In the twentieth episode of Inspiring Stewards, Nathan Jones speaks with Fiona Lambert from the UK who serves with Tearfund. She shares how growing up in a mixed background gave her a unique perspective on life and positioned her to fix her identity in Christ rather her culture. As a fundraiser, she finds joy showing people opportunities to partner with God and invest in the work that's already going on. She emphasizes that stewardship is not just about our finances, but how we think about our day and what we do with what we have in our hands. She concludes by reminding us that we don't want to miss out on those opportunities that God gives us to contribute to His kingdom.
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The music is Concerto a’ 4 Violini No 2 by Telemann played on classical guitar by Jon Sayles. Published by Exzel Music Publishing.
Once again, we will hear the question “What’s in your hand?” If you haven’t yet considered that with regard to your stewardship of what God is entrusted to you, now may just be the time. Today, I’m joined by Fiona Lambert who is coming to us from the UK and serves on Tearfund’s Fundraising Insight and Innovation team.
I’m your host, Nathan Jones, and once again, thank you for joining me on this episode 20 of the Inspiring Stewards podcast.
Fiona, thank you again for taking the time to join me. I’m looking forward to hearing more of your story and how God has been a part of that throughout your life. Catch us up. Who are you? Where are you from? Tell us about your life growing up.
Thank you so much, Nathan. I appreciate the chance to come and share and to just delve a little bit into what God’s been doing. But just to share who am I. I’m Fiona and I’m from the UK. I live in the UK. That’s where I’ve been born and raised, and I guess what’s helpful for my background and what we’re up to.
I’ve been born into sort of a mixed race/faith/culture family. My dad is white British and my mum is also British from Trinidad and Tobago, and she’s of an Indian ethnicity and Christian faith. I have one sister who now lives in South America. And so, we’re quite a mixed bag.
I’ve got three kids. I’ve just got my youngest. He is now 14 weeks and my eldest is five years. So, my husband and I, we’re a growing family too at this point in time.
But in terms of my background and family, I guess growing up in a mixed family just meant that I experienced quite a few different things. I guess the conversations and life and what I saw in the day-to-day felt quite different to a lot of my friends and peers at school. I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunities that that gave me, for different perspectives, and for the things that I saw that maybe others didn’t get to see or experience.
And I was aware that those around me probably – whether they would ever have the chance to travel or to experience family dynamics and culture that I saw. So, I felt really kind of blessed to have that opportunity. But it was also a bit of mixed bag, feeling that I never quite belonged to a particular culture and knowing, I think as I grew older when I became a Christian, understanding and appreciating how much my identity was in Christ rather than in a particular culture or background. So, that was something that became really important to me.
I think my background – and my mum comes from Trinidad – has always been really influential. We were able to go back every couple of years and visit family, which was again just such a treasured precious time. My family there is much bigger than my family in the UK. And so, it was really lovely to spend time with them, but also, in terms of forming my outlook on life and what global challenges look like and differences and how different people perceive different things. I think was really formative for me as I grew up.
That's amazing. Tell us about then, in the mix of all that, how you came to a personal relationship with Jesus and what impact that had on your life.
From a young age, we went to church. Although my dad wasn't a Christian and my mum was. But my dad would often be the one that would take us to church. My mum was a nurse and while she's been here in the UK, she's been working shifts. My dad would drop us on a Sunday morning and pick us up. So, we went to Sunday schools.
And I guess from a young age, I had an appreciation of God. When I looked at the world around me, I thought to myself, “I can't believe this just comes into being by chance. Like, there's something that had to have happened. What started it all? What triggered it all?” And when you think about how intricately we are all made, for me, that's by design. I just look and think, “How can that just happen?”
And so, I had this sense of God. I think it was when I was about 15, it really dawned on me that if I believe in God, if I believe in what He wants for this world and what He wants for me, then you know, I have to understand Jesus and believe in Jesus because that kind of fulfills, completes the picture and it started to make sense and fall into place. And I guess then from that, as I thought about my faith, my commitment, declaring that I believe in Jesus, getting baptized, and then what did that mean for my every day.
I think I felt really challenged by the fact that I could have a personal faith that said, “This is what I believe: I believe in Jesus and that He died for me. But what did that mean for the things around me? For decisions I made? For how I live my life?” And I think I remember soon after that time just being aware of those global issues that I spoke about as I was growing up, the things that I saw, and what I was aware of, and then what are my actions.
