For many years I resisted a call to ministry and was unwilling to enter it without a clear, defined calling, as I take ministry very seriously and would rather not have taken on the mantle of responsibility required for it. But when YHWH calls, what other option is there but to submit and serve?
My clear call came while I was living in Hawaii, growing orchids there. It was a time of great change in my life, as the Spirit used the complete upheaval of all I’d known to radically shape and prepare me for the calling I would receive.
During my time on the Island, I was privileged to be a part of New Hope Hilo, and to serve as a youth leader at the church for some time. During that time, a group from YWAM was sent on their mission trip to our side of the Island. They ended up connecting with our church, and we enjoyed their regular company while they were there.
While they were with us, they proposed to our youth pastor the idea of a special prayer night for our youth, where they would pursue an ‘original design’ prayer over each one. This was time of prayer asking God to reveal something about His design for the person’s life. It might not be life changing, it might not be utterly revelatory, but just for a true insight into the person’s life and YHWH’s plan for them. Not having been raised in any sort of charismatic tradition, I was highly suspicious! It all sounded a bit bizarre to me, and honestly, I was worried about it, and spent the week leading up to the prayer night praying fervently about the orthodoxy of such a thing.
When the night came, they explained how it would work: each one of the youth leaders (me) would be paired up with one of the YWAM folks. Our job was to pray for the YWAM person as they prayed over our youth. I was teamed up with Wu, and I prayed that the Holy Spirit would fill him and give him wisdom as he prayed. As we prayed over student after student I was awestruck at how clearly and accurately the Spirit revealed truth to him about these students. He didn’t know them, but I did! And somehow he would hit the nail right on the head every time. There certainly wasn’t anything heretical about what was happening, now that I could see it happening, and I was left with no other conclusion but that the Spirit was indeed moving and speaking so as to impact and change the lives of these students.
I found out not long after that we were going to the same thing for our college and career group, which I was in at the time. Now I was really worried! What would God say? I kept asking him to prophetically reveal my future wife to me… no such luck, as it turned out (I wouldn’t find her for another 8 years!). As the night approached, my sense that something significant was going to happen grew, but I had not a single clue what it might be that the Spirit would say!
The night came, and I waited until the very end of the night, avoiding my turn for as long as I could. Finally, it was unavoidable. Wu, whom I’d prayed with over the youth, and the youth pastor, Ben, prayed over me. As they prayed (very true and accurate things that cut me to the core), there was a concurrent revelation that occurred. The things they said by the Spirit (unbeknownst to them) coordinated with what the Spirit was also revealing in my heart at the same moment. By the end of the prayer, it was utterly unavoidable: YHWH was calling me to ministry. I had worked so hard for so long to avoid this very moment! But there was no escaping it. What could I say, except to echo the words of the Holy Theotokos, Mary in saying, “May it be to me as you have said!”
After that night, I waited for 8 months at YHWH’s command before I applied to seminary. During my waiting period, the orchid grower position at Longwood Gardens was posted in the back of the orchid magazine. What should I do? Could I possibly apply to this job when I knew YHWH was calling me to ministry? As my dear friend at time put it, “You had better apply to that job! If YHWH doesn’t want you to get it, He’ll make sure you don’t!” So I applied and didn’t hear back, assuming they’d passed me by and picked someone else, and I resumed my wait to move to the next step in my call to ministry. There are no seminaries on the Big Island anymore, so I applied to the seminaries across the country that were the most prestigious and had the best theology (as far as I could deduce at the time).
These are Biblical Theological Seminary in Hatfield, PA (now called Missio Seminary and located in Philadelphia, PA), and Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, TX. Both were very appealing to me and thought either would put me through the ringer and make a real Christian out of me! Dallas was more appealing for its intensity, and BTS was more appealing for its missional approach to theology. Which to choose?
Well, YHWH had an answer for me. The day I was calling both seminaries to talk to admissions staff to help me figure out which to go to, I received a call from Longwood Gardens! They wanted me to interview for the orchid job! I interviewed and received the job. Longwood was about one hour from BTS, and both were about one hour or so from my family. I loved BTS’s missional theology, and it felt like it would be a great fit for me. And I could attend while working full time. It was quite obvious where YHWH was sending me.
I moved back to Pennsylvania two days before Christmas of 2014, started at Longwood on December 29th of that year, and began my first seminary class in January, and in 2019 I graduated with my Masters of Divinity from Missio Seminary!