I didn't know it when I first knocked on the window that evening that it would be my last. That quickly became known to me and I just started to let the tears quietly fall. At the end of our visit, when the three of us stood in this mans office one last time, holding hands and praying to our Beloved Jesus, I could no longer let the tears fall quietly, they became choking.
This office and this man was a staple in my life. There is no way to count how many tears of mine have been shed in that office, as the number is too high. How many times this man let me cry and all the while quietly whispering and reminding me to press on towards the goal (Philippians 3:13-14).
You see....it was exactly seven years ago that my call into full time ministry started in that office. Let me back up a little....
In my story, I abruptly sent you fast forward by several years. But to go back to the end of college is where we will pick up today:
Towards the end of my 5th year of college, I went on a mission trip to Costa Rica. While I was there I fell in love and cried when I had to leave. I came home, graduated from UGA, then quickly started making plans to go back to the country my heart yearned for. It would be January before I could get there, but I went. I thought I'd be there for a decent amount of time (I went on a buddy pass with no return date selected). I was only there 3 months when the Lord told me to go home. That sounds fine and dandy but at this point in my life Richmond Hill was the last place I wanted to go to. He spoke so clearly to me that He even gave me a vision of me standing in the pulpit of RHUMC--Katie's church, my sporadically attended church--sharing my story of how I'd met Jesus. So I went home knowing I was suppose to work with the youth.
I'd been home just a few hours and it was Holy Week...so I went to church with my mom and of course sat next to the Brookshires. After the service, Mrs. Sharon asked me what I was up to and my response was, "All I know is that Jesus wants me here." She then proceeded to tell me that the church needed a Youth Minister and they would be getting a new pastor in June (it was then April). She introduced me to who I needed to meet to volunteer, and well there I was that next Sunday, meeting the youth of RHUMC. I volunteered for the next few months, not able to be hired there because I was a church member. But that wasn't going to deter me from the voice of the Lord that told me to be there. I went on to interview for other jobs--had offers, but could not silence the Voice of my Beloved that was telling me to be with the youth full time. It made no sense to me. I needed an income, but the conviction was so heavy, I turned down the offers.
It was the start of Youth Week 2003 and I came to volunteer. They asked me how much they could count on me for the week and I said, "100%". The next day I found myself staying with the youth during the day and was told our new pastor was moving in (it was then June). I thought I'd walk by his office, say hello and welcome him to Richmond Hill. What I thought was going to be a quick hello, turned into an hour and an invitation to share my testimony that next Sunday. I walked out overwhelmed, as that would be the fulfillment of the vision the Lord had given me in Costa Rica.
That next Sunday I poured out my heart to a congregation. Psalm 40 being the heartbeat of my testimony, "I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord." After sharing my God given story, my beloved Mrs. Thelma (I would later live in her garage apartment) came up saying she'd talk to SPR on my behalf.
And we all know the rest of the story. I had an official interview and they bent the rules. At first they let me be interim....then it became a full time hire. I shiver to think what would have happened had I given into the world telling me I had to take the first job offer because I would have missed this:
For five years I looked up to a man that saw the call Jesus had on my life, even when I was unsure of it. For five years I learned from a man that was hungry for the Truth and proclaimed it every Sunday from the pulpit and from every foot step he took. For five years I learned from a man that let me cry, but at the same time encouraged me with every breath that he had to not give up. For five years when I didn't see the potential in me, he called it forth. For five years, it was an honor to serve under a legend.
Two years ago I heard the voice of my Beloved again and knew it was time to move on. I was sad to leave this man, but even he knew His voice and would in no way stop Him. So I packed up my office and moved north.
Now, seven years since that first encounter of a man moving into an office, where my call into ministry began, has been packed. My beloved Rev. Bill retired this past week. There aren't words enough to express my gratitude to him. How do you tell a man thank you for saying yes to the call that Jesus had on your life? I really don't know how, other than to just say a simple "thank you". Thank you Jesus for the precious five years you gave me to serve with him.
Rev. Bill, I pray blessings on you and your family as you enter into this new season of life. May you find rest in His peace. May you find His spirit refreshing. May you know that you are dearly loved and it's been an honor to serve with you for the sake of the Gospel.