The first time I ever sensed that God was calling me to vocational ministry occurred while I was leading Vacation Bible School.
I was 15 years old and was in the youth group at my home church in Asheville. Every other summer, our church’s youth would travel to Hazard, Kentucky where we would serve in a poor, mountain community. We would rise early each morning, loading up in half a dozen vans to pick up children so that they could attend our Vacation Bible School in the parking lot of a local school. If you survived being in the backseat of a cramped van (which took the mountain curves a bit too quickly) at first light, you were expected to be a group leader for the camp later that morning.
Those were long, but glorious days. For in addition to the morning camp that was situated on a scalding hot black top, we would also work on construction projects each afternoon and early evening.
It was in this setting that I heard God speak to me.
My job that week was to teach the children the daily Bible story. I had never served in this capacity before and I was genuinely surprised to learn that I enjoyed telling the Bible story in a way that the children could hear and understand. As an awkward teenager, I was thrilled to learn that I felt confident and strong when I taught. I was drawn to the Bible story like I’d never experienced before and I dove into the scriptures, making sure I was familiar with the content of the text. To say it plainly, I felt like I found my voice that week.
I can’t remember her name, but I can still see the way she looked at me. She must not have been older than about 7 or 8. She had arrived early and was sitting in our group long before we were slated to begin. She smiled at me with an alarming sense of earnestness and said, “Teach me about Jesus.” And in that moment, I had an epiphany that made my heart sigh. True, the words were simple and may have been casually spoken. But for me, I heard God’s voice calling me to consider an invitation that would bring me both peace and joy. I felt God calling me to teach others about Jesus.
The work of the Spirit is transformation. And for me, when I found God’s mission I found myself changed.
Why do we encourage our church and community to be a part of Vacation Bible School each year? Why do we target college students and young people to lead our 1st Explorers ministry? Why do we provide opportunities for you to serve with other helping agencies and to learn more about yourself with tools like the Enneagram?
We want you to find the place where God wants you to be. That is, loving our neighbors through service and in the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ. You see, we find our true selves when we are obedient to God’s will to, “Do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God.”
God encounters us so that we can do His will. Christ draws near to us to show us the depth of God’s love. The Holy Spirit changes us so that we can do Kingdom Work.
As we serve our community’s children this week at Vacation Bible School, I am reminded of the power of service and ministry to others. The ones we are serving, it would seem, are not the only ones who are changed.