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.
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.
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.