In 2015 I was collecting call stories from my friends who are serving in diaconal ministries – ministries of service – expressed in the United Methodist Church through the provisional and ordained deacon, diaconal ministers, deaconesses, and home missioners. In this post, you will hear from Brenda Laws who is an ordained deacon currently serving as an ID Case Manager for the Eastern Shore Community Service Board on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Her secondary appointment is at Horntown Charge UMC on the Eastern Shore District. Here are Brenda’s words:
When I saw her on stage with the bishop I heard a voice within my spirit say, “You will be where she is.” Ha Ha, I thought that was a good joke. “I am a 19-year-old single mom and that will never happen,” I thought. That day was at Annual Conference of June 1980 in Richmond. It changed my vocation in life. It changed who I was and it redefined who God was in my life.
I didn’t even know who that lady was on the conference stage, I just know she had set an example for me when she was consecrated a diaconal minister. My new quest in life was to find out about the diaconal ministry.
I doubted God’s call in my life because I did not feel worthy. I was a statistic; I was a single teen mom from the Eastern Shore. After all, my goal was to be a home economics teacher, not go into ministry! I asked pastors about their calls and I intently listened to their stories.
Nope, I didn’t see a vision, I didn’t hear voices and I was a female. I knew one female pastor on my district. “There had to be a mistake,” I thought.
I heard a small voice that I’m sure only I heard. I questioned God. I laughed at God. I doubted God would call ME, a teen mom, to a ministry hardly anyone knew about.
God listened to my rant and then I met Rev. Marie Waters who heard me out and confirmed God equips who is called, even women. My pastor, Dr. John Fisher, talked to me my senior year in college about the ministry of Christian Education and encouraged me to apply to Wesley Theological Seminary and to the General Board of Global Ministries for the Crusade Scholarship. If any of this was to be a reality, it would definitely be God’s will. I had a young son to support, no degree, no job and no money. If that was to be for real—show me!
Did I mention God is awesome?!?
I was accepted to seminary and I was awarded the Crusade Scholarship for two years. Finally, I got it. My research learning about the diaconal ministry was like it was a ministry tailor-made for me. Ministries of service, justice, love—gosh it fit me and was my heart’s call to ministry.
I was consecrated in 1988 and spent fifteen years in ministry with special needs infants and toddlers along with their families. I loved working with the local church and district in addition to leadership opportunities in my community and commonwealth.
Service has been stamped throughout my ministries.
In 2002 I felt God speaking to me saying there was something more for me to do. At a meeting with diaconal ministers and deacon peers, I had my aha moment. Again I was reluctant but desired to stay in God’s will. I did what I needed to do and attended a GBHEM Formation Event to ensure I understood what my transition would entail: laity to clergy status. In 2003 I was ordained a deacon. God continues to guide my path in ministry.
I have so enjoyed continuing to learn about community resources so I can assist to connect and coordinate with local church members inquiries. My appointment continues to be with a local agency.
As a deacon, my servant’s heart is visible daily as a case manager. I have also enjoyed connecting, coordinating and making a bridge within the community as I work with our district lay servant ministries, local food bank, special education advisory committee, Emmaus, Relay for Life, Board of Ordained Ministry, collegiality with pastors and occasional invitations to fill pulpits. I love the versatility and the accountability I have with our church.
God has filled me and used me, an unlikely vessel in a most awesome way. Who wouldn’t serve God? Everything I experienced in my past has prepared me for where I am today. I am glad I responded to the call and be a witness that God’s grace is always sufficient.