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Interview with Kathy Varis

Kathy Varis is a Chi Alpha Campus Minister at the Portland State University in Oregon.

WIM: What have you had to "believe God for" in your ministry?

Varis: Part of our ministry revolves around a 4-story house where we house students, staff, and have lots of gatherings. We rented this house for 13 years until our landlady wanted to sell it. She wanted us to buy it, but we had no way to make a down payment. So we prayed for several months, not knowing what to do. One day our landlady showed up and said, "Today, we're going to sign papers." We knew there was no way we could do this, but we agreed to meet with her. By the end of the meeting, she had given us the $70,000 down payment and sold us the house for $200,000 under the market value. Only God could complete surprise us in this way. It's such a joy to look for His surprises in impossible situations. We are still living in this house with nine others.

WIM: How do you personally distinguish between "a good idea" and "a call" to do something in ministry?

Varis: A call is something that doesn't go away. It returns again and again until you respond. Good ideas are stepping stones. Good ideas provide God-given creativity to move us forward. How I minister to people is part of my spiritual DNA, written by God in my heart. Whether in a formal ministry or not, I would still reach out to others in a similar way because God molded me this way. I am merely living out the life of Christ as expressed through the vessel of my passions, personality, gifts, and life experiences. He made me, poured himself into me, allowed me to walk through numerous experiences that have created who I am and how I minister to others. This to me is my call.

I keep my heart open to God. I've given Him my life. I've given Him permission to move me forward even if I'm kicking and screaming.

WIM: What hopes sustain you over the long haul?

Varis: Here are a few Scripture verses that I stand firm on. First, it's John 15:16, "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit - fruit that will last." It's His idea for me to bear fruit, not mine, so I can rely on Him to make it happen. Secondly, it's the verse, "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). God can use any experience, no matter how difficult. Then, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5). He's always with us, we have nothing to fear. And the verse, "No word from God will ever fail" (Luke 1:37). We can look to God in all situations. And, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5,6). Trusting God and not giving up when we can't see the way through is crucial. And finally, the whole Book of Psalms. These prayers and songs have been my constant friends.

WIM: How have you responded (emotionally and practically) when your God-given hopes are thwarted or dashed?

Varis: My first response is to pour out my heart to the Lord, including every good, bad, and ugly feeling. He already knows how I feel, so there's no need to hide it from Him. "Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge." (Psalm 62:8) It's amazing how quickly He lifts all the bad feelings. It may not change my circumstances right away, but it gives me peace and hope.

God helped me develop a practical tool kit for combating negative circumstances. For me this involves pouring out my heart and then singing. Singing worshipful songs resonates deep into my spirit and ministers to me. Active trust comes next. It involves reminding myself of all that God has already done and recounting His promises. Next, digging deep into God's Word and receiving His words for me in the moment and applying them to my circumstances. Then, I continually pray over the situation. Finally, I wait and trust, as patiently as I can, for God to change the situation or change me.

WIM: What practical strategies do you use to "dream God's dreams?"

Varis: I keep my heart open to God. I've given Him my life. I've given Him permission to move me forward even if I'm kicking and screaming. I'm here to serve God's purpose in whatever way He wants - in small ways and large ways. He knows me better than I know myself, and I can trust Him to place me where I can serve Him best. Also, my life is entwined with my husband's life, and so it may be that I'm coming alongside to help with the dreams in his life.

Scripture quotations are from HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2010 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved worldwide.