One of the beautiful realities of whole-life discipleship is that you never know where it will take you. It may push you to have a brave conversation with a co-worker, to give sacrificially of your time or money, or to take a different outlook on your role in the Kingdom as a parent. Or it may motivate you to start a nonprofit. This is what happened to Brooke Sulahian.
She says, “We are all designed for something bigger than ourselves, outside of the little circle we can see, and that could be something large or small.” This awareness kept her open to how God might want to use her.
Through a perfect orchestration of timing and a new awareness of specific needs in the world, Brooke sensed God directing her to start an organization with a mission to support the prevention and repair of fistulas. That nonprofit, Hope for Our Sisters, is now in its ninth year.
After she first experienced God’s prompting to be actively and personally involved in this work, Brooke shared this new part of her personal mission with one of her pastors. Conversations, connections, and encouragement from that pastor pushed Brooke to turn this call into an established nonprofit. She remembers, “She had consistently made herself available, and I knew I could always go see her and I would get a sincere, honest response. She has always been there to empower and to be available. But then she went a step further and did what she could to put some wind under my wings.” This pastor connected Brooke with other Christian women to talk about the needs she was learning about, which led to a connection with her co-founder.
The church leaders around Brooke made themselves available with time, advice, and encouragement, and this played a key role in her journey. She says, “So often people in church come in and say the church needs to launch this or that organization. But they told me to fly. With the ‘wind’ of grace, they encouraged me to own it and run with it myself.”
Brooke’s work has opened doors to talk with people about her faith. “People are surprised when they hear what I do,” she says. “If people ask me why I’m doing this, I tell them, ‘God called me to this.’” Through the conversations she’s had and relationships she’s built along the way, she’s learned that disciples aren’t all packaged in the same way, and she’s found opportunities to grow with other Christ-followers regardless of where they are in their walk.
She’s seen similar open doors on social media. “I feel strongly about giving my friends a different view of a Christ follower than what they might be getting in the news,” Brooke says. And she’s seen other people notice, as they send messages about how she’s approached certain topics or interacted with people on social media. “I’m very clear to say that it’s because God has given me the ability to do this. I really feel like it’s one of the places where He wants me,” she says.
Brooke has seen how her work with Hope for Our Sisters has shaped her as a disciple. “My faith has exploded because God doesn’t let me hide. On days when I’m talking at big fundraising events, I feel particularly vulnerable. I’m on my knees those days. I’m a nervous wreck when I look at it from my perspective, seeing my great potential to fail. But I pray and give it to Him, and I know He’s going to come through. I can’t always predict how, but I know He will be there.”
Seeing God’s faithfulness and unexpected plans has shaped how Brooke approaches all of life. She says, “I would not know God as well, and I would not rely on God as much and would not look for Him as much if I were not running this nonprofit. He’s done as much for me and the people I can influence as for the women we support.”
There have been hard parts in this journey, Brooke insists—moments of frustration and self-doubt and moments when she’s wanted to quit. “I don’t want people to look at this with rose-colored glasses. It’s a mix of hard work and beautiful opportunities for growth and change with everyone who’s involved.”
As she thinks of fellow Christians trying to discern where and how God is calling them to live faithfully on their frontlines, Brooke encourages them to try something and just take the first step in where they think God might be leading. “Follow God’s nudge,” she says. “Don’t fight it, even if you’re scared or out of your comfort zone. God is choosing to work through us. We’re never ready for that. But He equips us on the way. He’s a few steps ahead every time.” She adds, “Small is wonderful. If what you’re doing stays small, it’s fine. It doesn’t have to be bigger to be beautiful.”
Diana Gruver (MA, Gordon-Conwell) writes about discipleship and spiritual formation in the every day. She is the author of Companions in the Darkness: Seven Saints who Struggled with Depression and Doubt. You can find her online at www.dianagruver.com or on Facebook or Twitter. Diana originally published this work with the Vere Institute (Oct 2014 – May 2021), which was founded to empower Christians to integrate their faith into everyday life. The Vere Institute’s legacy lives on through our Vere Library.