I have described my calling experience or path of intersection with God like a cell phone ring tone. You don’t hear it at first, but then it gets louder and louder until you cannot ignore it. My calling began long before I realized what was going on. Once I realized I was being called to ministry, I looked back on events and conversations and realized that they all contributed to sensing and accepting God’s call to ministry in my life.
I first realized that I might be receiving a call to ministry at the Franconia Conference Assembly in 2004. I was there as a delegate for my church and there was a time of prayer and affirmation of the newly credentialed pastors. I began to weep for no reason. I had no idea why, but I had this sense that God was telling me that I would be up there some day. Unfortunately, I had an initial reaction of, “No way! I’ll tell you, God, the many reasons why I will never be a pastor. Ministry is not in my plan, I am an occupational therapist, I love my job, I didn’t go to seminary, and pastors are much closer to and know God much more than I do.”
But after that weekend, I began to reflect on why I had been so stirred by that prayer and the things that had been going on in my life, and I realized that maybe God did have some things in the working for me to pursue ministry. I knew I needed to at least be open to the idea and see where God would take me.
Many things had come together that year. My demanding job schedule had changed, I moved back to Souderton, PA, in order to work with the youth at my church, and realized that I really enjoyed it. Though I appreciated my job, I was more fulfilled with my time spent with the youth. I had been affirmed by the church regarding my work with the youth, and the church was completing period of transition where we began to look at areas in the church to grow, one being the youth. I remembered Franconia Conference Minister Walter Sawatzky and Interim Pastor Bob Petersheim both telling me earlier that year that they had sensed I had some ministry gifts that I should think about. I hadn’t at the time, but soon I realized that those conversations were a confirmation of the call I’d been experiencing.
Once I recognized all of these things there was too much coming together to ignore and I began to see things differently. God’s plan of salvation and his love for his people really began to convict and fascinate me. I realized that I had been given a gift of loving, encouraging, and listening to youth. I was able to develop these gifts while working in a city hospital with people in a variety of crisis moments. I saw the experiences, opportunities, and gifts that I had been given were all coordinated in order to prepare for this calling to youth ministry. These encounters helped me to begin to feel more comfortable with using the word “calling” and further confirmed that what I was experiencing was truly a calling from God. Finally, I shared this with my church, Rockhill Mennonite, and they too affirmed the call to pursue youth ministry.
I realize that many people including my parents, family, friends, teachers at Penn View Christian School and Christopher Dock Mennonite High School, and members of my church family all created the foundation for me to be able to hear and be open to receiving God’s call.
I have learned how important a calling is in ministry, because you need it to get through the struggles, questions, and tough times. I would have never embarked on this journey of ministry if I hadn’t been called by God to do this, and I will never survive the struggles in ministry without it. I have no formal pastoral training and so I have many doubts and times of second guessing. But I have learned that I am not called to be perfect, no matter the training, but to point others to God. It would be much easier to remain in a place of comfort where I have the qualifications and experience to know what I am doing. But I know that God has called me to be at this place and there is no other place I would rather be.