Tuesday, August 23, 2011

God's Call

Watching Dr. Chuck Kelley today live, online form Leavell Chapel at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary brought back vivid memories from nine years ago. As he spoke from Hebrews 11 today in the opening Chapel service of the 2011-2012 school year, my mind raced back nearly a decade ago.

Back in August, 2002, my oldest son, Jay, had been in pastoral ministry for five years. He had been wrestling with God's call on his life to further his theological education. He had looked into the possibility of attending seminary in our home state, and was praying for God's guidance. A mission trip to France, earlier in the year, however, changed all that. During that trip (a musical mission trip - Jay is a percussionist) he became acquainted with Gary Halquist. At that time, Gary was a professor of music at New Orleans Theological Seminary. Although Jay was interested in Biblical Languages and Theology more than music, Gary talked Jay into considering NOBTS.

Concerned about ministry, Jay wondered aloud about the possibility of serving a church in the area, and Gary assured him that numerous churches in the area were always ready to call seminary students. He sent Gary a resume' and things began happening soon. He was called to come for a weekend revival service and went thorough an interview process, and was soon called to be pastor of the church he continues to serve today.

We had always hoped that both of our sons would serve God in whatever way He chose for them. Jay had served my previous church by leading music and working with the youth group. I was thrilled when he answered God's call into a preaching ministry, and he was soon called to be the pastor of a mission church in South Shore, Kentucky. Under his five years of work in the South Shore area, he helped lead the church to self supporting status. I had visions of Jay continuing to serve God in the general area and we rejoiced when his firstborn son arrived. Jay grew in his ministry and and had gained a lot of respect from the other pastors in our local association.

Then in 2002 the unthinkable happened.

Our prayers had been answered, and God was calling him somewhere far away. That was not what I had in mind when I prayed for God to use him. My vision was more local - God had other plans. So amid tears and heartbreak, Jay and Michelle took our two year old grandson and moved 1,000 miles away!

Selfishly, it was tough for Linda and I. Jay's wife, Michelle, was no more thrilled than we were, as she was not too crazy about going to an area that would not have been of her choosing. However, Michelle is a devout Christian and was open to whatever God had in store for her and her little family.

The past nine years has brought a lot of change - for Jay, Michelle, Quint, and Canon. First Baptist Church of Westwego has changed a lot as well! About three years into their stay there, a storm named Katrina came ashore, and New Orleans was changed as never before. Jay's disaster relief work and tremendous ministry opportunity in the area was a great blessing to many. It was after Katrina that I finally came to peace with the fact that Jay was exactly where he needed to be. The last nine years have been jam packed with pastoral work, school work, and ministry in an area that is one of the greatest mission fields in North America.

Jay completed his undergrad degree at NOBTS and immediately enrolled in the Master's Program. He's earned his M. Div. in Biblical Languages and is now enrolled in the Ph.D. program. Jay and Michelle have New Orleans in their hearts. Eleven year old Quint has grown up there, and six year old Canon was born there and it is the only home he has ever known. When he finally completes his doctorate program, he has no other plans but to continue to minister in the area.

It is an understatement to say that we miss them, and at times our hearts ache that we are so far away from two of our grandsons, and not able to be involved in their lives as we would like to be, but seeing the big picture, I wouldn't have it any other way.

I am glad that Jay and Michelle have been obedient to the Lord's direction in their lives. As Michelle use to sing, "The will of God won't lead you where the grace of God can't keep you. You will never be out of His care..."

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