The verse that kept coming back to me in Colossians 1:27, this verse says, “Christ in me, the hope of glory.” And so, for all the things that I thought were maybe that bit of a challenge in the world, the things that I didn't feel would sit right with God's kingdom, I sat there thinking, “Gosh! Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
I shouldn't just be sitting back and taking my own personal faith and living my life thinking, “All is done and all is well and all is good.” What does it mean for other people? What does it mean for issues of social justice? What does it mean for the Church? And I think that's then always driven me as I've thought about career, growing older, decisions that I make. That's been a big driver for me as I think about that kind of global perspective of what your faith means.
That's tremendous. So, that obviously laid a strong foundation for where you have come to today. So, walk us through that transition. It's now 2023. Walk us through how you end up to where you are today and what it is you are doing.
So, I think when I became a Christian, that sat really heavily in my heart. You know, you go to university or you might do a bit of education or you'll have your first jobs and be thinking about where do you want to be and what do you want to do, given the things that you know and the things that you believe.
And so I, quite early on, felt like I should be going out somewhere, saving the world, getting stuck into a project in another country, thinking about issues of global poverty. So, that had been really on my heart and what I thought God was calling me to be in. An so, when I finished university, I started exploring opportunities in international development charities and agencies.
I saw this job spec and job advert for a role at Tearfund. In my mind, I thought, “Oh, this is just a stepping stone.” It was a fundraising role. It was in the UK department. I thought to myself, “This is a stepping stone. In a couple of years, I'll be moving to the international side of what we do. I'll be in-country.”
And I felt really challenged at the end of that first year. It was like God had done a bit of a 180 on me and turned me around and said, “Actually, there are a few things you're not thinking about in some ways.” I think the things that I felt challenged by was I had always felt like God was saying, “You should be going and doing,” and that I have to go and fix something, that I should save the world.
In that time, in that first year at Tearfund, I was really challenged by the fact that, actually, there are lots of people around the world that know what they're doing. What is it that I think I am going to be bringing? I might have an educational background, understanding, knowledge, but what do I know culturally of that setting, that context that is going to help?
And so, that idea of saving the world, I think was really challenged by. I just stepped back and thought, “Well, God has His people all over the world. They're already in position and He's using different people in different roles. It's not that I have to go.” For some people, that is the case and there's different jobs and different areas of work. But I think at that point, I was really challenged by the fact that I didn't have to go. What did I think I could give to solve these problems when actually God has His people in place?
And then, I was also always really skeptical about working in fundraising and the idea of asking for money and how do you do that well. I guess it's often frowned upon in different spaces, you know, that you're asking for money. It's a bit of a dirty word “fundraising” in the UK sometimes.
And so, I'd always thought, “No, I'd never really stay in that area of work.” But I think as I had spent that year getting to understand how we fundraise, how we think about stewardship, how we think about talking about what Tearfund does and why that's an important thing, it really changed my perspective on what fundraising is.
It's not about me going out there with a begging bowl asking for money. It's so much more about saying, “Look, this is what God is doing in this part of the world. This is part of God's kingdom and what is happening. And we would love you to be part of that.” Because there's an opportunity to partner with God in different ways and the work that's already going on and to invest into it. And that, for me, changed my whole perspective.
And a result, I've been at Tearfund for a very long time now. I probably shouldn’t say how long. It’s a very long time because it just changed my whole perspective of what God could use me to do. Rather than sending me out there but to be here and help joining some of the dots together.
That's great! Tell us a little bit about what Tearfund does.
Sure. So, Tearfund is an international global organization. We work mainly through the local church in over 50 countries where we're active and we work very much alongside church. The work that really excites me the most is when we've been working with church to go through a little bit of a process and a conversation that really gets people to stop and think about, “What has God given you? What has God put in your hands?” The ideas of Moses and the staff: God gave him the staff and he led the way. What has God put in your hands that you can use?
There's a bit of a program and a process that we work with church leaders and communities and trying to think about what they have already got that they can move forward and step forward with. A bit of enlightening process, I guess, and get a chance to question and think deeper.
And I love that because that's so much more about what people can do rather than what we can do for them. So, when we think about those people in those churches and those communities, there's something that's so empowering and so edifying as human when you think about, “This is what I know I can do.”
You start to think about your identity and how God views you and what God has gifted you with I think that lifts you, doesn't it? That lifts your own perspective of who you are and what you can achieve and what God has in terms of potential for you going forward. So, that’s why I love that.
We also do a lot of work around disaster response. So, if there's an emergency, we’re often out there. And some work on climate change and raising awareness about the issues of climate impact on communities around the world.
