Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Journey I Never Expected...

The summer between my Freshman and Sophmore year of High School, I attended Nazarene Youth Congress.  That event changed the course of my life because during one of those worship services, I felt a call to full time Christian service...but I didn't know in what form as yet.  So, my journey began.

My family had been in Evangelism when I was growing up and I had a decent singing voice so I thought perhaps I was supposed to be a song evangelist.  But, I really had no idea if that was what I was supposed to do.  By the middle of my first semester at Trevecca Nazarene University, I was feeling pulled in a different direction and I changed my major from Vocal Performance to Music Business and I really felt like I was supposed to be used within the music industry...perhaps as a producer of Christian music or something of that nature.  But, I became ill before I finished my Music Business degree (though I had finished all the music classes, I lacked some of the business courses), and it seemed like God had a different plan for me.  My illness would not allow me to return to finish the few credits I lacked so I graduated with an AA in General Studies.  I was determined to follow that plan, but I still didn't know what that was.

While I was praying and trying to find out God's will for me, I took jobs as a church secretary and then later secretarial positions at both Ball State and Anderson University while I tried to discern God's plan for me.  For a time after college, I really thought I was supposed to make Christian films and one day own my own studio. I performed in Community Theater and learned all I could about performing and putting on performances and while I loved it, it still didn't seem like the right fit.

By this time I had moved back to Indiana and had been attending my home church in Middletown where I was a volunteer in both the children and youth departments.  I helped in any way they would let me.  Rev. Jill Waltz gave me added responsibilities and I was even slightly paid for a time as a leader of one of the areas.  I loved working with the children and I enjoyed seeing their eyes light up as they started to understand a Biblical concept or beam with pride when they memorized a scripture. For five years, I worked with Jill and she trained me in many aspects of children's ministry...but the whole time, I was struggling.  I couldn't figure out why the Lord wouldn't show me where He wanted me to work.  What was His plan?

And then one day, it hit a lighting bolt.  "You are to be a Children's Pastor."

And then the questioning began..."You can't mean me?  My Dad's a Pastor.  My brother is a Pastor.  You surely don't need me in the pastorate too?"

But God replied, gently but firmly, "Yes, I do.  I need you to be a Children's Pastor."

So, I went into Children's Ministry.  I received my first Local Minister's License from the Middletown Church of the Nazarene in 2003, took my first full time ministry assignment as the Children and Youth Pastor at the Muncie Southside Church of the Nazarene in 2004, was given my first District License in 2005 and have been working toward becoming and Ordained Elder since that time. 

This is not a journey I ever planned to take.  I knew when I started on it that it would not be easy.  In fact, at first I was terrified at the thought of being a Pastor. I knew that it would include new challenges, moments of joy, heartbreak, new friends, hard work, exhaustion and exhilaration.  But I also knew that the One who called me would walk through all those times with me.  And from the first step of this Journey...I never again felt like I wasn't where I was supposed to be.  I knew I was doing what God wanted.

Twenty five years ago, I told the Lord that I would go anywhere, do anything, and be whatever He wanted me to be.  So far that journey has literally taken me across the country, out of my comfort zone, and into places I never dreamed. On May 4th,  after 10 years and working toward the goal on four Districts in three States, I will be Ordained as an Elder in the Church of the Nazarene.  And I want to say "Thank you" to all of you who have supported me on this journey.  Whether you were there when it started 25 years ago, or have come along side me at some point since then, I want you to know that you are a blessing to my life. 

The Journey is by no means over, but this will be a milestone marker in my life and I just wanted to take a moment and reflect on the road that has brought me to this point.  God has been and continues to be my Guide, my Comfort, my Shelter, my All...and I look forward to continuing to follow His lead.


  1. Toni, you are an amazing woman of God. I am thankful for being able to have called you my pastor and my friend. I rejoice in your journey and look forward to what God has in store for your future.

    1. You are too kind. I'm glad to be your friend as well and enjoy seeing how God is using you!

  2. And we couldn't be more proud and thankful!

  3. Toni- You are one of God's best! Thank you for pouring yourself into these kids' lives! I love you!

  4. Toni,
    I am so happy to have witnessed and benefited from your commitment to Christ in Children's ministry. How exciting that you have reached Ordination. I hope to be in the crowd of fellow ministers who lay hands on you in that sacred time. Milton Wilson