Sustained! This one word and its varied uses could describe my journey. Not just our family’s journey from America to New Zealand, but the entire journey from the day I expressed my internal call to my pastor to now.
When I sat down with my pastor, I knew the work was going to be hard. I knew that it would take some time before I would be ordained. I even knew that I would have to return to school. I don’t think I ever realised though how humbling and how difficult it would be. I went into a trade to avoid any further schooling after high school because I didn’t think I had it in me. However, the academic world seemed to be just what I needed. During that time, I sustained damage to my pride. In university, my pride was struck as I studied with people several years younger than me who were of greater intellect. In seminary, the sermons I prepared sustained damage as teachers and students observed things about the passage in five minutes that I missed after weeks of study. My sinful flesh sustained injury as I sat under teachers who taught the word of God. The Word with its double-edged sword exposed my weakness and inabilities. These things often caused me to question the call to the ministry that I felt.
Since that day I spoke with my pastor, I sustained over seven years in higher education, two years back in the workforce to pay off loans, and a year vicariate in New Zealand. It has been over 11 years of intensive training by God. He has placed into my life godly men and women to help me. He even gave me a wife who expressed the patience, gentleness, kindness and even a rebuke of Christ toward me when needed. He put children in my life to help me think about how the gospel ought to shape young ones. The time stretched my patience. Then there were many who encouraged me to continue as they continued in their prayers and support of me.
There is an extensive list of people who helped sustain me through these many years. I don’t have space nor the time to go through and thank everyone. I do praise and thank God for all of you. Know that your faithfulness is being proclaimed throughout the world. Those who supported me in Michigan and Illinois are known among the brothers and sisters in New Zealand because I tell them of your continued prayers and care for me. Those in New Zealand, your love and reception of me is known to those in Michigan and Illinois through contacts that remain in my native country. Most of all my Father in heaven has sustained me. He has been my help and my shield. I know that with God all things are possible. His plan and His way will succeed.
You may have noticed that this post has an air of completion and accomplishment about it. A lot has happened since I last wrote. One thing is on July 8 I had a preliminary examination. This involved presenting a sermon, being questioned on the biblically Reformed understanding of the doctrine of God, and also being questioned on exegeting an Old Testament and a New Testament passage. The examination was sustained. I was then eligible for a call in the Reformed Churches of New Zealand. Ten weeks were required to allow churches to extend calls. Two churches had extended calls before those ten weeks were up. I am happy there were only two because it was a tough decision. Both churches were without a full-time pastor for some time, and both churches had wonderful people who were excited to hear the gospel proclaimed. On the 22 of September, I accepted a call to the Reformed Church of Palmerston North.
Now I had to prepare for the final examination. This test included giving a sermon and answering questions about subjects such as: exegeting an Old and a New Testament passage, Soteriology (doctrine of salvation), ethics, creeds and confessions, knowledge of the Holy Scripture, church history, and church polity. This exam took place at the Reformed Church of Palmerston North on November 4 & 5.
This examination by God’s grace was also sustained! We now look forward to an ordination on the 10th December. The internal call I felt over eleven years ago has sustained (incurred) some injury to push out all pride, but it has also been sustained (confirmed) by the Church and sustained (upheld and supported) by God’s gracious hand. Praise be to God!