Writing a call to ministry story is probably the last thing I ever expected to do if you would have asked me fifteen years ago. At that time in my life, I had doubts about the role of women in leadership and yet I was serving in different capacities in my home congregation, Doylestown Mennonite Church. As I look back on that time, I think the call to ministry had been brewing in my life for several years.
After working as an elementary school teacher for four years, my husband Steve and I began having children and my focus changed to homeschooling, which was a natural extension of my love for learning and teaching. I learned some leadership skills in the steering committee of the homeschool group of which we were active members. Being called to ministry in the church, however, was a different kind of leadership for which I was not ready.
Around this time, I read a book entitled Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala, pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle Church. It ignited a spark in me that had been smoldering for some time. I felt called to begin a prayer time in our congregational setting.
Inviting people to pray during Sunday School, we focused on intentionally praying for our congregation, our community, and persons we knew by name who were not yet followers of Jesus. Out of that prayer time, we learned about prayer, about God and ourselves. Doylestown Mennonite Church graciously allowed this group to develop a prayer room where persons could come to pray together or on their own.
I gradually began inviting the congregation to more and more prayer initiatives as well as connecting with other persons involved in prayer ministry. Randy Heacock, pastor of Doylestown, encouraged and welcomed my involvement in calling the congregation to prayer. He, along, with the Ministry Leadership Team, affirmed my giftings by asking me to serve on staff as Prayer Minister. I sensed the Spirit was opening the door so I stepped in. Since then I have made several more steps into this calling. I served for several years as Prayer Ministry coordinator for Franconia Conference, working alongside staff and pastors in the conference as well as prayer leaders. Being mentored by Noel Santiago in the prayer ministry was also helpful for me.
It was during this time that Steve and I attended a conference at Spruce Lake Retreat. The speaker invited us to ask God what our mission was and I very clearly heard, “You are called to help people pray.” At that time, I did not connect that mission with being called to the ministry as a vocation.
Taking on the identity of a pastor grew gradually as I continued to serve as prayer minister in the congregation but also in other settings. Connecting with persons in my local community, serving on prayer teams in local businesses, and doing more pastoral care visitation in retirement communities have all been important ways for me to grow into the identity of pastor.
The more I think about the mission statement I sensed from the Holy Spirit several years ago, the more I realize that was a call to pastoral work. In Acts 6, we read the story of the apostles discerning their calling in the context of the local church. The apostles declared their priorities to be prayer and the ministry of the word. Randy preached from this text at my licensing on Jan. 5 and the more I ponder this, the more I realize that helping people to pray is a pastoral task. How important it is that pastors teach the word, but also pray and invite, lead, model, and encourage others to pray! When we as followers of Christ are able to grow in our relationship with God through prayer, we will be transformed and changed. Very simply, I see that as a priority for pastors. I am thankful to be called to serve Christ, the church, and the world in this way.
The hesitations I had about women in ministry were changed as I began to understand God’s invitation to all in Acts 2:17 where Peter reminds the crowd of the prophecy in Joel of the Holy Spirit being poured out on all people, sons and daughters, young and old. I see the incredible ways God uses both men and women in the kingdom work and I am grateful for God’s work in all of us. I anticipate growing in hope and joy as I continue to walk this journey of ministry alongside my brothers and sisters.