There is a song by Christian artist, Steven Curtis Chapman, called, "For the sake of the call." The song talks about how Jesus had called his people to be his followers. After Jesus had called them, they answered in the song, "we will abandon it all, for the sake of the call. Not for the sake of a creed or a cause, not for a dream or a promise. Simply because it is Jesus who calls; if we believe, we'll obey. We will abandon it all, for the sake of the call."
And so my to ministry story began in a cell phone store! Seriously! I was in a store one day asking about new cell phones. The salesperson told me that I would have to sign a one year contract. I remember hearing a voice in my heart that said, "you won't be here in a year." (Now keep in mind that I had just spent a year traveling over 40,000 miles with Up with People and I had no plans of going anywhere!) So I left the store telling them thank you for their time, but somehow knowing I was not going to be getting a new cell phone.
I got in my car and began to drive aimlessly; or so I thought. I found myself driving to somewhere unknown. It was as if my car was driving itself, had a mind of its own, and was taking me to a place I needed to be. I began laughing to myself and really wondered where I was going. I found myself taking my old route that I traveled to get to classes when I was in graduate school at Oklahoma City University. I didn't go to the education building though. At this time, I still hadn't realized where I was going. Next thing I knew I was parked at the conference office of the United Methodist Church. I sat there wondering what I was supposed to do next. I then felt like my angel was sitting on my shoulder (like she has many times before) and whispering, "Go see Larry." Now mind you, at the time, I did NOT know who Larry was. So, I went inside and asked the receptionist where his office was. The longer I sat there I realized, after reading brochures and signs on doors, that Larry was the Director of the Volunteers in Mission program. While I waited I read some information about different mission trips coming up in the spring and summer. Most were for ten days longs. I felt that wasn't exactly what I wanted to do. "No," I thought to myself, "that's not enough."
I sat in Larry's office and talked with him for over two hours that day. Through our conversation we realized that he had been my church camp counselor ten years earlier. After reminiscing, Larry asked me how he could help me. I said that I honestly didn't know what I was doing there….but that I was just led by the Spirit to his office. So Larry proceeded to tell me about several different mission projects that I might be interested in. I remember the word "Sarajevo" and "Bolivia" coming out his mouth…..honestly….neither sounded like options at the time. But he told me more about the mission and schools and I said, "I think I want to go to Bolivia to teach." Larry immediately replied, "can you leave in a week?" My head shook "yes" while my mouth said "no." I laughed. He didn't. Seeing the concern on my face, he mentioned Bosnia again. I immediately got back on the topic of Bolivia. It at least hadn't been on national news recently! I left his office that day in tears but yet full of excitement and hope.
I stopped by a travel store after leaving Larry's office to find a video about Bolivia. Much to my surprise, the couple that owned the store had just returned from a trip….to Bolivia!! I could not believe it. Then they asked me if I had seen the newspaper that day. I don't take the paper but when I got to my apartment, there was a newspaper….on my front door step! The front cover was a picture and article about a lady missionary…in Bolivia! So I knew God was trying to get my attention.
Two nights later I was lying in bed praying to make a decision about what I should with my life. The Steven Curtis Chapman song kept going through my mind like a prayer. I truly opened my mind and heart and was willing to listen to God. I remember the very words I prayed, "God…you are going to have to tell me what to do." It was as if God's voice had called to me, "You have to go. You have to serve the church." It was my calling. A big bell doesn't ring. It doesn't come in a fax or an email. It was simply God's voice calling to me. I sold my car, packed everything I owned into my dad's barn on the farm I had grown up on, quit my job, and left for Bolivia ten days later.