If you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out your passion. For your passion will lead you right into your purpose. – Bishop T.D. Jakes
It was the winter of 2002 and I was living in Lansing, Michigan attending law school and I decided I was not going to complete my law school studies. For approximately two weeks, I cried, my mother and grandmother cried. It was as if someone had died. What was I going to do with my life? I had spent years focusing on a career in law to only reach this pivotal moment and not continue on this journey. All I could think was that I was disappointing my family. I promised my mother that I would earn some type of degree because of the sacrifice she made for me to move across the country from Florida to pursue this path in law. A week later, I found myself a few miles away at Michigan State University applying for my Master’s degree in Urban & Regional Planning.
By the Fall, I was enrolled full-time in the Urban and Regional Planning program but I found myself still searching for something more. I could not rest until I revealed the thing that would ignite something in me. I began to research different opportunities within the Urban and Regional Planning field. In my research I stumbled upon historic preservation and museum studies. I started reminiscing about the first moment I walked into the home of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune (Bethune Foundation) located on the campus of Bethune Cookman College (now University). I felt the spirit of Dr. Bethune and after my departure from the tour, all I could contemplate in my mind was “How I could I work in this place.” The moment I set foot on the campus as an official freshman student, the first place I went to was to Bethune Foundation and within the week I began as an intern. I spent over two years giving tours, handling objects and any other task that was assigned to me.
On that day, I found museum studies and my passion was finally exposed. I literally, slept, ate, and breathed everything museums, historic sites and homes. I felt like I was being reunited with an old love in a new time. I found myself driving around thinking about working in a field that I never really knew existed. The more I pondered, the more confident I became in deciding that I wanted to pursue museum studies as a career. The exact moment of my confirmation of my purpose was in 2003 when I was on a research trip for my Masters’ thesis. I purchased a book about five historic homes I was exploring for my research. I returned to my hotel that night and began to read the book. On the acknowledgement page of the publication I saw my name, Jada Wilson (I was not married at the time). This is the precise moment where my passion and purpose collided. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that my passion and purpose were intertwined. I was able to connect the true desire of my heart with the will that God had for my life.
We often believe that ministry work has to be traditional. My spiritual mother has taught me that a person’s ministry is revealed as they walk through God’s process. I never knew that my ministry could be my passion. The more I have grown with God, the clearer my purpose was uncovered. Through this walk I have learned that my ministry does not have to be conventional.
My ministry is what God has always brought me back to which is museums. Museums are the thing that is burning deep down on the inside of me; the thing that draws people to me. I knew this love of museums, specifically African American museums was both my passion and my purpose. I have been called to expose these institutions to the world. I had to bring about change in the profession with helping to eradicate the lack of people of diverse backgrounds in the museum profession. I worked hard to develop a nonprofit and magazine, Heritage Salon, to expose people to museums, historical homes/sites and cultural institutions that focuses on the African American museum culture. Not only was this my ministry, but oral history collection and archiving church history was another component that directly connected me to the church. I recently spoke to my spiritual mother who said to me, “Jada now you understand that your ministry is out of the ordinary. Your ministry is the work you do.”
My professional career, that I am so passionate about allows me to connect to the community and people. I am able to expose them to their history and museums in an effort to show them what to do next. I am a builder and sustainer of the church and ministries. God uses us all in different ways. In Biblical times we call the people who kept the history, Scribes. In a way that is what I am trying to do by working with churches and assisting them in creating and implementing the practice of archiving their history. Collecting and recording the stories of pastors, first ladies and leaders contributes to the foundation of their work to help build the kingdom of Christ. Although my ministry is not conventional and it does not directly preach the gospel of Christ, I am connecting people from the community to their history and giving future generations a blueprint to follow for the kingdom.
My husband’s ministry is outreach, teaching and building the community to sustain itself. He has been called to uplift the community, to help people gain employment and bring more economic development in neighborhoods. It is only befitting that while he does this, I help teach people about their history and their foundation in order to know where they are going. Together we are contributing to building the kingdom of God.
If you would have told me this would be my career path and ministry back in 2002, I would not have believed you or even understood it. I encourage you as you read this today to understand that whatever God has ordained for you to do in life, he will reveal your passion and it will be your ministry. It may not be preaching or teaching, but use it for God’s glory and building up of “HIS” kingdom. The word of God teaches us in Proverbs 18:16, A man’s gift will make room for him.” What God has given you as a talent or gift will help you fulfill your vision and purpose in life. Trust the process, learn all that you can about your gifts and know that you can contribute to building His kingdom in the way He ordained.
Jada Wright-Greene is a museum activist, writer, independent museum professional and a lover of history. She is the self-proclaimed African American Museum Activist. She has a passion for revitalizing and bringing awareness to the African-American museum culture with a goal of diversifying the museum profession. Jada is the Founder & President of Heritage Salon, a nonprofit and magazine devoted to African-American museums, historic sites/homes and cultural institutions. She has served as a keynote speaker, panelist and lecturer on the topic of arts education, museums and diversity throughout the United States. Jada is an avid writer and recently became a contributor for Huffington Post. She has written for several blogs, magazines and publications including; Black Southern Belle and the American Alliance of Museums Center for Museums Education blog. In the Fall of 2016, she was a guest lecturer at Harvard Extension School where she shared her expertise on African American museums. Jada earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Bethune-Cookman University, a Master’s degree from Michigan State University in Urban & Regional Planning and a certificate in Museum Studies, where she was the first African American to complete the Museum Studies program. Finally, she earned dual Masters degrees from Johns Hopkins University in Museum Studies and Nonprofit Management. Jada resides in Dallas, Texas with her husband, Darryl and three children.