It’s a cold and rainy June day as I drive down 64th ave in Langley toward the head office of Power to Change. Not exactly the best day to take the motorcycle, and I hope I don’t get too wet. I am on my way to visit Stephanie Cooper, who works as a copywriter for the marketing team there. She is rather new to the position as she recently graduated from Trinity Western University with a degree in Media and Communications. The head office of Power to Change has a bit of a unique function.
“The head office doesn’t have one specific ministry that it does, it sort of supports all of them. I work in the marketing department as a copywriter. So I can do a variety of things, depending on what different ministries need.”
This variety is the result of fulfilling the needs of the various ministries. This consists of writing content for the websites, to thank you letters for the donors, to Christmas cards for those connected to the ministries.
“My main project is usually working on the magazine, for the whole organization of Power to Change. Each issue has focussed on a few different ministries, so usually three or four that we will highlight and tell various stories from the people there; to show what God has been doing in those ministries and lives.”
She has always been interested in writing, particularly creative writing, and appreciates being able to find a job within her field so quickly. The choice to pursue Media and Communications was a more practical choice, as originally she had wanted to pursue an English major.
“I’ve known for my entire life that I wanted to write, and that pretty much always meant books, but I figured if I could get a job that regularly paid bills and that also included writing then I’d be able to hone my skills while also doing something that I enjoyed.”
There is a story I often use to give an introduction to the idea that everyone can work for God in their daily life, and I shared it with Stephanie. I fully admit that this story is apocryphal (probably didn’t happen), but it still provides a great illustration. The story goes like this.
“One day after hearing Martin Luther speak about Jesus, a cobbler (a man who makes shoes) comes up to him and says, “Thank you for sharing this message with me. I have decided to follow Jesus and give my life to God. What should I do?”
Luther asks the man what he does for a living, and the man told him he is a cobbler. So Luther responds, “Then make a good shoe, and sell it for a fair price, and in doing so you will bring glory to God.””
It turns out this story had a real impact on Stephanie when she was growing up.
“That’s a story I heard a while ago, and it was very influential in helping me decide that I wanted to write. Early on in my life, and even in university, I had some friends that were insistent that they had to become pastors because nothing else was worthy of a Christian’s life. This whole time I would wonder why God had given me such a love of writing, and a gift in it, if I wasn’t supposed to use it?”
Working as a marketer raises some tensions though, because Stephanie’s stories are used to promote the work of Power to Change and invite others to donate. Given the power of the written word, and communication in general, there is a tendency within marketing to resort to manipulative techniques. This is something Stephanie encountered early in other jobs.
“That’s something I’ve struggled with for a lot of my life. Most of my early jobs, summer jobs and stuff like that, were being things like a sales associate, or selling phones. And I hated it, because I was expected to sell as much as I could to these people who may or may not actually need the things. … I felt like I was lying to people, and like I didn’t have their best interests in mind.”
Over the course of her brief time with Power to Change Stephanie has been able to explore a different way to get people involved, or interested in their work. She is working hard at being more genuine in her writing. As she works to tell the stories of those her organisation connects with, she does so trying to shine a light on those individuals, and the ways that others can help. This takes a fine balance because it is important to value people and their gifts and abilities, while still keeping God the hero of the story.
“I don’t want to devalue people, because I love that people are interested in the ministry and they want to help and donate and be a part of things, and they are a unique and special person. It is awesome that they are being a part of this and we can use their unique gifts and God given talents. But it’s really just changing their mind set so that it’s not for their glory, but for God’s glory.”
In a world where so many of us can choose the types of news stories we hear, and where we have more and more control over the content of the media we come in contact with Stephanie works hard to shed a light on the stories of people are sometimes over looked.
“I love telling their stories. People’s lives fascinate me, and I love drawing light to them because I feel like, a lot of times, people sometimes don’t care about each other. And if you can tell someone’s story in a clear and interesting way, you can really help other people connect to them, empathise with them, and get to care about other people more.”
In many ways the written word seems to be less and less prevalent as so much of our culture is saturated with video and audio. There is something powerful about the written word though, and taking the time to sit and read about someone else’s life can be very eye opening.
As I put on my gear to head back up the Fraser highway toward Surrey, I began to wonder about the stories of those in the vehicles around me. Where were they going? What were they wrestling with?
Hopefully we can all be a bit more attentive to, and appreciative of, one another.