Thursday, July 7, 2011

I wish God had a speakerphone

Have you ever received a call from God?  Something small or something life changing?  How did you know?  How did you explain it to other people?  Wouldn't it be so much simpler if God used a speakerphone so everyone around you could hear the same thing?  They could affirm the call, they would share an understanding of the call, they could explain to others that you aren't crazy!

But, no.  No speakerphones.   God's call is a frequent topic of conversation here.  Most every team member has felt called to come on their specific mission trip or to serve God in Honduras or to something larger.  I have had conversations with a number of people pondering whether God is calling them to mission work on a larger scale -- a deferred semester from freshman year, 3 months of service, a year or even longer.

Everyone wants to hear about Suzy's call.  Suzy's life shows us that a call isn't just a moment in time.  It isn't like a phone call, with or without speakerphone, that has a distinct beginning and end.  She is always at the ready to pick up the "phone", listen, and respond, "Yes, Lord." 

I am not an expert on calls from God and Suzy's story is best told by her.   Suzy's Spiritual Mother, Linda, is visiting this week.  For those of you who have heard Suzy give her testimony you know it all started at the College of Charleston when she went to a Bible study that rocked her world.  Linda was the leader of that Bible Study!  I am anxious to hear about Suzy's call from Linda's point of view.

People also ask me about how I got to Honduras.  My story isn't nearly as dramatic or inspirational as Suzy's but here goes...

I was busy being a mother and IBMer when my church, St. David's, started sending mission teams to Honduras.  I attended a fundraiser, bought some silent auction items and was vaguely aware the team was leaving soon.  The next year I accidentally attended the mission team's presentation during Sunday School.  The Rector's Forum had been turned over to the team for that week.  I was on the Vestry and felt I should stay and listen.  (Confession:  If I had known ahead of time I would have gone to a different class!)  Anyway, I was so moved by their presentation that I started sponsoring a child and thought that someday it might be fun to go on a mission trip.  I love to travel and am adventurous so, why not!    My involvement in LAMB for the next couple of years was the monthly check sent automatically from my bank.  The timing of the mission trips didn't work for me as a single mom with kids in school.

When Hunter, my younger son, went of to college I found myself with much more time than I had expected.   Still, LAMB and mission trips were not top of mind.  The week between Christmas and New Year's I was shocked to receive a kick in the rear from the Holy Spirit - go to Honduras in March! I asked Fr. Paul, my rector, if it was too late to join the March trip. "Yes!... but I will write a note of introduction to the team leader."  He wrote to Bonnie Underwood saying essentially that I was a nice person and went to church regularly.  No Rector arm twisting at all!  So I called Bonnie:

Me: "Hi!  Um, I know it is too late to join the team but if there is any way I could be put on a waiting list, I would really appreciate it!"
Bonnie: "Well, I was just sitting here worrying about what I was going to do with this extra airplane ticket.  Someone just called and had to cancel."

(By the way, this is exactly the same way Wheeler joined his first team! Thanks Steve and Gloria for cancelling!)

So, knowing absolutely nothing about LAMB, Honduras or mission work, off I went in March 2007.  I knew the Holy Spirit was sending me for a reason but I had no idea what that would be.  I came home transformed in many ways, the most important way was fully believing for the first time in many years that God loves me in a personal and intimate way.

So 10 mission trips later, the "phone" rings again.
The Lord:  "Hi!  Me again.  I want you to go to Honduras full time in January."
Me:  "Yay!  I had hoped you would call me to Honduras but don't you mean July?   Cuz in December I will have 29.5 years with IBM and, um, like, um, everyone retires with 30 years!"
The Lord:  "No.  Go to Honduras in January." 
Me:  "Yes, Lord." (Imagine my IBM colleagues' reaction to missing the 30 year milestone by 6 months!  Yes, I left $$ on the table but I was afraid to put God on hold..!)

So here I am and so happy.  Now, in reality the whole call process was not that simple.  I don't want anyone to think I took this lightly or didn't do the hard work to ensure I had actually heard a call.  I had already been praying for years about this (hoping for a call) and studying Spanish on my own while working full time at IBM and holding several concurrent leadership positions at church and another non-profit.   When He called, I entered into months of rigorous discernment and prayer.  My call was affirmed by two priests, many parishioners, my children and several family members, many fellow mission team members (One said, "Amanda, it has been so obvious since your first trip...") and by Suzy. 

I just wish God had been on speakerphone though because the call was so clear as I know it continues to be for Suzy.  So, my advice to you... Be ready, listen for the phone and answer it with the refrain to one of my favorite songs

Here I am, Lord.
Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord,
if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.