As I prepared to go off to Baylor, I had done all that I could think of to serve my local church. I believed in the call of the Church from a young age. It was natural for me to want to serve and learn and grown in anyway that was offered. I was a leader in my youth group. I was a youth choir member. I served on committees and boards. I spoke on Youth Sunday. The Church was a very safe and warm place for me.
One of the last trips before I left for college was a large youth gathering on the University of Arkansas campus. We heard speakers and worshiped and learned. As camp was coming to a close, in true youth camp fashion, they had the service. This is the end of week service where they invite you to dedicate your life to God in a new way. I was a veteran, and I knew what to expect. As I sat through the muffled hormonal sobs of intense adolescent feelings, I watched and genuinely prayed for many that were open to seeking God for the first time. I assumed that they would be ushered to the waiting adults and the rest of us would be left to close the final night with a dance. We were Methodists, mind you.
But then the speaker offered another invitation. I don’t really remember exactly what the words were, but the message was something to the effect of, ‘if you can’t get away from this tugging that God has a big plan for you to serve the Church with all that you are, come on up here.’
I had no intention to move from my seat that night. And before I could realize what was happening, I was on that auditorium stage with other teenagers and they were praying over our lives and ministries and callings. I had no idea what that meant. Many days, I still don’t understand it. But I can tell you that my life was never the same. I knew from that moment forward that whatever road I traveled, I was supposed to do it in a way that serving God was the center of my journey.
When people describe a ‘call to ministry’ some are very specific about the call to preach or to pastoral care or evangelism. Some have a clear call to missions or music. In the summer of 1993, I knew that I loved students. I knew that I had been blessed by great models for ministry to teenagers. I still did not have certainty or affirmation that women could be called and gifted to be lead pastors of a church, but I knew that my love for walking with others was very real. I would spend many years clarifying my response to the moment, but on that big stage – in a way that I had always resisted – I stood up. I walked to the front of that auditorium and I lunged what little I had to offer, into the arms of a God that had work to do.
When I arrived on campus in Waco a few weeks later, I attended Welcome Week. During a service, I wrote on some piece of paper, at some time, a small check mark in a box about feeling a call to serve God in the context of ministry. This one act would be critical in years to come, but for now, I had an entire new world to explore. Sic ‘Em Bears!