By Breana Van Velzen
Being a stubborn person, I did not listen to God’s call in my life for years. My mother says I was called at age three. I vaguely remember reading Christian pop theology books as a preteen wishing I could “be a nun who could get married”. For me, however, it really began when I was sitting in my college freshman Asian religions course as I realized I could be immersed in religious studies for the rest of my life quite happily. I squashed the idea. I would be a teacher, and I did teach.
In college, I struggled with my faith—having encountered a vengeful God who hated women, especially women of color, and seemed to only care that abusers were rewarded in the church. I could not understand how a God was a God of love, the God of creation, and yet all of these fundamentalists in my hometown claimed how angry God was and how hot hellfire burned. I decided that I did not need God. I would explore what I actually believed, and God would have to prove Godself to me.
Fortunately, in college, I befriend people who held my faith for me, walked with me through my doubts, and showed me that God did not have to be who I thought God was. I started healing. Through that process, I learned about intentional community, learned Taize, taught Children’s Church and Sunday school, and helped the missions minister. I began discerning a call to ministry. Over three years, my pastors helped me discern, apply to seminaries, and gain church leadership experiences. In my first year of seminary, God made it clear that I was meant to be an ordained minister and serve in the church. I call it my Moses moment. Through BWIMNC and CBFNC, I had ample opportunities for mentorship, professional development, scholarships, advocacy, internships, and networking. I had space to ask questions and see what ministry looked like in different settings.
Currently, I am the community minister at Duke University Chapel. While I do not believe I am called here long-term, I am called here to be present at the intersection of faith and justice, and to care for students and community members alike in their discipleship. Without having had mentors like Ka’thy Chappell, and opportunities to continue to discern my call throughout seminary, I would not be the minister I am today. I participate in a CBF clergy group as well as a BWIMNC mentor group, and both help me to be centered in my Baptist identity and ministry identity while working at an ecumenical university chapel. Having such a winding path as a second career minister allowed me to gain life experience and learn careful discernment. I use the tools I learned along this journey every day in ministry—especially during COVID-19 while we have been navigating what it means to be the church outside of our building. I am grateful for all of the faith, mentoring, and community poured into my life and ministry.
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