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Posts Tagged ‘Calling’

By Nancy Mairs.

Laura Hedrick. Photo by Susan Brown.

Just as the Israelites of the Old Testament often put stones down on a specific spot as a remembrance of God’s provision for them, Laura Hedrick has very specific markers of encounters she has had with God as she has traveled along her journey of faith.

One of the first markers occurred during her high school years, on the platform of a small Baptist church. A friend invited Laura to a youth program and as she listened to the pastor’s invitation to have a personal relationship with Christ, Laura distinctly remembers calling on God. “It was right on the stairs of the platform of that church that I told God that if He wanted to have a relationship with me, then I wanted one with Him.”

Later, Laura attended a mission conference and, as a young person who took her relationship with God seriously, she assumed that to serve Him she would become a missionary – a commitment that she fully intended to carry out. In college she majored in math and pursued a degree in teaching. “I remember thinking that women missionaries were either nurses or teachers, and I knew I couldn’t work in the medical field, so I chose teaching.”

It was during the summer between her junior and senior years of college that the next marker in her journey of faith occurred. “I decided that I would work at Camp Alkulana in order to prepare for being a missionary. It was here that God showed me that I was not a people-person and that I just wasn’t cut out for the mission work that I had so faithfully been preparing for.”

After graduation, Laura found a job teaching math, knowing that she had to resolve her desire to serve God now that it was clear that the mission field was not His calling for her. “One day I was sitting in the train station waiting to pick up my father, and while waiting, I began praying and asking God about the direction for my life. I had recently heard about a new program called system analysis and programming. I prayed about that new program and I heard God speak to me in the most direct way. He was almost laughing as He responded to my prayer, ‘Child, I gave you an analytical mind… so use it.’” There she had the third marker in her faith journey.

Laura moved to Richmond and began working for the Department of Taxation – a career that continued for 35 years. “It was absolutely the best fit for my gifts, and it’s where I found my energy serving God.” In fact, she found that she could serve God without becoming the traditional missionary she had planned on earlier in her life. “I began to see that God was using me as an encourager with my co-workers at the Department of Taxation and found that I was recommending Jesus as a resource for those that I met through my job.”

Laura met her husband, Norman, at First Baptist. They were married and several years later, adopted their daughter, Jennifer. On the afternoon after the Hendricks had dedicated Jennifer, Laura realized once again that God was stirring in her heart. “I remember realizing that I had to yield Jennifer to Him and entrust her to God.” Laura did so and another distinct marker in faith journey was established.

Today Laura’s love of fabric and her gift of sewing have grown into a ministry for homeless individuals that find their way to First Baptist. She has found that making sleeping bags to keep these folks warm during the cold winter months is a practical way of reaching out with the love of Jesus. Through the help of the GAs, Acteens, Senior Adults, and the fourth grade Sunday school class, about 100 homeless individuals receive a sleeping bag each year. Laura is always on the lookout for anyone who has material they are not using and is willing to donate to the ministry, or someone to help make the bags. On Wednesday nights the room where the bags are made is a whirl of activity – material being measured, needles being threaded, and more importantly, friendships developing among Laura and the other First Baptist volunteers.

Throughout her walk of faith, Laura’s journey has had twists and turns, and unexpected shifts in the direction she was pursuing. But God has provided her with the guidance and affirmation she needed. And through it all, she has learned that, “God doesn’t waste anything … all of the ways that He has worked in my life have been used to fulfill His purpose. I feel strongly that God gives each of us gifts and He expects us to them. He designs each of us differently because He has different things for us to do.”

And there are different markers for each journey.

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That Still, Small Voice…

By Tamara Witte. Photos by Win Grant.

It is what I love to call a “sacred restlessness.” It is that passion and drive that call us to a purpose greater than we are able to imagine or articulate. We wrestle and struggle, and sometimes we succeed at ignoring it. But we cannot rest until we follow that still, small voice found deep within our souls.

Pam Ash, Charlotte Evans and Margaret LaPierre are three FBC members who have listened to that voice. For each one, God instilled within them new hopes and dreams.

Pam

Pam Ash checks out a book in the church library.

