Heart Matters: God’s Little Messenger

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I started praying about moving from the
corporate world to full-time ministry years ago on a trans-Atlantic
flight. My wife and I were returning from a mission trip to Russia
where we’d served orphans. When I’d left for the trip, I naively
imagined the big impact I’d have on those kids — but the exact
opposite happened. I left Russia feeling I’d received so much more
than I’d given. On that flight home, I told my wife I thought God
was calling me to full-time ministry. Her response: “That’s nice,
dear. Get some sleep.” But even after the plane landed and
jubilation over our trip waned, I still felt God trying to tell me
something…I just wasn’t quite sure what it was.

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About a year had passed when I read in our bulletin that our church
was looking for a children’s pastor. My first reaction was,
Where’s Joe going? I spoke with Joe that afternoon and
learned that his dual role as recreation pastor and children’s
pastor had grown too large, so he was focusing on the recreation
ministry.

“You want the job?” he asked.

I flashed back to Russia. I felt God dialing my number again, but I
wasn’t ready to answer. I was a successful district director of 12
hotels. I had a company car, excellent benefits, a good salary. I
told Joe I’d pray about it.

We had two kids, Lindsay, 5, and Cameron, 2. Despite the perks of
my job, I desperately wanted more time with my kids. As it was, I
traveled about 80 percent of the time. After I talked with Joe, I
wondered if maybe God wasn’t only calling me away from my current
career, but also toward my family. Over six months, I continued to
listen to the sound of God dialing — but I still didn’t pick
up.

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Then one day I could no longer ignore God’s call. I was leaving for
an out-of-town, weeklong trip. The night before my departure, I had
to correct Lindsay’s behavior. Whenever we discipline our kids, I
always follow up with hugs and discussion. We talk about what
happened, consequences of our choices, and what we’d do
differently. And always I affirm my love for them. But for some
reason — I can only attribute it to how busy I was preparing for
the trip — that particular time I didn’t follow up. Lindsay went
to bed, left to find her own conclusions.

I left early the next morning, so I didn’t get to tell Lindsay
goodbye. She pondered the situation all week; I didn’t see her
again until the following Friday. When I arrived home, Lindsay was
waiting at the door to greet me. Before I could say a word, she
burst out with, “Daddy, I’m sorry I was a bad girl! I don’t want
you to leave again, so I’ll be a good girl from now on!”

My heart dropped and a tear (maybe two) fell from my eyes. My
little girl had been under the impression all week that I’d left
town because she was a “bad girl.”

Right then and there, I picked up God’s call. Looking into the
earnest eyes of God’s little messenger, I made up my mind to leave
the corporate world of travel, money, and glitz for a world of
teaching with puppets, drawing with crayons, and sipping tea at
parties with my little girl.

It’s been years since I accepted that position, and I’m blessed to
be the children’s pastor. We have four kids now, and Lindsay is the
apple of my eye. Because of her, I’m a full-time husband and daddy.
I’m a baseball coach, bedtime tickle monster, children’s pastor,
and her biggest fan. And also thanks to her, I’ve learned to pick
up the phone when God’s on the other end.

Mike Gaskins is a children’s and family pastor in
Lawrenceville, Georgia.

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