Hopefully you have read my first post about Haiti; My Haiti Experience; Created. If not, please do so. It should help with context and flow.
Alright, part 2! My Haiti Experience; Called!
Have you ever received a phone call? Of course, everyone has, right? With cell phones in abundance, people are getting called all the time. For the week I was in Haiti, I did not receive any calls. It was odd and a little frustrating to not speak with my wife for the week. I even had my cell phone with me. The problem was that I did not get any signal. My phone was in working order, but it could not get the signal while I was in Haiti. Getting any calls is impossible when one does not have the right signal.
Back in 1990, God called me. And it was not on my cell phone! In fact, the only phone that we owned that did not have a cord attached to it was the huge, 5-pound bag phone that my mom had in her car! I still remember when she would call from the Tom Thumb. The Tom Thumb was a gas station that was a mile away. She would call home so I could have the garage door open for her. Yep, it was a manual door. So, let me get back to the Call; but before I can describe the call, I need to set the stage. Knowing a little bit about how I grew up will help you understand my thinking and mindset about how God calls people.
I grew up going to an Assemblies of God church. Now that I think about it, I have been part of an A/G church for almost all of my 41 years of living. For me, going to church multiple times a week was normal. It never bothered me to have to get up early on Sundays to get to church. When I was 9 or 10, I was helping in the toddler rooms. I was part of the music ministry at the churches we attended. Having my parents involved was also part of my normal pattern. We were always at church. It was central to our family. But more than just our standard, I enjoyed it. I would rather be in church than anywhere else. It must run in my blood. On both sides of my family, I have pastors, missionaries, and many others who are involved in Kingdom work. So it stands to reason that when I talk about church and serving God, it was normal and enjoyable.
Now I can bring you to the call. Often on Sunday nights, our church service was dedicated to a visiting missionary. The person would come and preach a sermon and there would often be slides that they would show. These depicted life in whatever country the missionary was working. This was always neat because I loved hearing about other places. I still read maps, just for fun, to this day. There was one particular Sunday night when we had a missionary lady in our service. To this day, I could not tell you her name, what country she was from, or anything she preached about that night. But I do remember how she concluded her service. She had everyone stand. Then she proceeded to start at one end of the room and pray for people. She might be laying her hands on people as she prayed or she would just point to them. What was I doing at this moment? As an eighth grader, I was not really into the service. In fact, I was thinking that this lady was kind of crazy and she should go back to the desert from which she came! I had a buddy standing next to me and we were joking and being mildly disrespectful. But that didn’t stop God. All of the sudden I find myself standing in front of this lady and she is pointing at me. This moment is indelibly etched into my mind. She didn’t recite a long prayer. She didn’t rebuke me for misbehaving. She simply spoke these words, “You are going into the ministry.” That was it. No fireworks or audible voice. No angels floating around. My response was not even godly. I laughed. Yea, right lady. I am in eighth grade. Ministry? Whatever. Maybe you should go back to Africa. This was my thinking. And for the next three years, I would not think about this night again.
You still with me?
Now let’s move ahead to March of 1990. I was a junior in high school. Life was good. High school was a fun time with athletics, acting, and academics. Up until this point, I had not given my future much thought. I marvel at people who know what they want to do with their lives when they are in high school. I didn’t. (If you are in high school, don’t worry, God will find you.) Also at this time, my dad was a faculty member at North Central University. It was an idea that I could go there and live at home until I found some direction for my life. It was an inexpensive option that was appealing to me. The other part of my life was church, but more specifically, the youth group. I was always doing stuff with other students from church. And this particular March was no exception. There was a youth retreat at Lake Geneva, which was the A/G campground in Minnesota. I was a regular at summer camps, so I signed up to go on this trip that was entitled “The Great Thawing Out.”
The weekend was a blend of snow sports, food, and church services. The speaker for the weekend was another missionary. Mike Shields was to preach to us in each service. My attitude going into the weekend was not very spiritual but not worldly either. I was expecting to enjoy the services, play some games, go skiing, and maybe talk to some cute girls (not necessarily in that order). As with the missionary lady a few years prior, I do not remember anything that was preached or any of the services. But on the last night of the retreat, God would find me and set my life on a different path. Pastor Mike finished his message that Sunday night and gave an altar call. He explained that if there are any juniors or seniors that do not have specific plans after high school, they could come forward and receive prayer. That fit me. Again, it was not something I was worried about. I just had not given much thought to it. So I went forward. It was warm in the room. Standing shoulder to shoulder with other teens waiting to get prayer was interesting. You try to pray but you really want to listen to everything going on. Sometimes you close your eyes, but you don’t want to miss anything. Finally, the missionary got to me. He placed his hand on my head and said the following sentence, “Evidently, you’ve known this for some time, but you are going into the ministry.” What!?!? He was already praying for the next kid. Still no fireworks or audible voices. Didn’t see any angels this time either. In fact, I went over to a quiet corner and sat down. How long I sat there, I don’t recall. But in a very real way, I knew that God had called me. Wow. God, the Master Designer of the Universe specifically called me into His work. And friends, as I write this, that call is as real as ever. The cell phone of my soul has a very strong signal and this call is coming in loud and clear.
I decided to go to Bible College, specifically North Central University, after that experience. But it was different. I was not going because it would be cheap or that my dad worked there. I was going because I wanted to go. God called me and I would take steps to start living that call.
I think that I need to clarify something for you. When God calls somebody, it means that He wants to involve that person in the process of reconciliation; that is, the world being reconciled back to God. I have a part in that whole deal. The kicker is that God never retracts His call. I am in it for life. Whether or not I am living for God, He still has that call for me. So for me, my call will look differently than another person’s call. Right now, I am a waiter. I don’t cook, host, manage, or bus tables. I serve. I do my job and everyone does his or her job. If that happens, the guest leaves happy and full. God has a plan and he has called me to be a part of something great.
By the way, is that your phone ringing?