She was an accountant. It was a perfect career choice for Pam as she found great satisfaction in helping others. But her life was thrown into a tailspin with a diagnosis of breast cancer. The treatments left her with no choice but to slow down, to listen and to wait. After much prayer and struggle she asked God to be with her on her journey. She naturally gravitated towards helping others who were fighting the same battle, and found joy in forming a breast cancer support group in the Northern Neck. Her husband’s job relocated the family to Richmond. It was at this point that God and Pam had an encounter.

On a Sunday morning in July of 2004, she was running late and ended up in the balcony between services. The unexpected occurred: God called her to ministry. If that’s not a reason to be on time (or not) for church, what is! Pam had no doubt of what she had experienced, but naturally wondered how it could possibly come to be a reality.

She is now a seminary graduate, with a Master of Divinity and an emphasis in pastoral care. After a brief sabbatical to rest and reflect, she will begin exploring ministry as an interim pastor. In this way she will be able to assist churches in transition and provide the pastoral care that is crucial to a church as they wait for God’s direction.

Charlotte

Charlotte Evans serves as a deacon at FBC.

Seatmates may appear to be random, but on that particular flight, there was no mistake that there was something larger going on. Charlotte, a vice president for a public relations agency, was in turmoil. A career that once fulfilled her no longer brought joy. There was a drive to learn more about God and to increase her skills to be able to serve more effectively. The sacred restlessness had set in and could not be ignored.

Wrestling with the possibility that God was calling her to a ministry of pastoral care was exhausting, and the ramifications were staggering. She had talked with ministers and seminary professors and students about her experiences. “Call me or leave me alone” became her prayer. At one point in a fit of frustration, Charlotte tossed a seminary catalog into the trash thinking that she would not be called.

Her seatmate on that flight, however, just happened to be on her way to a pastoral care internship after graduating seminary. When they parted, her new friend’s final words of “This was no coincidence” helped to bring closure. The struggle came to an end as she left her 35-year career behind and enrolled in Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. Doubts and fears were replaced with excitement and joy. Years ago God planted within Charlotte a desire to give, to counsel, and to love people. Though the changes in Charlotte’s life were radical, the calling was not. It was the most natural thing in the world.

Margaret

Margaret LaPierre prepares to sing in the church choir.

It was by listening to that still, small voice… praying, journaling and listening some more. These habits were a part of Margaret’s life as she transitioned from twenty years in investment banking to a career as a Licensed Master Aesthetician/Holistic Health Practitioner. How does that happen? It began in a conversation with her husband, Jan, as she came to the realization that her career no longer brought her joy. Sensing she had a greater purpose, and wanting to “give back,” she put the matter in God’s hands and waited. One step at a time, things slowly fell into place. Leaving the security of a successful career was frightening. But as she prayed over each decision, both large and small, she was given the encouragement she needed to forge ahead.

Margaret’s practice as a health professional involves so much more than skin care procedures. The needs of her clients, more often than not, go beyond what is physically apparent. Clients are often riddled with shame, hurt and poor self esteem due to personal misfortunes. In a setting that evokes beauty and grace, Margaret ministers to her clients, giving them hope and caring for them with compassion and understanding.

Listening to that still, small voice will not necessarily result in a career change or a call to ministry. But it will result in change; change that gives birth to unexplainable joy as we discover new ways to be salt and light to a world desperately in need.

Tamara is a third year seminary student at Baptist Theological Seminary of Richmond and the Director of Pastoral Care at St. Mary’s Woods, a retirement community. She is a graduate of Cornerstone University, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and served in the Air Force as a medic. In her spare time, she enjoys teaching violin to FBC youths, home improvement projects, and swimming and hiking.

Tamara’s story My very first church staff job in 1996 had been a traumatic, horrendous experience. After it was over, I found myself in a position of being disillusioned with God, and the thought of returning to ministry was impossible to imagine. For three years I worked a combination of various part time jobs, one as custodian for a little Bible church in the heart of downtown Louisville, Kentucky. I affectionately (or maybe not so much) referred to myself as a minister of floors. Each Saturday afternoon as I mopped the sanctuary, polished the pews, and set up the seemingly endless amount of folding chairs, I would reflect on my present lot in life. And I wondered how or if I would ever be able to fulfill the call I first sensed as a ten year old. How it eventually came about is nothing short of a miracle. But the journey was filled with wordless prayers, listening and waiting. I claimed Jeremiah’s promise, “You will find me when you seek me with all of your heart.” And God came through as God always does.

What’s your story of hearing and responding to that “still, small voice” in your life? Share it below…

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