God called me as a young girl to serve Him in full-time ministry. I heard His voice at the altar one Sunday night when I was only 8 years old, and I, at that young age, knew that my life would not be normal, usual or average. Of course, at that time in the history of Christendom, the call of God on a woman's life meant that she would likely be married to a pastor or a missionary. If that was not the case, the call to ministry might include teaching Sunday school, playing the piano at church or organizing meals for shut-ins.
I knew that I knew that I knew that I would serve Jesus with every breath that I took, with every year that I would live and with every talent that I had been given. The call was genuine and clear; my heart was earnest and willing. As I lingered at the altar that winter evening, the pastor's wife, Sister Brown, laid her wizened hands upon my head and prayed a prayer of purpose and power.
When she was done praying, she said to me, "Carol, the power of the Holy Spirit is upon you. The Holy Spirit will give you the power to stay true to your faith in high school and will lead you in the paths which you should go." I remember those words, and I remember her tear-stained face.
As the years quickly passed, I read my Bible daily and memorized Scripture under the tutelage of my father, who was a general of the faith. He told me stories of missionaries, likely hoping that I, too, would feel the call to overseas missions work.
I knew that I was called to service in the unshakable kingdom of God, but I couldn't figure out how I, as a woman, fit into His grander plan.
When I attended a Holy Spirit-empowered university in the mid-1970s, the doors to greater ministry certainly opened, and the possibilities seemed to be larger than I had once supposed. Women such as Corrie ten Boom, Elisabeth Elliot and Kathryn Kuhlman actually spoke in our bi-weekly chapel services. My heart leaned in and listened to these women who were leading the way in the mid-20th century.
However, it wasn't until the summer before my senior year in college that the Lord gave clear direction about my particular calling.
I had been invited to sing at a luncheon in Rochester, New York, at which a Bible teacher, who was also a woman, would be speaking. I'm sure that the lunch was delicious, although I really don't remember what was on the menu. I sang my sweet song, "Live for Jesus," made popular by Evie Tornquist, and was grateful for the opportunity.
However, when the Bible teacher stood to her feet and began to unwrap a passage of Scripture, verse by verse, making it come alive to the hundreds in attendance, I sat on the edge of my seat with my eyes wide open and my heart pounding. I still remember that this woman taught on Abraham and Sarah and the fact that when they walked in obedience, God changed their very names. Abram became "Abraham" and Sarai became "Sarah". God infused His own name, Yahweh, into their names; He breathed the breath of Yahweh into their identity.
This was it. This is what I had been called to do at this moment in history! I was called, as a woman of God, to teach the Word of God to anyone who would listen. I was called to go digging for gold in the unmatched, powerful, restorative and miraculous Word of God. I was called to share the eternal treasure of Scripture with a world in pain and in hopeless confusion.
God is still calling children today. God called Samuel when he was but a boy; God called David when he was barely an adolescent. The disciples were likely teenagers or young men in their early 20s when they heard Jesus say, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men."
Never underestimate the ability of a child to hear God's voice and to understand the call to ministry. Children are not to be tossed aside, ignored or merely babysat by the church. Children should be given every opportunity possible to hear the eternal truth of Scripture in a manner that they can understand; they should be prayed for often and powerfully.
God is still calling children today, and we, as His church, must honor that call. We must prepare this generation of children to be the next generation of world-changing disciples.
Carol McLeod is an author and popular speaker at women's conferences and retreats, where she teaches the Word of God with great joy and enthusiasm. Carol encourages and empowers women with passionate and practical biblical messages mixed with her own special brand of hope and humor. Carol has written 11 books, including Significant, StormProof and Guide Your Mind, Guard Your Heart, Grace Your Tongue. Her teaching DVD, The Rooms of a Woman's Heart won the Telly Award, a prestigious industry award for excellence in religious programming.
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