Jena Nardella explores the source of her hope in the face of setbacks.

This is the first session in "Act II" of the Praxis Course. In this act, which we call "The Valley," entrepreneurs in the Praxis community who have led successful ventures talk about some of the challenges they've faced along the way. 

Jena Nardella, the nonprofit accelerator lead for Praxis, began her nonprofit leadership journey as an idealistic and effective advocate for the people of East Africa, leading a high-impact and high-visibility organization. Here she describes what it was like to experience obstacles and failure in parts of her organization's mission—setbacks that her optimism and capability could not overcome.

These experiences drove her to wrestle in a new way with the hard questions of mission and purpose. Perhaps the hardest was, "Can I know the world, with all its brokenness, and still love the world?"

As we meet with the inevitable setbacks associated with our respective calling, what will give us the hope and strength to stay in it for the long haul?



1. Jena tells a story of defeat and powerlessness that eventually turned into a success story. When have you experienced a failure that did not turn into a success, and what did you learn that you may not have learned if it had "turned around"?

As the facilitator, you may want to take the lead in answering this question.

If people struggle with the last (hypothetical) part of the question, simply reframe it around "what did you learn in that failure?" 


2. In Jena's story, the turnaround happened because people kept working faithfully despite the short-term results, so that "when the rain came, they were ready." Where is an area of your life where you need to be ready when the rain comes?

Consider prompting the group to consider difficult work initiatives; strained professional relationships or partnerships; broken family or other personal relationships; or healing from psychological or spiritual wounds.


3. When have you most needed to hope as an intentional act of your faith, rather than as a result of natural optimism or confidence or naivete?

You may want to start by asking people about their "default setting" on a scale from optimism to pessimism.

Try to understand whether their intentional decision to hope was rooted in their understanding of God's character vs. simply an act of the will.


4. Who and what are you "willing to wage a long defeat" for, even when it no longer feels fashionable or urgent? 

Another way to pose the question is, "What in your world is so important that it's worth trying your hardest and failing at?" A "good" answer to these questions will probably involve some particular issue and/or group of people that the participant feels is close to God's heart as well as their own.


5. "We aren't called to change the world, we're called to love the world." What spiritual disciplines and decisions would be most helpful to you in making this shift in mindset?

Additional Readings

Bethany Hanke Hoang and Kristen Deede Johnson: The Justice Calling: Where Passion Meets Perseverance: 

  • Introduction: Justice and God (p 1-7)
  • Chapter 7: Persevere in Hope: Justice and All Things Being Made New (p 165-188)
  • Conclusion: Abide in Jesus: Justice and Perseverance (p 189-194)

Andy Crouch: Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, Chapter 12: Why We Can't Change the World

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