I distinctly remember the words of my grandmother. I was about ten years old. I remember the room in their Saskatchewan farm house in which she said to me, “Laverne, you should be a minister.” I remember thinking, “No, I shouldn’t!” She obviously saw some characteristics in me that she felt would match those needed for a caring pastor. After all, her brother-in-law, her nephew and her son were all pastors. She knew what it took. I filed that comment in the recesses of my mind for many years.
A couple of years later I was confirmed at my home church. The lessons, the Bible stories, the academics and the memorization – I could handle that easily! But when it came to writing an essay to share my faith with the members of my congregation, that was a different story. I remember talking to my dad at the kitchen table and crying because I didn’t know what to write. He talked me through my fears, helped me through my fears, so that Confirmation Day wasn’t as traumatic as my young mind imagined.
In high school I was determined to become a math teacher, and began studying for that profession. But in high school and university, my faith in Christ became more and more real to me through my involvement with youth group, Bible Studies and Youth Gatherings. As a young adult, I played guitar and sang with a Christian singing group as we worked with youth groups in Regina and the surrounding area. I also did the speaking parts on behalf of our group and received encouragement from members of various congregations to consider becoming a pastor. Those comments, too, were filed in my mind. I considered going into seminary immediately after my university degree, but decided to try out teaching.
At the end of my first year of teaching in small town Saskatchewan, I attended a local congregation’s 50th anniversary. Roy Holm, Central District President at that time, was the guest preacher and he spoke of the need for pastors in the church. That was another God-nudge for me (and for another farmer of that congregation who found his way into the ministry).
About a month later I had an opportunity to preach and lead worship at my home church, and its small rural sister church, when my pastor took some vacation time. It was a hot July morning in the era of three-piece suits. At the small rural church, as I was reading the second lesson, I felt faint and planned to sit down in a chair. I didn’t make it! Some parishioners revived me, continued the service on their own, and then had to drive me and my car back to Regina, where things went better, for the second service. That was my first preaching experience!! It was a mixed emotional experience that could have deterred my considerations for becoming a pastor. There were a handful of other times in my early ministry when I felt faint, but God sustained me, and deepened my desire to serve Him.
I taught a second year of math at Luther High School in Regina. I say that “God plans coincidences,” and, during that year, God lined up some coincidences and gave me a final “Word-based” elbow nudge to head off to seminary. My Christian home upbringing, my involvement in youth Bible Studies and youth ministry were preparing me from the ‘inside out’ for my vocation as a pastor. Now it was time for the ‘outside in’ preparation of sitting at the feet of learned Biblical scholars. I especially enjoyed the study of Greek and the exegetical studies of New Testament books revealing the wonders of God to me in personal ways. I appreciated the practical courses , Parish Administration, Christian Education and Evangelism, which prepared me for the daily work of being a pastor.
I had lived at home during university, worked the summers and got some scholarships, as a result I came out of university with no debts. In two years of teaching I had used the saving skills imparted by my parents to sock away enough money to begin seminary, without truly knowing what I was saving that money for. I got married just before vicarage, and because we relocated my wife wasn’t able to find work for that year. My vicarage was unusual – I served a three-point vacant parish with my supervisor two hours away. I preached some 45 times that year, 3 times a Sunday. Then we had our first child in my last year of seminary. Many seminarians claim “my wife put me through school.” That wasn’t true for me – God provided summer work, scholarships, my vicarage stipend and the discipline of good stewardship to get me all the way through seminary with no debts – except the new car I bought at graduation time.
When I was in university I remember a passion growing in my heart simply to “tell people about Jesus.” That has characterized my pastoral ministry. I have enjoyed teaching the Christian faith especially to adults who have a hunger to learn and grow and walk with Jesus. I have enjoyed having one-on-one conversations about Jesus with people in various situations – in my office, on a pre-Baptism visit or at a wedding reception. Some of those opportunities come “out of the blue” but I know that God has led those people to talk to me at just that time and He has prepared me for those conversations ever since my grandmother said, “Laverne, you should be a minister.”
God knew. She knew. Now I know.