And by God’s grace the last chapter has yet to be written...
by Joel Wagner
There is something poignant about finishing a good chapter, the satisfaction of looking back and seeing connections you hadn’t known before, mixed with the anticipation of unknowns still unresolved. Such is often the case throughout life and today marks one of those chapter breaks for us. Seven and a half years ago Sarah and I were newlyweds living in a new town launching out on countless new beginnings. As we prayed for guidance, one of the ways the Lord answered was by introducing us to a company called Genesis Marketing. Sarah was in a Bible Study with a lady who was retiring from the company and recommended the job, also putting in a good word for Sarah. I remember very well Sarah’s interview with president David George, little did I know how well I would come to know David as a boss, a friend, and a brother in Christ. Sarah was hired to work as David’s first administrative assistant in late 2006 and through the next year we enjoyed getting to know this great group of Christian business men and women and the Christian retailing market they served.
Since I was working a couple part time jobs and taking seminary classes my interaction with Genesis was limited to dropping off and picking Sarah up. I can only imagine what they thought as I often walked in with my “lawn mowing” attire, or sometimes smelling of a coffee shop barista, or even in my TSA uniform depending on the day! At the end of 2007 Sarah was “promoted" to Stay-at-home-Mom a month before Hannah was born. The Lord used Sarah’s time with Genesis not only to provide for us as we got on our feet but also to cover my extensive linguistic school tuition the following summer, as well as to help us purchase a house in Taylors (as we were quickly outgrowing our 1BR apartment).
After Sarah left we stayed in touch with some of our new friends from Genesis and in the fall of 2008 I was open to another job change. But it would have to be one that could accommodate my seminary class schedule and ideally allow me to be at home nights and weekends. I hadn’t ever considered a job in sales, and the one time I theoretically suggested it to Sarah she laughed and assured me I would not want a job as a Rep! Well a friend from Genesis encouraged us about all the other pro’s of working for Genesis and before the start of the fall semester I ended up interviewing with David George to start as a part time sales rep (anything to get me out of my 4:30am security officer shift at the airport!).
The goal was to work it into a full time position with Genesis so I wouldn’t be working 55hr weeks at two jobs in addition to classes. Well, that reality took about 2 1/2 years of developing my customer base but eventually I was able to resign my other job with Starbucks in 2011 and go full time with Genesis. It’s not really that I ever became a great sales rep, that’s not my nature, which is part of the irony! But the Lord dropped some larger accounts (albeit challenging ones) in my lap, gave me favor with the buyers and allowed me to develop good working relationships, at least enough to help us make ends meet and cover tuition. I did enjoy the challenge of preparing presentations a well as the opportunity to travel: Atlanta, Nashville, St. Louis, Philly, Hershey, Foley Beach, Baltimore, NYC, New England, and my favorite was definitely Denver! After doing it for over 5 years I had gotten quite use to the business world and gift show scene. I always felt like sales was just eking out a living, which meant it was good “real life” experience.
The main thing that stands out from my time with Genesis is the people. The customers, the vendors and especially one person, my boss David George. If it weren’t for David taking a chance on me and then over and over again "keeping the wheels on" I'm sure I would not have stuck it out. David epitomizes to me how a Christian business man should lead. He always cares for people first on a spiritual level, whether it’s his employees or unsaved vendors. I would never want David's job because it seems like he is constantly having to put out fires with one person and at the same time light a fire under another person. There is no way he keeps it all together, but by the grace of God. David is a strong, decisive leader. He’s willing to say the hard thing and at the same time listen to others input. He has a way of giving exhortation that inspires employees to want to live up to expectations. I often found myself frustrated by a situation with a customer or vendor and talking with David always brought a better perspective. I knew I could trust him to care and also to be fair, and I knew I could count on him to point me to Christ. David is a peacemaker on many levels and makes you want to bring issues to him even though he is inundated by people’s problems. I have always wanted to model the personal disciple I’ve seen in David, he is one of the most hardworking people I know and he does it for very little return. If he cared about personal gain he certainly wouldn’t be in this business! I know what a sacrifice he makes to keep his people employed and his company successful. I’ve certainly added my share of stress to David’s life over the years but he remained constantly positive and understanding, always excited and encouraging about the Lord’s call on our lives.
The flexibility that Genesis allowed me was invaluable to completing my seminary degree. And at the end of 2012 we had been praying about starting deputation and feeling like we should wait and “get ahead” before launching out. As I talked through this with David expressing our desire to step out by faith, yet not wanting to be foolish, he suggested a generous offer to let me keep working my top accounts as an independent rep. I could work from anywhere for as long as I needed to stay on. I don’t know how we would have gotten started on deputation without such an answer to prayer. In Jan. 2013 we sold our stuff, moved out of Greenville and jumped right into deputation with a mere 11% committed support coming in. But my work with Genesis covered half of our traveling expenses that year, way more than I could have ever imagined! We were even able to save toward more summer linguistic classes that we'll be taking this year. What a thrill to be in a place where the subsidy of working with Genesis is no longer necessary and we can devote all of our time to serving churches and finishing deputation. Because of the investment of David and GMG we are able to take that next step toward ministry, closing another major chapter in our journey toward full time Bible translation work in SE Asia.
And by God’s grace the last chapter has yet to be written...
I'm blessed to be married to my beautiful wife and best friend, Sarah. God has graciously given us six wonderful children, Hannah, Will, Drew (who is already promoted to heaven), Kara, Sam and little Laura.