Stepping into Deeper Waters

Sylvia Castelino Derby   |   May 13, 2020 

On a usual weekday in July 2009, I sat in on a team meeting discussing an investment banking product and wondered why I was there and how I was making a difference through my work. At that time I had worked in the corporate sector for more than 8 years.

These questions led me to seek and listen to my heart's calling. I felt a deep desire within me to use my education and skills to serve people in whatever capacity I could. Initially, I thought if I volunteered on weekends, it would quench this desire. But while I pursued some volunteer opportunities, somehow, they didn't work out.

Within me a restlessness stirred: an urgency to step out of what was familiar and comfortable to do what I sensed God calling me to do. I remember telling my best friend that I knew I needed to leave but had no idea where I should go. God was calling me to first leave, even before I was clear about the next step.

I took time to have conversations with friends and family to get their thoughts. My family and most of my friends encouraged me during times when I feared the unknown. The more I listened, the more I felt the urge to follow Jesus and pursue the calling to serve others. It felt like stepping out of the boat into deeper waters - to walk on water, if you will - just like Jesus asks Peter to obey him and step out of the boat in faith (Matthew 14:28-31). But stepping out of my comfort zone also meant keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus lest I drown.

I had multiple conversations with my supervisors in the corporate sector who were very kind and patient with me. They explained what I might lose out on practically if I chose to leave: a promotion, a hike in salary and subsidised medical insurance for my parents. I had conflicted thoughts, became low and wondered if I was making the right decision. However, when I sat with God to pray and listen, there was a deep conviction that I needed to leave. I felt a sense of peace. I was unable to explain my feelings logically but I knew I had to leave my investment banking job.

Around this time, my husband now (a friend back then), worked at a non-profit organisation, International Justice Mission (IJM), that addressed human trafficking issues, specifically sex trafficking in Mumbai. He mentioned casually that there was an opening for someone to manage the Admin and HR functions of the office. Before, if I had heard of a similar opening, I would have ignored the idea. I was a finance person, after all. At this point though, I was open to go wherever God would lead me. The thought that I could join a team serving some of the most vulnerable resonated with me, so I applied, and it worked out for me to join IJM.

I worked at IJM for more than 9 years. They were some of the best years I've had in my career. I learnt a lot, grew holistically as a person (professionally, emotionally & spiritually), met some good, smart and cool people and my faith in God strengthened greatly. I used my skills and experience to care for the team, who in turn served the most vulnerable.

As I reflect on this life changing time, I am grateful:

  • That I was attentive to the restlessness within my heart in the midst of an intense meeting.
  • For friends and family who I could talk with and who encouraged and supported me on my journey.
  • For my faith that pushed me to give space to pray about these decisions and to trust in God when leaving my job seemed illogical or even foolish.
  • That God opened my heart and mind to opportunities I would not have considered before.

When I took that one step to listen, be open, and pursue my heart's calling, it forever changed my life’s perspective. While the path has had challenges, it has fulfilled and refreshed me, always pushing me to grow and learn in new ways. The journey has refined and pruned me –painful processes that have produced abundant fruit in my life. As I walk this path, I continue to pause and wonder and listen. I pray, trusting God will lead me and give me courage to say yes to follow him.


Photo by sun ming on Unsplash

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Sylvia Castelino Derby

Sylvia was raised in Bombay, lived in Delhi and most recently moved to Fresno, California with her husband, Jon and toddler, Diya before which she served as the Director of Human Resources for International Justice Mission for nine years. When she can get some free time, Sylvia enjoys some deep conversations with her husband and friends, a good cup of coffee, some time to journal and being by the ocean.

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5 comments on “Stepping into Deeper Waters”

  1. reading your article was a treat to my soul! wonderful hoe God leads each one of us to a purpose He has put on our hearts.

    1. Beautiful sharing Sylvia!!! God bless you. Looking forward to reading more...lots of love

  2. Dear Syl, I love you and love everything you write!!! You are a blessing and an amazing person to work with. Someone who is so selfless and is open to his calling. I have learnt so much from you and Jon. Very grateful for your lives.

    1. Syl, having witnessed most of it.. I feel proud to know have known you. You had so much courage to switch careers for something you truly believed in and look how it has positively changed you. I hope you touch many more lives and continue spreading hope and love.

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