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The Calling

Updated: May 26, 2023

The year was 1967. I was 17 with no clear direction in my life. I was very active with my religious group at the time so I guess you could say I had a spiritual bent. It is a small denomination, about the same size as the Covenant. I worked after school as an electrician wiring houses, so, I suppose by default that would be my secular direction. That religious group discouraged going to college, and I was blindly obedient at the time. I was blindly obedient to a lot of things regarding religion. I didn’t celebrate birthdays or Christmas. I believed Christ’s return was imminent followed by Armageddon. I did not understand God’s unconditional love. There were many beliefs that did not agree with mainstream Christianity. But I did believe in God and Christ, and that He ultimately was my Savior. I had gotten baptized when I was 13, and I knew at that time that I was dedicating my life to God and His son, Jesus.

Nonetheless, I did not expect anything unusual one particular Sunday morning. Rather than a sermon, we were going to watch a homemade 16 mm film about missionaries. The two men that put this together had recently returned from an around-the-world tour. And, in addition to filming the beautiful parts of their travels, they spent a significant time filming our missionaries and getting their stories. We had about 900 missionaries at that time in around 40 countries. I had read about them. I had even met a few. But beyond that there was nothing on my radar. I remember walking in, sitting down, and looking forward to being entertained for the next hour. But God had other plans.

As these two men started their film, they narrated the backgrounds of the various missionaries they visited. There were couples and individuals. Some were in their mid-twenties. Others were well beyond retirement age. Many had given up lucrative careers and luxurious living circumstances to serve where the need was greater. Their living conditions were consistent with the area they were serving. The ones in Europe lived in simple apartments. The ones in Africa had tin roofs with no indoor plumbing. Many had health issues living in third world countries and being exposed to germs and parasites that are uncommon in North America. Many had been assaulted, beaten, persecuted and I even heard of some who had been killed for their faith. And yet, to a person, there was a palpable aura of joy that surrounded them. They projected an inner peace and contentment that jumped out from the screen and the narrative. They were genuinely joyful people doing something much greater than their inherent abilities. In my mind, these were people filled with God’s spirit in the quietest and most unassuming way. They seemed to personify qualities I admired most: humility, tolerance and perseverance. I knew at that moment where my life was going and what I wanted. I wanted what they had.

I can’t compare myself to the Apostle Paul, except where he made mistakes. Paul had an “Ah-Ha” moment on the road to Damascus, just minding his own business on his way to arrest women and children (Acts 9:1-19). Jesus got his attention. After a brief encounter with Christ, Paul became a different person. In the same way, that Sunday morning became an “Ah-Ha” moment for me. I entered that meeting hall with no real plan for my life other than to be carried along by circumstances and my peers. I was a ship without a rudder. However, I left that morning with a clear goal of what I wanted as a career. I wanted to be a missionary. I knew it as if God himself had spoken to me. It was so clear. I knew that it would require years of hard work, study and focus. Only one out of 50,000 was selected to enter their missionary school. Nonetheless, I was determined. It took me seven years to reach my goal. It set the course of my life for the next 15 years. And while I don’t agree with the teachings of that group now, I cannot deny the certainty of the calling I felt that Sunday morning in 1967. And it is a calling that I feel to this day.

I was part of their headquarters staff for five years, and then a missionary in Chile for five years.Two of my three daughters were born there.I made many good friends there.It was also there that I began to realize that the religion that I grew up with might be wrong.But that is another story. Suffice it to say, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” (Matt. 7:13,14) It led me to where I am today: following a God of love, truth and unconditional grace.

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