Where do I begin? I grew up in the tiny Midwestern town of Marion, Ohio. You may have heard of it if you’re a big fan of cows or corn. I grew up with a very busy Christian mother who rarely went to church, but I did spend a few of my summers visiting Vacation Bible Schools with friends. I grew up knowing that I was a Christian without actually knowing what being a Christian meant. I tried to put together the pieces of the Christianity puzzle at a very young age, sometimes very unsuccessfully. Take for instance, me as a seven year old telling my mother I wanted to be a nun. I didn’t know what a Catholic was, or even a nun for that matter. But I did know that a nun loved God and spent her life worshiping him and for some reason that appealed to me. When I was nine I started to sort things out a bit more and decided that becoming a missionary would be more my style. I’m sure my mom was completely baffled, wondering how the other mom’s got it easy with the kids that wanted to be astronauts or firefighters. As I got older and more involved in school, I drifted farther and farther away from God. By the time I graduated from high school I had gone 5 years without attending a single church service. I was rebelling against my parents and being completely selfish about the life choices I made. Thankfully God hadn’t given up on me and he opened a new chapter of my life just in time.
A year ago today was the day that I left the comfort of home and traveled hours and hours away to start my life in Greensboro. I was an 18 year old college freshman with dreams of leaving home and never going back (except for maybe Christmas), becoming a lawyer, talking to the pizza delivery guy more than my parents, and eating a well balanced meal of Ramen noodles and Pepsi. “Life can’t get any better than this!” I thought to myself.
At the start of the semester I was living it up at UNCG. I thought I had it all together. I went out with my friends, made it to most of my classes, spent a lot of my daddy’s money at the mall, and still managed to get my school work done. As the semester progressed I slowly began to realize that something was missing from my life. I thought maybe I was just homesick. Upon returning back to school after Christmas break I realized that no, I wasn’t homesick. That’s when God decided to step in.
One day I woke up and thought to myself, “I really want to be a minister.” Why? I have absolutely no idea. Where in the world did that come from? Going from wanting to be a lawyer to wanting to be a minister? I didn’t even go to church, I didn’t even know who Paul was and I was supposed to preach the word? After a little bit of thinking and contemplating I realized that hey, God works in mysterious ways. So I decided to let God do his thing and I would follow his lead. So okay, a minister. I can handle that. Now I just have to take back all of those promises I made my parents about buying them houses back when I was going to become a lawyer. I figured if I wanted to become a minister I had better go to church and I decided on College Park. Why? I have absolutely no idea. To this day I don’t know what drove me to College Park. I got out of bed, got dressed, and walked to church. I sat in the very back pew by myself and tried to follow the service as best as possible, although the “sit, stand, sit, stand, sit, stand” part kind of threw me off a bit. I filled out a response card and left feeling accomplished. Somehow, I knew I had found my home in Greensboro. A few days later I got a call from Daniel Ingram welcoming me to College Park. I told him about the call to ministry that I thought I was hearing and he said, “ Oh, well you should talk to my wife.” We all went out to lunch the following Sunday and the rest is history. I had found my home here at College Park.
Because of my interest in youth ministry I was given the chance to try my hand at working with the youth of the church, which has turned out to be an incredible experience. I decided that I would use them as my test group. I would test out the youth ministry waters, observe Marnie doing her job, and decide whether or not I thought this would be the right career choice for me. Before I began working with the College Park youth I didn’t have much experience in this field. I was incredibly nervous, worrying about whether the group would like me or not, whether they’d even notice I existed, and worrying that I would go absolutely insane after my first night with them and rip my hair out. I’ve never been so wrong in my life. Whether these youth know it or not, I looked up to every single one of them. Every one of them has a unique characteristic that is admirable and I wish I could keep them all here forever. I’ve learned more from them then I ever imagined I would. I recently chaperoned the trip to PASSPORT and after a long, tiring week I went home feeling like I had gotten know all of the youth a lot more, and not even through deep, philosophical discussions. We talked about boyfriends, girlfriends, lacrosse, marching band, dinosaurs, career and college aspirations, and our favorite discussion topic, pirates. They all know what I’m talking about.
This entire congregation has given me an amazing foundation on which to build my faith and spread my wings. The people here have given me the boost I’ve needed in order to place my life completely in the hands of God while having faith that he’ll lead me wherever it is I’m meant to be. For the people of this congregation and for my always supportive family I am forever grateful.
I can’t explain why I’m here, how I got here, or what’s driving me to keep going. All I know is that I’ve never felt so loved or been as happy as I have since starting on this journey. I didn’t decide to be baptized today just because I thought it was the next logical step in my career path. I’ve decided that I want to be baptized because I want to make a public declaration of my devotion to God. I’m ready to dedicate my life to honoring and obeying God, deepening my faith, and becoming a positive Christian role model for those around me. Through baptism I am making a pact with God and with the Christian community to follow Christ’s lead and in turn become a leader that will have a positive impact on the lives of those around me. I am dedicated, from this day onward, to living my life as a Christian while allowing God to take the lead.