Since the first day at her new job, Laura Varberg desired to be part of a community of believers in the workplace. But she had no idea the courage it would require or how God would use it to strengthen her faith.
Her longing to be a part of a community of believers started two weeks before moving to Austin. As a new Christian, she was attending church alone and did not feel the need to be deeply connected. Since she had never witnessed the beauty of biblical community practically lived out, she was unaware of the effect it could have on her spiritual growth. Laura simply viewed church as a one-sided activity: she would attend, and the church would pour into her.
One night, on the cusp of moving and leaving behind all familiarities, Laura was drawn to 1 Corinthians 12. As she read about the interconnectedness of the church body and how each member is a different part of the body, she felt the Holy Spirit stirring within her as He ignited the desire for community. Struck by the words in Scripture, she tearfully recalls the impact of that night: “I remember seeing myself as this hand that was a disconnected member of the body. I felt so convicted and confessed to the Lord that I have not known how to worship and love Him rightly.” The Lord was kindly showing Laura her need for community in preparation for what would happen next.
Laura moved to Austin from Minneapolis in 2017, when she took a job at a high-profile technology company. A stranger to her new city and unfamiliar with the e-commerce tech world, Laura felt out of place. “When I first started, I thought I was the only person at work who was a believer. It was a really dark and lonely time,” she recalls. “For the first time, I was exposed to working with Muslim and atheist coworkers who would engage in very intelligent conversations defending their beliefs.”
Laura began attending The Austin Stone Community Church within the first week of living in Austin and was eager to get connected. “I quickly realized that serving would be a great way to become a member of the body,” she says. Laura ended up serving in an unexpected place: the parking team. “I think being a part of the parking team and working in technology are so reflective of being in areas that I don’t feel strong in. Through that, God’s shown me how to not be wise in my own eyes and lean on Him.”
Over the next year, Laura began to feel increasingly isolated at work, and she found herself unintentionally projecting those frustrations onto her relationship with God. On Sundays, she felt a part of the church body through the parking team, but when Monday hit, it was back to being alone at work. This cycle continued until one day in the spring of 2018, when she checked her email and felt a glimpse of light seep into the darkness. “After completing a workplace ministry survey from The Stone, I was connected with Peter, who also worked for the same company,” Laura explains.
Peter invited Laura out for coffee, and he shared about a prayer group that met on Tuesday mornings at their workplace. Laura was all in. She had already been designating Tuesdays to pray for her coworkers, but now she would not have to pray for them alone.
The prayer group bonded and grew stronger as they prayed for their coworkers and encouraged each other to confidently witness to non-believers in their workplace. Knowing that a group of believers were scattered amongst cubicles and meeting rooms across the office gave Laura the confidence she needed to build genuine relationships with her coworkers and the boldness she had longed for to share her faith with others. Through surrendering to her weakness, she continued to rely on the Lord to meet her needs through prayer and community. Laura also experienced the kindness of this newfound community in other, more unexpected ways.
Laura signed up for a short-term mission trip with The Austin Stone and needed to start fundraising for the trip to Europe. She shared with the prayer group about the evangelism she would be doing and the goers she would partner with during the trip. Laura asked for prayer, as she was a little behind in fundraising. A week later when she checked the status of her fundraising, she was surprised to be over 50 percent funded by her prayer group—the fellow believers who she just recently learned were even in her workplace! “I remember looking at my computer and just weeping at my desk, because when I started this job over a year ago, I would have not thought this would be possible,” Laura tearfully remembers. “God has been more abundantly faithful to the prayers and longings of my heart.”
Another longing in Laura’s heart was to boldly approach a gentleman she had seen praying each week in the cafeteria at work. Like every Wednesday, she studied her Bible in the cafeteria during lunch. One day, the strong nudge from the Holy Spirit was too overwhelming to ignore. “Hi, I’ve noticed you blessing your meal when I read my Bible in here every Wednesday.” The words were not perfect, but she nervously continued, “I believe in Jesus, and I think you do, too. I’d love to invite you to our prayer group.” In Laura’s weakness, the Lord’s strength shined faithfully through her obedience. The man is now a devoted member of their prayer group, and they continue to meet weekly.
“I prayed for community my whole first year at this new job, and He answered that in incredible ways. But He was also teaching me about the importance of how He reveals Himself through the church body,” Laura says. “I have no ability to boast on my own, because I have no idea how I got to this place. I can only thank God.”