayer, if I got a First in my degree, I would do research, and if not, I would go into Law - that was my decision-making process..! I did get a First, and so I ended up doing a Masters, and over that time I was getting invited to speak at many, many places across the country.
That's when I met Michael Ramsden and his wife Ann, and Ravi Zacharias, and through those relationships they inited me to come and join the team, which at that point was in the pioneering situation of trying to start an apologetics ministry here in Europe. My husband and I really prayed about it and we just knew that the Lord's hand was in it!
All in all, there was a real combination of my passions - though from the start I knew what I felt called to do, I wasn't always quite sure what the vehicle for this would be.
What is it that God has really put on your heart and given you a passion for? What is the vision that He has given you for your life?
I think there's a big picture vision - making His name known among the nations, and being someone who is involved with that one-to-one where I see people come to Christ; and also preaching the Gospel and seeing people respond in lots of different varied contexts. This is what I've been involved in since I was a teenager really, and is the overarching big picture calling for me. Then there is also the whole area of the mind, and using the mind to really engage with people's questions.
Then obviously my husband and I have been involved with church planting and church leadership. This is his leadership, but I am also involved - we very much do it together. There have been seasons and locations and places that we've been called to, and I really have a strong sense of purpose in this, knowing that we are placed where we're meant to be.
Just yesterday we celebrated the 4th birthday of our church - it started off as a tiny group of people in our sitting room, and now we are seeing hundreds of people coming to church and new believers being baptised! It is really, really exciting to look back and see what God has done, but it's also encouraging to know there's so much still to be done.
I suppose I always have this overarching vision and 'big picture' calling - and then there are seasons in my life when that might look slightly different.
Have there been times when you've found it hard to know how to live for Jesus in certain areas of your life? What were the challenges, and what pointed you to Him in these times?
Yes absolutely - so, I went to two secondary schools - the first from 11-15 and then a different place for sixth form. In both contexts, when I started, I was the only Christian. I had widely dispersed Christian friends that I had met through camps, but I wasn't in a church where there was ever a youth group or anything. I definitely really struggled with that question of loneliness and how to keep going when you feel like you're the only one.
In my first school, I had friends who came to know the Lord and we had a Christian Union that I led - but then sixth form was a step 'backwards' in a sense...in that I was in a new place. I remember the feeling of going to parties where you're the only person who isn't drunk, and being the only person who isn't doing things with boys - and there is such a sense of feeling alienated. I really remember that being very hard.
However, coming through those seasons for me was about being able to stand. A lot of Biblical imagery is about progressing, taking ground, seeing things grow and being part of something moving forward - but there is also a lot of language about standing your ground and being able to withstand and resist temptation.
For me, my time at sixth form was a season of learning how to 'stand my ground' amidst all the peer pressures, the external pressures, and the internal pressures: questions that we have as teenagers about our identity and our insecurities. Are we able to really find our identity in God - or is it often too caught up in what others think?
So, there is a real element of being prepared to be the only one - am I able to do that? Am I able to go against the flow?
For me, this was really, really hard and there was a lot of anxiety associated with being the only one. However, I think this is where I really learnt how to pray. There was a new depth in my prayer life borne out of desperation and loneliness - but actually I look back on this time now and I realise that I really, really valued that time of learning and I think God did wonderful things. That intimacy with the Lord was wonderful in that season, because I really leaned on Him.
Of course there have been other seasons when I've had to fight, and resist anxiety and fear as well, but having to endure struggles at school is a great foundation for being able to stand firm when challenges arise in later life.
What is your advice to girls seeking to live for Jesus even when they're the only ones - how can we be telling our friends about the hope we have as Christians?
One of the things I would do is really make a conscious effort to do it naturally and not in a forced way. You could talk about going to church at the weekend with your family, or let it slip out that you are a Christian and you're not embarrassed about it! It may be that there is something in the press or some celebrity with who you are able to identify - i.e. someone like Bear Grylls - my boys definitely speak about him lots! It's an easy way of saying this is who I am, this is what I believe too.
In terms of evangelism - this might mean going a step further. One of the key things I would say is to learn how to ask questions, and not always expect others to ask you questions first. Be someone who goes out to other people, who asks others what they believe and why. Often when you do that, people reciprocate - and this gives you an opportunity to share a little bit about what you think and why. Jesus asked 157 questions in the gospels, he did it all the time - and this is something we can be doing too!
Sometimes it feels like the world is telling girls to get on and do everything - be the best at school, become Student Union President at uni, become a partner at work - and that the church is telling us we can't do things, like preaching or leading.
What do you think the Bible says, and how can we reconcile what feels like opposing points of view?
I think we can read the Bible and reconcile that. We meet amazing women who are commended in the Bible - starting with the Old Testament, the Proverbs 31 woman immediately springs to mind. She runs her own business, knows the law, knows her influence, is well taught, is brilliant employer - and yes, she has a family and her family do rise up and call her blessed, but most importantly she is someone living a kingdom life, honouring God in every area of her ability. That sort of woman is commended!
Also commended are women of faith, like Hannah, Hannah who had to trust God through suffering and who was this amazing, loving mother. Women like Lydia, who again was a business woman who was able to host the Ephesian church in her home - Lydia was a woman of capacity and means, she was able to engage in church planting and reach out to her business community!
I would say go to the Bible for inspiration. Not to feel that we can never live up to these amazing women - but also to actually think - hold on, the bar isn't on the floor! There is something to aim for, there is a standard to be inspired by!
How would you encourage girls who are at a bit of a crossroads in their life, looking to serve God passionately and whole-heartedly but unsure of the best way to do this?
I think that's a really important discipleship question, and probably one of the most important ones that younger Christians face. I think there are different dimensions to the answer.
First: in prayer, really seek God for His calling on your life, and pursue that in prayer. Don't just be passive and 'see what happens', but really be serious about that question of calling.
Secondly: look at what is in your hands - look at the resources that you have. Now often we think about 'resources' in terms of money or spiritual gifts, but I think its a much broader question than that. I think investments are made in us by our parents, so we can look at the capital we have in terms of our social network, the people we know and the influences and circles we move in.
And obviously our education is very valuable too - in world terms, a young woman in Britain with a university education is the most extraordinary investment of resources. You have in your hand something of incredible value - a degree is not just valuable for its academic status, but also for the doors that it opens socially and professionally.
And lastly - look at your personality. Are you a people person or more of an introvert, studious person? Be aware of the ability and the opportunity that is in your hand.
The question of calling brings all of those things together - yes, what is God calling? But also what is in my hand that I need to be a wise, good and faithful steward of? I meet a lot of Christians who don't realise the amazing investment and almost absolve themselves of any opportunity to invest that talent (Jesus' parable) - what are we doing with what God has placed in our hands?