My Cause is Hope

My “Call Story” for candidacy for ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church

In the United Methodist Church there is a process for becoming an ordained clergy-person, or pastor, called candidacy. This process involves going before your pastor, a church conference, and a district board to confirm both an inward and outward call to vocational ministry. As part of that you are required to tell your personal story of how you feel God calling you to ministry. This is mine.

I have always felt a deep spiritual connection to God. Looking back at my baptism as an infant in the United Methodist Church I now realize this was the prevenient grace of God working in my life. As early as I can remember I had a curiosity and draw to the church. I wanted to learn about the tradition, history, and stories of the church. I have also always had a deep desire to know God, to worship Him, and to study scripture. Growing up in the United Methodist Church is crucial to who I am and my local church was like a second family that helped raise me. It is through prayer and discernment, my experience in the local church and missions, and my relationship with christian mentors that I have sensed a call to vocational ministry as an elder in the United Methodist Church.

Getting connected to youth group was a pivotal moment in my life. By the counseling and pastoring of people in my life I began to learn what it meant to be a follower of Jesus Christ. I grew up for a large portion of my life with an absent father due to illness. I relied on my youth pastor and several key mentors at youth group for guidance. When my father died I was 18 years old and through the support and care of my local church, my peers, and these mentors I was able to process and heal from the hurt. Losing my biological father helped me to understand my relationship with God as my eternal father in heaven. I began to truly live into the understanding of being an “adopted son and true heir with Christ” (Romans 8:15).

Due to my experience in youth ministry I began to develop a sense and call to service and to explore what it would look like to work in youth ministry. My experience with Christians caring for and nurturing me led to feeling of responsibility to do this for the next generation. As I went to college I knew deep down that God was working in my life (justifying grace) and calling me to serve Him. I used my summers to explore what this call meant and worked in home repair ministry, youth ministry, and sustainable agriculture. Upon graduation I felt the need to use my degree and ended up working in Disaster Relief. My work took me all over the United States, to the Bahamas for a two year stint leading mission teams, and eventually back to Orlando, my hometown, to work in social services.

At each of these stops along the way I felt God was preparing me for something more. Early on in my time in the Bahamas I felt like I was being equipped for pastoral ministry. Leading a diverse group of people, carrying out a common mission, and managing the finances of a nonprofit organization were all practical to working as the leader of a local church. As I wrestled with my call, through prayer and spiritual discernment, I tried to get as close as I could without fully accepting a call to serve God in vocational ministry. I told myself lies that I was not worthy to be a pastor, that it was good enough just to work in nonprofit, or that it was not a practical decision to become a pastor. Ultimately through reconnecting with my local church I was affirmed by people who encouraged me to keep exploring what God was calling me to do and affirmed my spiritual gifts of leadership, compassion, and shepherding.

I began to realize that I had not connected with any of the causes I had worked with however “good” they were. At my core I am passionate about connecting with people to make meaningful and authentic relationships. I have been able to care for people and show them the love of Jesus Christ in hopes that they would be transformed by the holy spirit and also helped people realize their gifts and how to use them. I have since been convicted that my cause is the cause of Jesus Christ to spread His hope and healing into the world. I realize now that this connection I have felt to God my entire life was so that I can help other people connect and relate to God. To help them realize who he is in their lives, what he is calling them to do, and how that can be transformational for the world.

In November of 2017 during a healing service at church I felt compelled to take communion. The pastor read the communion liturgy and said “May these elements be hope and healing in your life, so that you may be hope and healing for the world” as I was handed the piece of bread it felt physically heavy in my hands. What I have since heard described as a mystic experience of divine appointment, this experience symbolized to me the privilege and sacrifice of pastoral ministry being passed to me. After a few months of figuring out how to fully surrender myself to this call, I heard God’s voice telling me “I have not put all of these people and experiences in your life for you to waste your call. You are going to be a pastor and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to people.”. After this I began my journey into candidacy in the United Methodist Church.

My hope is to be able to lead within the local church to make disciples for the transformation of the world. I believe my experience working with all different people and in the nonprofit field has equipped me to be a good steward of relationships and resources for any congregation I will serve. I have seen and experienced first hand the power of the holy spirit to transform lives and desire to help people experience that in a real way. Bringing grace, love, and hope to those around me in my direct care and through the reaches of the people I will serve will be my goal to make sure that everyone has a place at the table.