Sailors say you don’t know the integrity of a ship’s hull until it’s weathered a few storms. Transitions in life are like storms at sea; they test the integrity of our character. Sometimes life is sunshine at the beach, and other times it’s a hurricane that destroys everything you’ve ever owned and makes you question your every belief. It’s during these times of transition that we learn what we’re made of.
Back in 1988, I was working with a small team at Focus on The Family to launch some Hispanic initiatives. We were syndicating Dr. Dobson’s show in new markets and the test results were off the charts. In cities like Los Angeles, Miami, San Antonio, and New York, Focus on The Family’s traditional views resonated with Hispanic radio listeners. Since I’d grown up with devout Mexican Catholic parents, I felt I knew what would work with this audience.
After some time working on special projects, my colleagues at Focus on The Family let me know that I was on track to become the first woman on the development team. Peb Jackson, the head of the team, had made quite a name for himself at the organization. His charismatic demeanor was amazing; his ability to connect with people was something I really admired. He was always genuine and left you with a smile.
Before meeting Peb and his team, I’d always thought of fundraising in terms of senior citizens mailing in five-dollar checks to causes they found through churches or social clubs. What I learned there opened my eyes. Everyone worked together and brought new ideas to the table. Peb sometimes talked about donors like they were his extended family. Graduation cards, baby announcements, and wedding invitations from donors covered his desk.
During one of our meetings, the development team laid out the fundraising events for the upcoming year. There were men’s fishing events, a golf tournament, a men’s weekend retreat, an event at a baseball game, a men’s Bible retreat, and a men’s breakfast series.
“Do you have any events designed for women?” I asked the group. It was not my intention to call anyone out; I’d always been treated like an equal member of the team. But the fact that I was the first woman ever to serve on the development team explained the lack of fundraising events targeting women.
The room went silent. “Grace, what did you have in mind?” Peb asked.
Four and a half months later I was coordinating the first ever Focus on The Family Women’s Retreat in Palm Springs, California. We arranged everything, from preparing tea and snacks for the fifty women as they arrived from the airport to sending their luggage ahead of them to the hotel. After a private tour of the offices and a small welcoming reception with Dr. & Mrs. Dobson, we loaded two charter buses and took off for the desert.