The alarm echoes into my dreams reminding me that it’s 6am and the weekly hustle ‘n’ bustle continues.
It’s Thursday. I roll over in my bed, hubby Collins just leaving out for work, he’s a bus driver working shifts.
I spend some devotional time with God in prayer, take a breath and then I am on… Thursdays are full on.
Isaiah my 10 year old has to be ready to go by 7am when the cab arrives; Elijah, 15, takes the longest time to get ready, not helped by him constantly texting; Malachi, 16, is taking ages in the shower and my youngest Zion-Ezekiel, 5 is repeating this week’s favourite gospel song… ‘When Jesus says Yes… nobody can say No’. Hectic is an understatement.
Eventually I leave home at 8am, then it’s a 12-mile drive to work, dropping off the boys en-route, and arriving at church for morning prayers at 9:15am. I meet with the church secretary to chat over church business and any outstanding issues. Thursday afternoons I often do pastoral visits - I so love this part of what I do. It is such a privilege for someone to share their story with you and to be there to listen and pray.
I rush to do school pick up then over to my daughter’s (praise God he gave me a church that is in the same road as my daughter, Kristina, who lives with my granddaughters Imani and Taylor-Mae). Pick up the girls then it’s off to McDonalds to eat, before dropping them all off by Kristina and then running over to church for the 7:30pm deacons’ meeting. It finishes just after 10pm; I scoop up the boys and drive home.
Get in at 10:45; a long day. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining. I love my life as I am finally living out the purpose that God always had for me. I am following the call into ministry that God laid on my heart many years before I recognised or understood what it was. I never desired, wanted or intended to be a pastor. My life story before Christ was extremely colourful. I had countless difficult times before I heard the call of God the Holy Spirit, was saved and transformed. My testimony is not pretty: rejected, affected, used, abused, damaged and confused, addicted, afflicted, searching for love and acceptance in all the wrong places, empty and alone inside, broken into so many pieces. It was not till I finally realised that void inside me, that void we are all born with is a God-shaped void; and to be truly complete we need to ask for forgiveness, submit to God and allow him to fill that void. I had spent many years trying to fill it with a whole manner of things. It was only when I let go of all I was and let God in that I became whole.
I had resisted God’s calling for the longest time, tried negotiating with God about his timing, had a catalogue of excuses. I am a black woman with a small baby, a husband, seven children, grandchildren, limited finances - like he didn’t know. But God just wasn’t listening. When I had run out of excuses I submitted to God, promising myself that I would always be authentic and committing to always being
obedient to him.
I spent the next three years of my life having my call tested while being transformed at Spurgeon’s College where I gained, with support, deep theological, biblical, pastoral knowledge and understanding; unlimited access to unimaginable spiritual direction and discipleship and opportunities to journey alongside Holy Spirit-filled men and women tutors and fellow students. At Spurgeon’s my gender and my race were completely irrelevant to my calling, though I am grateful that they equipped me to understand that not all the world would share their biblical understanding.
The Lord has brought me such a long way through extreme difficulties, consuming valleys and mountains that were so high at moments I wondered how I was going to make it, but God just kept breaking down all the barriers. My journey has been arduous but even in those desperate, alone moments God has never left or let go of me.
I questioned my calling in those early days; questioned whether I, whose life before Christ was more akin with the woman at the well, was worthy to be a pastor/minister - a servant-leader-shepherd. God showed me; his calling on my life had nothing to do with being worthy or righteous because we are all sinners and none of us is worthy, none of us are born righteous - none of us can stand in our own right. It’s about God’s infinite grace and mercy and being committed to being in relationship with God and being obedient in all matters regardless. God has called me and set me apart so that’s all that matters – I rest on that.
The hardest thing for me was that I met Christians who disputed that calling, solely based on my gender; I met Christian leaders who felt that
because God had gifted me with children, some who had additional needs, that disqualified me; that because I choose to wear my hair in dreadlocks that made my calling ‘questionable’. I was told that it was ridiculous to believe that I could be a pastor of a church and a mother to seven children.
I would reply that God called me, so who am I to question? (And isn’t seven supposed to be the biblical number of completion?) My identity is firmly in Christ. I refuse to allow other people’s perceptions to define me. The hurdles were many and seemed relentless at times from unchurched, from Christian brothers and sisters, from Christian elders and leaders, from friends and family.
Even with the church which I love so much, the process was at times painful: after they had agreed to have a minister-in-training, they had to have a subsequent meeting to determine whether they would accept a woman minister-in-training. When they wanted a permanent minister they had to vote to accept a female minister; and even then, after having been there two years, there was an open interview process where I was considered against others. The interview itself was a two-hour interrogation. I drove home in tears, wounded but not broken. God was not sleeping and had a plan, but it was a painful process.
I think many people were surprised when the church called me. The first woman, and a black woman. I was also the first minister in the history of the church to be given a fixed term year contract (offering a get-out clause - just in case). God is able; he can and he does and he will equip and enable me to be all he wants me to be. I love being a pastor serving God and serving God’s people. I have so much joy and a deeper level of fulfilment than I have ever experienced.