By Laura Gossman

Editor’s Note: This is a part of the Vocational Perspectives series. While a variety of women from different sectors, seasons and statuses will be profiled, it is intended that the reflections deepen anyone’s understanding of faith, work and leadership whether they are male or female. Understanding one’s vocation across the many roles, responsibilities and yearnings is a human reality, not a gender-specific one. For an introduction to this topic read this twopart article by Laura Gossman. Kate Harris in her book Wonder Women also provides a unique language and perspective on vocation that helped inspire this series. Harris also offered further reflections to the same questions we are asking our interviewees in a series of two Fieldnotes articles.

In part one of the article, Janelle Schroy shared about her understanding of vocation and how the nuts and bolts of this play out for her in her day-to-day life in South Africa. In part two of this article, the harsh realities of the constraints in her circumstances bring a refreshing honesty to gaps and longings that don’t always have answers or a silver lining.

 The Constraint of Lack of Safety

Janelle and Jedd Schroy birthed the Paradigm Shift organization while they were living and working in Washington, DC. Eventually, they felt that in order to ignite the local church to transform Africa’s entrepreneurial poor, they couldn’t do it honestly and “quarterback it from an armchair”. “We had to be IN the game. There, present, local––everyday,” reflected Janelle.

To keep this willful choice ever before them, they have hung a quote in their shared office from Teddy Roosevelt that reads,

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man (or woman) who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and short-coming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

But as Janelle confessed, they are Americans – they both have top-notch educations, wonderful networks and could have exciting job prospects here in America if they so desired. With three small children, and two more planned in the next four years, the choice to live and work in Africa at this stage of their lives is a very intentional, marked, calculated choice.

“It’s hard. Africa is no joke,” Janelle continued, “It comes with all the ups and downs of the developing world, including security, or lack thereof.” The Schroys live just a two-minute drive from Vrygrond, an informal settlement (slum).

2014 Paradigm Shift photo shoot, with Jedd Schroy and baby in tow.

2014 Paradigm Shift photo shoot, with Jedd Schroy and baby in tow.

“With poverty, there is desperation. With desperation, there is crime. With crime, there is lack of security. With safety concerns, there is nearly constant tension. You are always looking over your shoulder, wondering, waiting if and when a hijacking, shooting, kidnapping or break-in will happen,” said Janelle.

Because it does. All the time.

It’s the reality they live in. When they stepped onto the front lines of the battle against poverty and chose to be “in the arena”, it means that they are constrained by a lack of safety.

So often with positive decisions to move a vocational calling forward, there comes a deep personal loss in other areas of life.

Their girls don’t go play in the backyard alone. An eight-foot high concrete wall and seven strands of electric fencing on top of that surround their house. Their home has burglar bars, beams, alarms and armed security guards with guns who come within minutes if the layers of security are breached. And amazingly, they do get breached. Just this month the Schroys had both a break in to their home in the middle of the night and a vandalism in a separate incident.

Backyard games at the Schroy's South African home.

Backyard games at the Schroy’s South African home.

Up the road five minutes from their home, is Cape Town’s urban gang hub. It’s not anywhere a woman wants to be anytime after dark. So she doesn’t drive much at night. When Janelle’s husband travels for work, she is trapped in their house with the kids from sundown to sun-up. Quite literally, she is constrained by a lack of safety. And she feels it all the time.

Janelle admitted, “I don’t feel like this constraint is a gift, but it does force me to get creative about what I can do at home with my girls. This constraint is a choice––of our physical location––where we work out our faith and calling. Hard as it may be, we want to be close to poverty so we never lose sight of God’s heart for the poor.”

The Constraint of Relationship with Church

Although they are called to serve and ignite the local South African church to better empower the poor to provide for themselves, they strangely feel a distance in their role as leaders and how that relates to the church. Because Paradigm Shift is a para-church ministry, with nearly thirty-seven partner churches across South Africa, their role isn’t “pastoral”, but it is outreach based and discipleship oriented.

Churches don’t know quite how to relate to Jedd and Janelle since they aren’t interested in pursuing eldership, or even deaconship. They need to be free to serve as many churches as they can, but they also need and want to be grounded in their local church. They view their role as having similarities to that of an apostle, but without churches actually relating to them in that way.

Paradigm Shift graduates

Paradigm Shift graduates

“The constraint is one where we are leaders in and through and for the church, but we aren’t called that. We don’t have a title, but we lead. It’s upside down. We don’t need a title, but we feel displaced in how we relate to our church and what that relationship means as an outworking of our vocation,” shared Janelle.

The Constraint of Family Proximity:

Since the Schroys live in South Africa and their family lives in America, and the costs to fly a family of five back and forth across the world, they do feel constrained by proximity.

While Skype pizza party dates with the grandparents or video messages for a sibling’s birthday help keep the connections alive, Janelle shared, “the hindrance is that it is not the same as hugging a neck you love when they are sad, or your mother holding your newborn baby when they are hours old.”

God does give them local friends to step into some of the family roles that are physically missing, which they are grateful for. But it never truly replaces the brother or sister they’ve grown up with, taking their niece out for ice cream or making them a birthday cake. They feel a profound sense of loss in this area and it is a bittersweet thing in their hearts.

Stewarding Gifts:

There are certain gifts Janelle feels she is designed for during this day and age and within the social context they have intentionally chosenStrategy and management is something she thrives off of, working through how best to take a vision and a team from point A to point B. She also loves writing and speaking, children, mentoring and discipleship.

These traits, combined with her love for living in the daily rhythms create a fertilized playground for these strengths to flourish and for impact to be made. Not that she has any romantic illusions that living a coherent life is about “having it all” or maintaining the “perfect career or home”. It is anything but that.

Rather, she admits, “I do sometimes dream of a bit more margin to laugh and play and rest.”

Being fairly driven, with a need for deadlines and evaluation at every level (work and at home), she is learning to let go of her need for perfection. Maybe some of the to-do lists don’t get marked off, and some of the toy clutter is still strewn across the living room floor. Alone times with God are often in a posture of “dead mommy mode” with sleep-deprived eyes after a full day and sometimes full night tending to their youngest baby.

Janelle welcoming her second baby girl, Madison.

Janelle welcoming her second baby girl, Madison.

While there are areas in her life and leadership that thrive and flourish, there are areas that suffer and experience pain, weariness and loss. Janelle is letting herself experience those moments, knowing full well that come tomorrow and the day after that, her gift of strategy and discipline can be harnessed to keep these challenges from reaching its boiling point.

Laura Gossman lives in Pasadena, California. She is the Director of Operations at the Max De Pree Center for Leadership, mother of a growing toddler named Benjamin and wife of Adam Gossman. She received her MA in Cross Cultural Studies from Fuller in 2006.

Fieldnotes Magazine is a publication of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary. We would love to hear from you about people, businesses, or other organizations we can interview or feature. Please email the editor at Fieldnotes Magazine.


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