Check out Part I of John's story here.
While I was at peace knowing that I would be following God’s direction in some manner, I was confused about my experience. Why would God call me to the ministry and then lead me in an opposite direction? Obviously He knew ahead of time what decisions I would make, but did I know? Maybe God was showing me that I was willing to give up a budding career to serve Him. This was certainly a reordering of my priorities, and I had to demonstrate to myself that I was willing to give up this job-centered priority for a God-centered priority.
Once I understood that, He set me on a different course that He already had in mind for me. Interestingly enough, I didn’t take the position that was offered – RCA asked me to come back from my layoff into a new, more interesting position. I returned to RCA and my career “took off.” I continued my career for a total of 45 years, retiring about two months ago.
The important thing is that reestablishing my career didn’t eliminate my calling to the ministry, it just took it in two different directions. First, my ministry established itself in the workplace. As I rose in responsibility, I was able to share my faith with many people. I was also able to share my professional knowledge, giving credibility to my faith and beliefs. Of all the awards I have received during my career, the most important one was an international award for mentoring. It was a validation that I didn’t hide my candle under a bushel, but shared with those whom I encountered in the workplace.
During my career, a large number of coworkers and subordinates came into my office, closed the door, and began sharing problems in the personal life. I always had multiple crosses in my office and shared freely of my faith, and God led people to me. Fortunately, He also spoke for me – I wasn’t competent to help people on their life’s journey, but God gave me the words that were needed. Recently I was asked to do a webcast entitled “Essential Advice for the Young Technical Professional.” While completely intimidated by the request, I trusted that God would lead me and give me the words to speak. Of course He did, and I had one more way to share my beliefs and value system.
The second method of continuing my ministry was to continue my work in youth work. My wife and I had both worked with church youth groups in our respective churches, and after we married we were able to build our ministry together. We served 16 years as Senior High youth leaders, and were given the opportunity to impact many lives. On random occasions, on a Sunday afternoon, our doorbell would ring and it would be one of our “alumni” just stopping in to say “hello.” Several years later, we did a survey of the young people who had passed through our programs. As it turns out, a large percentage of those we had nurtured had been led into youth ministry.
When our own children neared adolescence and we became more advocates for parents than for youth, we trained new youth leaders in our church and moved on. We did a series of interdenominational seminars for youth workers, and trained other youth workers as needed.
When my wife’s career took her from volunteer into professional counseling, and then to working with troubled youth, I became a soccer coach. This, again, was my ministry. Hundreds of youth passed through my teams and I had the opportunity to minister to them for more than 18 years. As a postscript, my oldest grandson asked if I would coach his 14U soccer team a couple of weeks ago and I now drive to Kokomo three days per week, working with adolescent boys and girls. Again, I see this as an opportunity for ministry.
The bottom line for me is that God has led me in many different directions. Sometimes I went willingly, other times he use the virtual “two-by-four between the eyes” to get my attention. In all cases I followed, though sometimes with a good deal of grumbling. As I look back over the 53 years since asking Jesus Christ to come into my life, He has led me where I needed to go. Every day of my life has been a ministerial opportunity, and my only regrets are the opportunities that I let pass by. I have never once regretted going where He leads me!