Most of us have had multiple times in our lives when we ask ourselves that question. Often, it’s around the time we are in college. It is tied into our choice of majors, universities, and even the classes we select. The expectation is to answer God’s call and incorporate it into our other plans at this most-important time of decision!
This is a great plan and I can’t encourage teenagers more to be in prayer about what God wants them to do with their lives and to be obedient to His call.
But that’s not the end of it. I believe that God continues to call us to follow Him down some changing paths throughout the rest of our lives, sometimes in new and unexpected ways.
In my early twenties, I was called into the corporate world. I was a dutiful twenty-something employee and spent my days writing computer programs. I loved that world and the friends I made! It didn’t seem incredibly noble, but I attempted to let others see Jesus in me; that was what I was called to do at the time.
After I married Mark, I stayed at home to spend as much time as possible with the three kids we would bring into the world over the next five years. Again, I felt called to this profession. It opened up new ways for me to share my faith with people I would not have met had I stayed in the corporate world. I spent a lot of time volunteering at church and school and was blessed by those experiences.
As our kids grew to be pre-teens, I knew my opportunities to volunteer at their schools were going to lessen and I began to think about what God wanted me to do next. Being a first-born and a planner, I began to make strides towards what I considered at the time to be a huge life-changing new career choice; I was going to get a job at Kohl’s! I knew I could fold sweaters and it would allow for a flexible transition back into the working world. I just needed to get God onboard with my plan and we would be ready to move forward!
Around that same time, I was in the work room at Messiah, most likely making copies for one of the volunteer jobs I was committed to at the time. Pastor Chuck walked in to get coffee for a visitor in his office, Rudy Schaser, a retired LCMS pastor who had done extensive mission work over the years.
Pastor Chuck had been searching for a way to get Messiah involved in short-term mission work, with a long-term commitment. He knew this kind of partnership would change the very culture of our congregation and he was frustrated at the lack of opportunities he was finding to make this happen.
When he walked into the workroom that day, he looked me in the eye and said, “Do you want to go to Uganda with me?” Rudy had just talked to him about some opportunities for mission partners in Uganda and he was ready to make the trip. What?!? This certainly wasn’t in my plan!
Pastor Chuck shared a few highlights with me and told me he wanted someone to go along who could tell the story when we got back. I spent the next few days praying about this seemingly crazy opportunity and talking to my family about it. This did NOT fit in with my plan for a future in the retail world, but I knew I could tell a story. Was this a gift God wanted me to use during this season of my life? I sensed that God wanted me to go.
The rest, as they say, is history. Pastor Chuck and I had only been in Uganda one day when we both tearfully shared our convictions that Messiah had a future of service in Uganda. When we returned to Weldon Spring, we spent the next few months organizing a Christmas mission focus that would result in over $25,000 in gifts and funds being donated to help our new partners in Nakabango, Uganda.
Over the past 10 years, I have been privileged to travel to Uganda twenty times with over 150 different people. I have been blessed beyond measure and know that this is what God has called me to do at this time in my life. Would I have ever predicted this decade of mission work when I was making choices about which college I would attend in my late teens? Not a chance. But that’s another reason following God is so exciting! His plans are bigger and better than anything you can imagine!
Messiah has a staff full of people who have made career changes in order to obey God’s call for them. People who were bankers, teachers, chemists, attorneys, corporate-types – all called to be church workers, bringing an incredible wealth of knowledge with them. What a blessing to see each of them use their gifts in this way, at this time in their lives.
Will I be the Missions Coordinator at Messiah forever? Most likely not. But I know that obeying God’s call will always be the right thing to do. I pray that you, too, will be open to His voice and to the people He puts in your life to help you hear His call, even as He continues to call you throughout the years!
Julie Stroder is Messiah’s Missions Coordinator and also the Missions Coordinator at Hearts & Hope for Uganda. She writes about missional living on Messiah’s blog.