Ever notice that God's agenda is often a whole lot different than your own? Even when we are doing what apparently seems right and good, things don't always work out the way we had planned. This was the case for a couple of followers of Jesus. One of them, named Cleopas, we met in an earlier post. Here's what happened.
Luke 24: v. 21 - (Cleopas speaking) But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened… v. 26. (Jesus replies) Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?”
You see, they thought they had it figured out, but Jesus points out that their agenda wasn't the same as God's. This has happened to me on more than one occasion. The one I'm going to tell you about today is our road into ministry.
I had many opportunities to serve in the church after I became a Christian. Youth Group leader, Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, speaking at Women’s events, playing the piano, singing in the choir, putting on Christmas and Easter pageants... These were all good things and I was quite content to continue on in this way.
Then my husband decided to make a huge, life altering, career change. He decided to become a pastor. This was a quite a shock for me. I had never envisioned myself as 'pastor's wife' material, and quite frankly, I wasn't sure I wanted this new role thrust upon me. After all, I’d seen the unrealistic expectations placed on other pastors' wives and I wasn’t interested. But God had other plans.
If the truth be told, it really wasn't a spur of the moment decision. My husband likes to tell the story of when missionaries came to our church in Hyas. We had one child and even though he felt ‘the call’, he thought, "Ì have a wife and baby. How could I do that?” While living in Churchill, God spoke through another missionary, only this time the excuse was, “I’ve got a wife and two kids.” This happened again in Wynyard and by the fourth time, when we lived in Dawson Creek and had four children, he said, “Okay God! I get it!” We laugh about it now, and of course, we do understood how babies are really made, but it was an interesting coincidence, to be sure!
God actually pushed us into ministry, I think. Some unsavory business at my husband's place of work was the final straw that pushed him into Bible School, but even before that we felt a stirring after going to an orphanage in Mexico. We took an extended family holiday to Vicente Guerrero and the poverty we saw definitely affected us.
The decision for him to go back to school was going to be a huge stretch financially. We had a lot of antiques at this time, so we decided to have a sale. To our amazement, we made over ten thousand dollars at the sale, sold our holiday trailer, AND even sold our house! We’d put a little 'for sale' sign in the window and it sold the same day as the garage sale. We knew it was confirmation that we were doing the right thing.
We packed up the kids and moved to Fort Smith, NWT - about a thousand miles north, literally in the middle of nowhere. We really didn't know where we would live, but again, God had it all arranged. We ended up living rent free in a huge converted church called ‘The Extended Hand’ – an outreach centre owned by the church we would attend. It just so happened that they were looking for someone to move in and well... there we were! We lived there for the two years we were in Fort Smith in exchange for running the centre. It was ideal. It had a large three bedroom apartment in the upper part of the building and the basement was a thrift shop, food bank, kitchen and coffee shop area, place to watch Christian movies, and a lending library of books and videos. We were open every evening but there were also lots of volunteers that helped run the place. People came for counseling, to shop, or just to hang out.
It was a busy time, but also very rewarding. It was a great way for our children to be involved in ministry, too, sorting clothes, putting together the 300+ food and gift hampers at Christmas, and just being part of the various sing-songs and prayer meetings that often took place on the spur of the moment. Women from the womens’ correctional facility came once a week as part of their community service, either sorting clothes or helping with food hampers, so in a way it was almost a ‘prison ministry’ of sorts, too.
I continued to homeschool our four children, but also managed to substitute teach, work part time as an EA, and do some tutoring. God provided for our needs, and even though we ended the two years with very little in terms of savings, we gained so much more.
Another change for me was learning to lead worship. I had previously played the piano in church, but I never felt very comfortable doing so, and I certainly didn't enjoy it. I had to play exactly as it was written, and I would often get flustered and lose my place when trying to accompany singing. While preparing for ministry, God impressed on my heart that I needed to prepare to lead worship. (You've heard the cliché about pastor’s wives also being the pianist…) I prayed to God that if he wanted me to step out in this regard He was going to have to help me, because I didn’t have the confidence or the time to practice.
We had a wonderful worship leader at our church who was extremely supportive and very good at teaching others. She showed me how to play by ear, gave me tips on leading, and just generally encouraged me. Gradually she got me playing a keyboard along with her. By the time we were ready to candidate, I felt ready to step out as a worship leader. This was totally God’s doing. I went from a timid and awkward pianist to being able to play just about anything. I've been leading and/or playing the piano for the last twelve years. I definitely recognize my limitations, but God deserves the credit for enabling me and helping me to grow as a musician and leader.
After leaving Fort Smith we took our first pastorate in Watson Lake, Yukon in 2000. (We rolled in like the Clampets!) We had eight great years in Watson Lake at the church there. I’m not sure I would have been ready for ministry any sooner. God prepared us both for ministry through all the other life experiences we'd had, including so many moves, and some trials, too.
Now we are on a different path since my husband has taken a sabbatical. Will we go back into ministry someday? Maybe. We’re just waiting on God, because His agenda is always different than ours.
For more in this series:
Life is a Highway - At Camp Sagitawa
Life is a Highway - An Everyday Journey With God
Life is a Highway - Be the Person You Were Created to Be
Life is a Highway - Seize Each Opportunity