This post is inspired partly by a friend’s post explaining her Call to ministry. Her story is very different from mine and is a good example of the multiple roads that can lead people to ministry. Sarah’s Call: http://futurerevcaine.wordpress.com/2013/03/03/my-call/
Some people know this and some do not, but after a lot of deep thought, soul searching and observation, I have come to the conclusion that I want to be an ordained minister. I specifically want to to do interfaith chaplaincy with sexual assault and domestic abuse survivors.
So. why ministry?
Since graduating from college in 2005 with my degree in sociology, I have pondered many post-graduate paths. I considered social work, counseling, therapy and other career paths, all with the intention of working with the same groups: survivors. I could work with survivors in any of the fields I considered, but I want to work with the mind, heart and soul.
I am a volunteer advocate with my area’s local rape crisis center. In that capacity, my job is to advocate for the rights and dignity of sexual assault survivors. I sit with them while they are in the hospital getting treatment, testing and/or a rape kit done. I am there on what is often the worst day of the person’s life with the intention of making it a little easier to bear. That might be with a sandwich, a warm blanket, a teddy bear or just someone to listen or distract them with meaningless chatter. Whatever the person needs from me. I am part of the S.A.R.T (Sexual Assault Response Team) group.
Everyone on the team has a specific and precious role to play: the S.A.R.T nurse collects physical evidence for a possible trial, the police investigate the crime, the hospital social worker takes care of things like getting the survivor into a shelter if needed or arranging transportation from the hospital to a safe location, and the advocate gives referrals, comfort and looks out for the survivor’s best interests and wishes.
A lot of what I personally do is what I think of as “soul work.” It’s very important for me to use the little time I have with a survivor (usually a few hours) to put their injured soul on the path to healing. Their body will heal–it’s amazing like that–but the flame in their soul can be extinguished. I try to make sure that this precious light does not go out. Sometimes it’s with a touch, a smile, or a word. It doesn’t take much to make a small difference. The last survivor I met with (before going on a hiatus with the center) was a young woman. She told me that I was the first person to tell her that she wasn’t at fault and didn’t deserve what had happened to her. She sobbed when I told her that she was courageous, strong and worthy. Worthy of safety, of love, of respect, of kindness, of happiness.
It hurts my heart to think of all the souls that do not know this fact. I want to walk around and give smiles to those that need them the most. I want to tell people that they are AMAZING and compliment their choice of shoes and listen to the people who are not heard. I want to look into the eyes of all the people I can and tell them, like I told a mentor of mine, that I see God in them. I believe because they exist. How could so simple a thing change the world? I want to find out.
Now, it may seem like I’ve always known or wanted this calling.
It hit me with the force of a blow. And it may not have happened at all if not for friend and mentor Rev. David Helfer who saw in me what I did not (yet) dare to see in myself.
Several years ago, David and I were at a District Assembly in Pasadena, listening and interacting with a delightful gentleman who was expressing his gratitude to the local church for taking care of him when his mother died. This man clearly had some mental challenges and was very, very chatty. He was the kind of person that society overlooks everyday.
In the little bit of time we had, I gave him my full attention and consideration. He was the center of my world for ten minutes. Afterward, David turned to me and said, “I see a minister in you.”
I was shocked. His observation shook me to my core. I spent the next couple of years coming back to that simple statement. It took awhile before I could see a minister in myself.
Was I always destined for this path? Maybe.
Is this what I really want? Yes.
Is it going to take me another 32 years to get to the point of my title??
…I hope not.
In my next post, I’ll explain how I found my faith as a youth, lost it as a young adult, found it again in a way I didn’t expect, and what it means to me now.