I have been collecting call stories from colleagues who are serving in diaconal ministries expressed in the United Methodist Church through the provisional and ordained deacon, diaconal ministers, deaconesses, and home missioners. This week we hear from Rev. Amy Crisp, a deacon serving at Mt. Pisgah UMC in Richmond, Virginia. Here is Amy’s story in her own words:
It was summer 2000. I was fourteen years old and on my first mission trip when I received my call to ministry. I didn’t have a whole lot of experience with church or even much of a relationship with God, but I went on that trip to Mountain T.O.P. because I was excited to spend time with my friends and to nurture my newly developing faith.
Throughout the week, as we served some of the most impoverished people I had seen, sharing our faith together and working alongside one another, something kept tugging at my heart. I couldn’t quite explain it, but I felt like someone was trying to tell me something important about that experience. I spent the better part of the week trying to ignore that feeling, trying to brush it aside, because I wasn’t sure what to make of it. But that tugging, that nudging on my heart just wouldn’t go away.
Fast forward to our last night at camp. Our worship service had a theme of stepping off the dock and into the boat with God. That feeling that I had been trying to pretend wasn’t there came back with a vengeance. We were asked to write down the things that were holding us back from embracing our faithfully, and, when the time came, to bring those forward and place them in a boat in the middle of a little pool. By this point, I couldn’t ignore that nudge on my heart, so I started to pray: “God, if this is you if you are trying to tell me something, I need a sign.” I picked a lit candle on the arms of the cross at the front of our worship space, and I asked God to make it go out.
I watched that candle; waiting. When it was my turn to place my paper in the boat, I eyed that candle the whole way to the front, but it remained lit. As I walked back to my seat, I sort of gave up hope. I sat down in a huff, with my head hung low. But I glanced one more time at that candle. It had finally gone out. I started to cry as I prayed: “Okay, God. Apparently, there is something you are trying to tell me. I’m listening. I have no idea where you are going to take me or what you have planned, but if you go with me every step of the way, I will go.”
I have kept that candle as a reminder of my call, especially for those moments when I face uncertainty or struggle. It has been with me as I grew in leadership in my youth group, as I went off to college with a pre-ministerial scholarship, as I went to seminary. It has been with me as I finally discerned that God is calling me to ministry with young people, to help them realize their gifts, to teach them about God, to inspire them to put their faith into action. And it will be with me wherever God sends me going forward