Wow, that's tremendous. This theme of using what's in our hand looking around has been coming up on this podcast a number of times, so it's very exciting to hear you add to that. Obviously, God is up to something around the world.
This is the Inspiring Stewards podcast, Fiona. So, as you think about the concept of stewardship, how is that informing your life today? You've already begun to talk about some of that but expand on that a bit.
Yes, I think my time at Tearfund and while I’ve been working there, the thing that I've really seen from a stewardship perspective: I've had the chance to talk to both those that are giving, so those that are in this opportunity and space to give to our work, and those that would be effectively benefiting as a result of that.
And I think the thing that I have loved seeing and have appreciated is those stories where you see that God is working in someone's life and heart. You might be talking to a couple who have a family and they're married. They're deciding what they're doing next and where they're putting their money and how they considering their children's future and should they be renovating their kitchen or something.You know, all those kinds of everyday questions that they're wrestling with.
Alongside them and knowing that they've had this prompt from God, that this is not just their money, that this has a bigger purpose. And what's that going to look like, and how they're delving in, and praying in, and feeling challenged and pushing. And that's a really privileged space to be able to get a little bit of a window into those conversations when people share that and how there's some precious moments right when you meet those individuals. They have a real knowledge and note of prompting from God that they're supposed to be giving to something and something quite specific.
And then, when you can see the work or you're aware of the work on the other side that says, “Actually, I know where this should be going!” You can match that up together. You see God's joining dots up together in one space. There is someone who has the opportunity to give and there is someone who has the opportunity to receive in different ways.
And so, that's always been just such a joy to be able to see as part of what I've been doing. Then, the result: when you've been able to say what's been happening as a result of someone's giving. But also when you see churches and communities transformed, you're not just talking about one life as a result of that, but hundreds of lives in that community, and when you multiply that up.
That's excellent. You have a global perspective, Fiona. You’re seeing God at work locally as well as around the world. How would you describe to us what you're seeing if the question is: how are you seeing God at work around the world today?
Well, from my perspective, I think we can often see God working in the big and the grand. You know, the big movements, the person on the stage, the preacher. That's what we can often see from a Christian context in the churches that we might attend or are used to.
I think what I have loved seeing is the local small church effectively being able to take more ownership and grow and express and be who they are. So that diversity of what the church is, I think, is something that you've seen and see growing where you're seeing new believers, people coming to faith, people expressing in different ways.
I think that picture in Revelation when we get to heaven, when we think about nations from every tribe and tongue coming and worshiping before our God and you see glimpses of that. And it's not necessarily in the big church. It's in some of those little churches that you get glimpses of that. And so, I think that's moving really fast, in terms of growth and space, and that's really exciting. You don't often hear those stories and that really excites me.
I love it. I love hearing that perspective. So, as we're wrapping up, Fiona, what are any final thoughts you have for those listening in today?
I was thinking a little bit about this because stewardship is something that can be such a personal thing, right? You know how we use not just our finances. Often, we refer to our finances and we think about how we spend our money. And often, we go right down to where we give our money, to which church, to our own church, other churches, church planting, to maybe it's poverty issues, maybe it's disaster response.
We often go straight to them when we think about stewardship sometimes. I think that so much more we could be thinking about and, you know, should be challenged to – you know, how do we not just use our finances, but how do we make decisions? How do we steward the gifts that God has given us? What do we give our time to? How do we spend our time? And so, not just with our gifts, but you know, we think about our day and where we give our focus and our priority to in our lives.
Stewardship is just so much wider than I think we give credit for. When we think about what God has created and what He's given us, He's created this whole world and He's given that to us. How do we steward this and the resources that we have? And then, I think alongside that the idea of: we don't want to miss out on those opportunities that God gives us to contribute to His kingdom. I think often we can feel like, “Oh, we don't have enough. Do we have enough to give? Do we have enough of a gifting? Is that job something I can do or is that out of reach?”
God uses the most unexpected people to do incredible things. And it never gets easier for us to give our time or money away. As we get older, that only usually gets a bit harder. So, don't lose that moment and that opportunity to do something now.
That verse in Ephesians I think that says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to his power that is at work within us.” I think that's Ephesians 3:20.
I just love that. That actually, we bring what we have, and God can use it to do much more and to take that challenge not to hold back, but to step into what God would have for you.
That’s beautiful. Fiona, thank you for your time today and being with us.
Thank you so much for having me.