Ever since I was a young girl growing up in Saco, I felt the presence and the call of God in my life. I could feel Him there when I played in the woods behind our house and knew He heard my prayers in the old Congregational Church on Main Street, where I sang in the Junior Choir. When I had a fever, my mother would come into my room and lay her hands on me, praying for God’s healing. My fever would miraculously go down. God was alive, real and present in my life.
I attended Oral Roberts University my freshman year of college, but left in mid-semester because of homesickness and the college was too strict and legalistic for me. I continued my education at the University of Southern Maine, majoring in communications, eventually working in television news at different stations in Maine and Minnesota as an anchor and news reporter. God was in the background while my career took center stage, rather than answering “The Call” and attending church on a regular basis.
I had always loved the outdoors and was able to become a registered Maine Guide when I was 31 years old. The woods and waters were my church and where I connected to God, who created the heavens and the earth and all of its creatures, including us. When my son Forrest was born in 1995, I went back to church to worship with other believers and to raise my son in the church, as I had been raised. It was a solid foundation that would withstand the storms of life.
At 41, I entered Bangor Theological Seminary, finally answering the call to preach salvation through Christ, and graduated in 2005. It wasn’t easy for women to be ordained in the American Baptist Church, because many believed – and still do – that women shouldn’t be pastors, based on their interpretation of the Bible. I believe one’s heart matters more than one’s gender. Paul wrote to the church in Galatia, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Mary Magdalene was the first evangelist, seeing the risen Christ at the empty tomb on that first Easter morning. Jesus told Mary to tell the disciples what she had seen. “Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her (John 20:18).
In 2010, I was accepted into the doctorate of ministry program at Bangor Theological Seminary. However, my son and I had been the victims of abuse from my now ex-husband for several years and I didn’t know where my life was going. My ex abused substances – legal and illegal – he abused us and killed our dog. The longer I stayed in the relationship, the worse the abuse got. I had kept praying for a miracle – that God would change him, clinging to the words of Jesus, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there, and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20-21). However, I was the mountain that had to move. My son and I sought help from Family Crisis Services and got a protection from abuse order and the police removed him from our home. As far as my wedding vows, I believe that he broke that vow when abuse entered the relationship.
However, my body was experiencing another kind of abuse. In the summer of 2011, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and struggled to work as a writer, pastor and hospice chaplain while undergoing chemotherapy and radiation and going through a painful divorce. I was weak, physically and emotionally, and even questioned God at times about why all this was happening. The answer: God uses the struggles in our lives to help others.
As part of my doctor of ministry project, I founded the group “Peacemakers,” aimed at helping Christians who have been the victims of abuse through workshops, sermons, Bible studies, a Facebook page, education and lectures. When someone is in an abusive relationship, the person wants peace and safety above all else. In his sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).
I am finally climbing out of the darkness into the light, as healing and growth takes place. I am in remission from cancer as well as domestic abuse. My call is to help victims of abuse become survivors of abuse. I am presently the interim pastor at the Second Congregational Church in Biddeford and, with God’s help, will graduate with a doctor of ministry degree in June 2013. Being a servant of Christ isn’t easy, or without pain. However, when we are “In the valley of the shadow of death, God is with us” (Psalm 23).