HOW TOTO BROUGHT ME BACK TO THE CHURCH
BY GREGORY MILLS
In my 20s, like many young people, I found sleeping in more appealing than waking up to go to church each Sunday morning. As a preachers kid, I had always grown up in the church. When I moved to Florida to start my career, I started going to a large church and ran the sound each week for the traditional services but after a while I slowly drifted away.
One day I decided to buy a dog. I ask God to give me the perfect dog for me and little did I know, He would. I went to the SPCA and found a little dog that whose hair was 3" long and the rear half was shaved to 1/2" because the previous owner had not kept him brushed and groomed so he was full of knots. He looked like a little monster so I named him Munster. He did not bark and was already house broken. He was the perfect dog.
Meanwhile, the actress Lindsey Alley from Disney's the New Mickey Mouse Club was playing Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz at Theatre Winter Haven in Florida and had a summer job home from college at the Polk Museum of Art when I work at. They needed a dog to play Toto and everyone said to her she needed to meet Munster. They were a perfect match and over the summer, Lindsey's family practically adopted me. At then end of the summer, on her last Sunday before returning to college, Lindsey wanted me to come to church with her- the very church that I no longer was going to. Instead of the traditional service, her family was involved in the contemporary service where Lindsey was one of the lead singers. I had never been to a contemporary service and did not think it would be for me since it was not what I grew up with.
God has a way of putting us where we need to be when we need to be. The contemporary service had one problem. They did not have anyone to run the sound. One of the pastors looked up and say me sitting with the Alley family and walked down during the 2nd song and said to me, go run the sound. That was 19 years ago and I have been in the sound booth ever since. I am also a photographer and a sculptor and so the church has used my artistic skill to make the altar and several crosses around the building. I have been able to find my calling, and use my talents for Gods purpose and it was all because I asked God to let me find the perfect dog for me.
Listen to RIck Mills, a retired minister from North Carolina, as he tells his story of how he was called to the ministry. (Click the play button above)
What If I Want to Do This....?
By Rev. Andy Whitaker Smith
I grew up more or less believing the only people who were called into Ministry were those who absolutely did not want to do it. My hometown pastor at the time had told us he wanted to be a zoologist, but that God had called him to be a pastor, which he absolutely did not want to do, but did as a submission to God’s will. So when my next pastor in college said to me and everyone in a Bible study group: “We’ll get you into seminary, yet,” I was confused. 1) I wasn’t entirely sure what “seminary” was, and 2) I knew enough that it had something to do with becoming a pastor—and while the idea of working in a church sounded appealing to me, I instantly remembered that people do not choose to be pastors….God chooses for them. And so since I thought it was something I’d like to do, God must not be calling me into it.
It took me a long time to get over that belief. In 2005, I went with a mission group from my church to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi to help with relief work after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. We were there early enough that the majority of our work was ripping down and pulling out the debris which used to be the homes and possessions of the people who were ravaged by these storms. We spent an entire week sledge-hammering walls, crowbarring cabinet doors, holding people in shock, and crying alongside residents who had lost everything in the midst of a town which had been absolutely destroyed. I remember thinking the bare trees were like giant statues of people who had lost all limbs. Each night ended with our group and other workers reading scripture together, trying to see how God was at work in the midst of so much destruction….and then each morning being awoken by a single bird, at the top of these bare trees, singing out in the silence.
When I returned home, I went to our busy downtown street, watching people walk past each other without any notice, and thinking to myself: “Is this all there is?” During the next several weeks I asked myself over and over: What if my desire to be in ministry is part of God’s call….?
I no longer believe that God only calls those who answer kicking and screaming, or that in order to be called to be a pastor, one must feel as though it is more of a burden than a hope. The truth I believe is that we are all called to serve and love in some capacity—in the gifts and means we have, in the contexts and circumstances we are in. Whether it’s ordained/professional ministry, or an aspect of our everyday life, everyone has a value and worth to share with others.
Someone needs to hear your story, and your story can change someone’s life.
Rev. Andy Whitaker Smith
First United Methodist Church