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Exploring a Call

a church vocations dinner for students

Sarah Schlabach, Sarah Loyer (red top, resident director), Kate Waller, Tim Shenk

Hearing God's call was the topic on everyone’s mind during the "Exploring a Call: a church vocations dinner for students” banquet for students willing to give thought, prayer and consideration to God's call to pastoral ministry, church leadership or seminary study.

Sponsored by EMU's campus ministries department and EMS’ office of church partnerships, the banquet honored 25 EMU students selected by local pastors, professors and resident directors, who nominated students with promise for pastoral ministry, church leadership or seminary study.

Mark Wenger, Kathy Weaver Wenger and Muzet Felgar, pastors at Springdale Mennonite Church, considered active young adults in the church, gifted and interested in spiritual and church matters. These students have also given thought to church vocations. Others, like Nancy Heisey, professor and chair of the Bible and Religion Department at Eastern Mennonite University said she recognized "maturity, a sense of direction, a warm and open spirit, and an ability to think about deep questions."

One resident director decided to nominate someone who wasn’t currently involved in ministry opportunities. She invited a senior, whom she knew through personal interaction has a desire to seek God's plans for her life. "I saw in her real gifts of ministry – some of those gifts like listening and discerning that are sometimes overlooked for the more 'up front' gifts of speaking, or teaching."

Julie Haushalter, associate campus pastor at EMU and EMS, opened the time of storytelling by reflecting on the theme of call. "In the Bible, most of the people had to be called twice before they answered it." Haushalter reflected that call takes into consideration a person’s passion and past experiences. “God has a unique purpose for each of us, using our unique gifts, and our unique experiences." Some people may have a single call that they respond to, such as Samuel’s call to be a priest. Others may have a variety of projects that they will be called upon to complete.

Shaunna Payne and Mike Clemmer, current students at EMS, reflected on their own journeys into seminary and pastoral ministry. Ervin Stutzman, dean of EMS, also shared his story of call into pastoral ministry and other areas ministry and church vocation.

Marlana Via, a sophomore EMU student said:

"When Nan asked me to go to the 'Exploring the Call' dinner, I was flattered. I have been 'tapped' before in regards to ministry and very strongly feel the 'call', but don't yet know it what capacity. So, anytime I have the opportunity to learn from others and what they have experienced and the unique ways God has called them, it's a true blessing. When people have the opportunity to open up about their call, it's amazing how many things in our walks with Christ parallel. The reminder of 'we are where we are meant to be' and to use our current situations to do God's will is always needed.

At this stage in our lives we are trying to figure out our whole lives, which is very intimidating and stressful. It was great to hear that we will likely not do as our grandparents did and stay/work in one place, but instead move around. I also enjoy hearing all the ways that God works in lives, as long as we give him our whole self and be willing to do His will. I think having people of ministry realize the talents that lie within students and 'tap' them can have a lasting impact, and to openly explore this can open up a new ministry and impact many lives. All it takes is that one tap, mention, whisper that can change our lives forever."

Sarah Loyer, an EMU resident director, nominated several students for the dinner. She said, “I attended this event initially because I really hoped it would be beneficial for my students, but it turns out that I, too, was challenged beyond expectation by the stories of the speakers, particularly in Mike Clemmer's story of God's call being persistent and the quote he shared: ‘Each new level of growth requires a new level of sacrifice. When we stop sacrificing, we stop growing.’ It was ‘just like God’ to bring me to a place where I thought I was ministering to others, only to find that it was me who walked away having been spoken to and challenged.”

Church Vocation Banquets is a key component of the "Culture of Call" Lilly Endowment, Inc. grant to Eastern Mennonite University and Seminary.

"Culture of Call" relates with Mennonite congregations to create a Culture of Call by recognizing gifted persons who may be called to pastoral ministry. For a number of years, "Culture of Call" has been working primarily with area Mennonite conferences to support and equip congregations to recognize and call out persons with ministry potential.