by Judi Jackson
Sometimes we think everybody’s path to seminary will be just like ours. But what I have discovered in our twenty-two years on this campus is that God is too creative for that!
God called me to follow Him as a young, insecure preteen who grew up in a rocky family setting but in a solid church environment. I loved my little Presbyterian church on the corner of Carrollton Avenue and Sycamore Street but, even more, I loved the caring adults who treasured me and showed that with unconditional concern and friendship. I knew, even in those unstable times, that God would use the circumstances of my youth to give me compassion and insights for ministry to come.
God called Feleda Keene to ministry while she was ministering. Isn’t that just like Him to confirm His touch on a woman’s life as she wholeheartedly explored what gifts and passions He had equipped her with? Join Feleda as she reflects on one of her early classes on the NOBTS main campus and how the students she met impacted her.
by Feleda Keene
Sometimes being an online student, you can get caught up in the smallness of our world in academia. Even with the discussion boards, there is an aloneness that is lurking in the back of the mind. You know people are learning the same thing you are but, without the eye-to-eye contact, it really doesn’t sink in there are more just like you. Because of these observations, I decided to take the plunge and attend two workshops in the Women’s Ministry department.
Upon arriving at the campus, I was instantly in love with all the oak trees that had survived Hurricane Katrina. In the midst of all those trees were rows of housing for the students who were answering the call that God had placed on their lives. In the center of the campus is a beautiful chapel with a steeple that reaches to the heavens. The sky was blue with the clouds hanging at just the right height for me to see and feel the connection between the chapel and God.
Here is where the beauty of being on campus hit my heart. As I opened the doors to the main building, I instantly saw what might be a small glimpse of heaven. There were men, women, children, of all different ages, sizes, ethnic backgrounds, languages, and from different areas of the world on the campus. Each had dedicated this time of their lives and their spiritual gifts to praise and glorify God.
My workshops were on the second floor. As I ascended a winding staircase, this reminded me of my life. There have been twists and turns but the climb would be worth it. I entered the double doors, with lots of doubt and questions: What in world have I signed up for? How can I ever get this done? I’m middle age, how could God possibly use me? What was I thinking? Yes, for a brief moment, I thought about turning around and going home to Mobile, Alabama, a safe, happy, secure, place. Joshua 1:9 came to my mind, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”¹ Yes, sometimes you have to dig deep with your promise from God and move forward. Fear and all!
As the old country saying goes, I pulled up my bootstraps and walked through the double doors to the workshops. Upon walking in the room, there were ladies of all different ages and stages of life. One was a young mom who had a few months old son. She was determined to keep on studying and be a great mom. One lady was close to my age from Jackson, Mississippi. She had recently lost her son in a motorcycle accident. Her heart was to be better not bitter. She was continuing to walk in her call from God no matter the circumstances. Another young lady was single from South Carolina. She had a heart for writing and young people. One beautiful woman, who was from Texas, shared with me her testimony of how God had changed her whole family’s lives from utter destruction to salvation. She wanted to help others overcome with Christ. The woman sitting next to me was from Louisiana. She had a desire for the young and older women in her church to bond together. A Women’s Ministry leader from a large church in Birmingham, Alabama was there continuing her passion for women and writing. For me, the most inspiring was a woman who described herself as a woman age 55 to heaven bound. The condition of her back had required her to have several back surgeries, a neck surgery, plus a recent knee surgery. She was sitting for long hours with a hurting back completing her course work to do the job God had asked her to do.
On Tuesday, Dr. Rhonda Kelly had a tea in her home. Other women who are studying at the college began to arrive one by one. As we sat at the large table, I began to hear woman after woman share her heart about the calling on her life. Some of the women were getting their Doctorate, Master’s, or Undergraduate degree. Some knew exactly where God was leading them and some were not so sure. One thing we all had in common, we were all studying to show ourselves approved, as 2 Tim. 2:15 encourages us to do.
One young lady had been to Cuba. She talked about how she desperately wanted to go back. She said it cost about $1.60 a minute to talk to her new friends in Cuba. There were times she would choose not to go shopping so she could spend her money on connecting with her Cuba friends. Honestly, she sounded so excited, I thought she was going to burst right there if she didn’t get to go back. Another woman said both she and her husband were living on campus. She joked how she called him “Jonah” even though his name was John. He had run from God and the ministry for so long but now he had completed his degree. She was now focusing on her degree.
Then there was me, a 54-year-old woman from south Alabama who for six years successfully led by God’s hand and grace the Women’s Ministry of a church with over 6,000 members. Our Pastor likes to joke; the FBI couldn’t find half of them (you can insert laughter or sadness; both would apply). In 2008, God gave me what I would describe as a burning bush call to the ministry. In 2010, I clearly discerned Him tell me to give up the Women’s ministry and my job at the church to go home and sit at His feet. Fast forward to 2014: the Lord began to remind me of the calling on my life, letting me know the time was now to move forward.
As I reflected on these amazing women, I kept thinking this one line over and over to paraphrase a Dr. Seuss title, “Oh, The Places We Will Go!”² We will be the hands and feet of Acts 1:8, “but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you: and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Each of us to our own places, in our own calling, near, far, and to some, even wide!
Oh, the Places We Will Go!
¹All scripture citations are from the New American Standard Bible.
²Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (New York: Random House, ©1990), 1.