Maintaining integrity in every market



“I thought I left you in Brooklyn,” I fussed under my breath.

Taking a slow sip of my pina colada I smiled broadly at the handsome stranger across from me.  Sitting at an outside café in Freeport, Bahamas on a balmy July evening in 1989 we looked like other couples enjoying late evening drinks under the starry night. Looks, as they say, can be deceiving. I was a non-Christian; he was a fiery evangelist. I was ready to dance the night away; he was focused on sharing his testimony. 

“I thought I left you in Brooklyn,” I fumed again to God, while continuing to stare into my host’s beautiful eyes.

I had been brought up in the church, and even attended regularly.  I was open to becoming a Christian, but just not ready.

“I’ll serve you when I’m older,” I had told God on many occasions.

My life was complete – good job, great friends, a romantic involvement now and then. I wasn’t ready for change.  Unfortunately, it looked like God was about to rein me in.

That's because spiritually, I was a mirror image of the church at Laodicea. Of that church God said,  “I know thy works, that thou are neither cold nor hot:  I would thou wast hot or cold.” Thankfully, He had mercy on my lukewarm soul.

The trip to Freeport was part of my sorority’s national convention.  Mr. Evangelist was the only intriguing man I met.  Unfortunately, he neglected to mention his faith background when inviting me out for “drinks.”  Who would have guessed his beverage of choice was ginger ale? The evening turned out well, despite my host’s incessant, faith-based chatter.

We kept in touch after I left, actually dating about three years before parting ways.  By August of that first year – nearly a month after our meeting – I had accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior.  By November, I joined the church I had attended for years.   During this time, I, like many new Christians, wondered if I was really saved.  Then, right before Christmas I had a vivid dream. It actually was a repeat of a recurring dream I had since high school.  The dream always scared me. I would wake up at a different stage, but always afraid and trembling.  That time it was different.

 “Jesus is that you. Jesus is that you.”  My cries echoed in the darkness of my bedroom as I sat up.

Heart pounding under my sweat-drenched pajama top, I thought about the dream. In it, I had saw a lamb, and a shepherd.  Dropping to my knees, I thanked Jesus for being the lamb slain for me, and for being my Good Shepherd. I knew God was confirming my salvation.  That night He also called me to ministry. Finally falling asleep, I, an insomniac, enjoyed one of the most restful sleeps in years. I neither had the dream again nor wrestled with insomnia.

My life changed dramatically after that. As said, I joined the church I regularly attended, fulfilling all membership obligations.  I was soon baptized. Within a year, among other things, I served as M.C. of special programs, taught Senior High Sunday School (10th - 12th grades), and later, taught a weekly Adult New Members Class.  I loved helping others discover the joy of maturing in Christ.

During this time, my then pastor served as a chairman for the Billy Graham “Mission Metro New York” Rally. I landed a job as an administrative assistant in the Rally office. I later worked more than a year for the New York Bible Society, former founding office of the International Bible Society, publisher of the NIV Bible.

Soon it was time to move on to another church. Only God could have sent me to a place that could so clarify my giftings and callings.  I served that church several years, singing in the choir (and serving as a Soprano Section Leader), assisting with book projects, providing publicity services, interviewing guests for the church's program on Black Entertainment Television, and helping in other ways. It was one of the most fulfilling times of my life. 

A few years later, several dramatic life changes led to my move to Maryland. This time I was happy to learn I had not left God in Brooklyn, NY. He was with me, directing my footsteps, orchestrating divine appointments and opening doors to employment and ministry.  He even restored my writing, providing unbelievable opportunities for me to write, speak and teach.

I served my Maryland church seven years. I was ordained Deacon, then Minister, and finally appointed Elder in 2002.  My early activities encompassed teaching discipleship and leadership classes, writing grants (actually won one -- praise the Lord), delivering sermons, serving as a regular guest on the church's radio program, and launching print and online newsletters.  As an elder I continued some of these, and also oversaw the church in the pastors’ absence, taught a weekly Women’s Bible Study/Fellowship, spearheaded communications activities, and served in many other ways.  Then, in July 2004, the Lord led me to resign. Making the switch to another church was tough, but I knew that God had other tasks elsewhere he wanted me to do.  

Surprisingly, one of those tasks is co-teaching Sunday School to 5th and 6th graders.  Only God.  You see, I used to be allergic to pre-teens, thanks to my many nieces and nephews who were pre-teen terrors. Surprised by joy, I'm having a blast -- really! What an awesome responsibility and privilege to be able to share God's Word and love with youth.  It's also a major challenge.  Words can't express the joy -- and fear, and peace, and hope -- I experience each time I walk into the classroom.  Or the fun and frustration that comes along with playing an impromptu game of football with my students, only to realize "I'm not 12 any more" as I soak night after night in epsom salt.  Sigh.  Or the elation of helping kids realize that they too can lead other kids into a fuller relationship with Christ, as evidenced by their working alongside us adults during a special prayer time at a recent kids retreat.  Even our kids agreed: It was awesome! (I love ministering to youth, parents, and youth workers. Email me to discuss my availability to participate in your event.)

Seriously, I finally understand why athletes return to their chosen sport even after an injury.  Joy and fulfillment outweighs discomfort and pain.  I've discovered the same holds true for God-directed change. 

Finally, even as I wait for my true "Boaz" to be revealed, I enjoy being a fulfilled "daughter of Ruth," who is living a purpose-driven life while working in my field of dreams.  Each day, I thank God for a rich, single life that is filled with joy and purpose. (I love speaking to women, especially singles, and hurting women.  Email me to discuss my availability to participate in your event.)

Change, they say, is inevitable. Still, it’s never easy leaving behind loved ones -- whether that’s family or church friends. Plus, change often ushers in myriad uncertainties. Yet, there is one thing of which I’m certain: God is with me. Once I wanted to leave Him in Brooklyn.  Now I delight in knowing He never leaves me nor forsakes me.

Copyright © 2003-2011 Lisa A. Crayton. All rights reserved.