Having a Vision of Possibility

Terese is the Vice President of Grants at The Rees-Jones Foundation and has served on its staff since its inception in 2007, and has served on PCP’s steering committee for several years. Outside of her foundation work, she is committed to helping vulnerable youth, including by serving as a Court Appointed Special Advocate. Terese is most excited about her participation in a church plant in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas, which just celebrated its 1-year anniversary. She and her husband Scott live in Dallas and have three grown children and three beloved fur babies. You can reach her at tstevenson@rees-jonesfoundation.org

As philanthropy peers we talk a lot about how we consider our giving – our investments – in terms of rewards and risks and impact.

Very early on in my career in philanthropy, at the very birthing of The Rees-Jones Foundation, we were blessed with a man who advised us, who became our comrade in a sense as we looked at what might be possible for this new foundation.

This advisor would sometimes accompany staff on our some of early site visits, primarily to introduce us to leaders and organizations. As we were ending our time together on a visit, he always had a last question for the leaders we were meeting with: “If you could realize the biggest dream for your organization, what would it be?”

Now I have to say, this always made me a little nervous. Where was this going? What expectation were we setting by asking that question? Were we implying The Rees-Jones Foundation could address everyone’s dreams? Would potential partners now believe we would fund their “ultimate” dreams because we asked? But the answers we heard from leaders were eye-opening. Some expressed dreams that actually were fairly practical, some very compelling and innovative, and some wanted to “save the world.” Interestingly, some were not prepared to answer the question at all, most likely because no one had ever asked.

I learned something very important through this experience, which has informed my approach in considering an investment mindset and using this in building relationships, in reviewing grant requests, and in proactively seeking opportunities for the Foundation. It has caused me to use a lens that looks for what might be possible.

I learned something very important through this experience, which has informed my approach in considering an investment mindset and using this in building relationships, in reviewing grant requests, and in proactively seeking opportunities for the Foundation. It has caused me to use a lens that looks for what might be possible, over and above what might be presented. I started asking “bigger” questions, whether or not I felt we could respond. I have been inspired to look for leaders who are open to being used by God in surprising ways, who are willing to look for those possibilities over time, and who hope to fulfill a dream. We know God is an abundant God, so we do not need to be afraid of asking big questions and dreaming of possibility. 

This causes me to ponder: is our God a dreaming God? I think He is. We know God as a Creator, as infinitely creative, and I think dreaming is the root of creativity. Dreaming is imagining something that does not yet exist, then working to bring it into being. God imagined the world, then created it and had plans for it. What is he still imagining that does not yet exist in our reality (but does in His)? Who are the people He is using to bring it into being? The people He is using are the people I want to discover. His dream calls for believers to be the messengers of Jesus Christ, people who will walk alongside, who will break down boundaries while defending those who are weaker, who will seek wholeness and thriving.

Revelation 21:1-5 describes the ultimate fulfillment of our dreams:

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” 

We should embrace the restlessness of knowing more can be done, and dream together, knowing that our creative God will bring something new into the world, knowing that He makes it possible.

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2 Comments

  1. Julie Sulc on October 17, 2023 at 1:07 pm

    Thanks, Terese! This is so thoughtful–what a great reflection on how engaging with our partners around their dreams helps us better understand them and see the Kingdom.

  2. Lonni Jackson on October 20, 2023 at 4:02 pm

    Thanks for sharing Terese. I love this, especially the last line. What a wonderful challenge: “…embrace the restlessness of knowing more can be done…” I tend to lean more towards frustration, not embracing!

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