God changed the course of our lives just three weeks after we began attending Hillside Lutheran Brethren Church in Succasunna, New Jersey. Nathanael and Carrie S. came to present the work God was doing in and through their lives in Chad, Africa. Since I had sensed God’s call on my life as a young teenager to go to Africa as a missionary nurse, my husband and I prayed. We agreed that God was calling us to pursue this path.
Looking back, we see that God was preparing us. He had opened doors for me to become a registered nurse and to pursue a master’s degree in International Public Health. When I didn’t think I could take small children to the mission field, Nathanael and Carrie, with an eight-month-old baby at the time, were the embodiment of raising a family in that setting. God answered the questions and doubts that I had during this journey with a clear response: “Trust and follow me.” Even our children, ages five and seven, had not been overlooked by God. They are excited to go to the mission field. They have such a joy for this journey. God paves the way, and we try to be faithful to follow where he leads.
The next step—seminary. We moved from New Jersey to Fergus Falls, Minnesota to deepen our biblical preparation. In Romans 1:4-5 (ESV), Paul greets the church in Rome with words that directly apply to this step: “Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations…”
Why am I at Lutheran Brethren Seminary (LBS)? My husband and I are here “for the sake of his name among all the nations.” We are studying and prayerfully preparing to serve as missionaries to an unreached people group in Chad—those without access to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. It is this knowledge that we are so blessed to know and continue to grow in during our time at Seminary.
The scriptural basis for attending Seminary is stated through a question in Romans 10:14 (ESV). “How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?” God desires all the nations to know and praise his great Name. I am here to learn more about our God who loves us and knows us intimately, so that I can share that love with those who do not yet know him.
How am I doing it? At Seminary I have received an unprecedented amount of grace and mercy. Grace: God’s unmerited favor; God giving me what I don’t deserve. Mercy: God’s sparing me from what I do deserve. All this for me, an unworthy sinner. Seminary has helped me to examine who I am as a fallen human being at the feet of a holy God. And more importantly, who God is: unchanging, forgiving, gracious, merciful, just, yet loving. Why would God bestow this unmerited favor and mercy on me? Because of who Jesus Christ is and what he did on the cross. Because of Jesus, I can stand before an amazingly holy God, and be seen as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18; Revelation 7:14).
I did not understand the depth and breadth of this simple word grace until very recently. I have never known God as intimately as I have come to know him through my studies and life here. God’s grace has blown my faith out of the water and taken it to a whole new level. God is using this time to reveal himself to me, to deepen my faith in him, and to take me on an incredible journey of trusting him. I want to think that I have it all together, and that I can make the “right” or “best” decisions for my life, but my time here has shown me that the only One who truly knows what is in my best interest is God. The closer he draws me to himself, and the more faith he grows within me, the more beautiful the journey becomes. I have had to face things about myself that were not pretty, things I did not want to admit to. However, coming out on the other side of confession and repentance, my faith is stronger, and I have a fuller, more complete picture of the God my faith is in. It is out of his agape love for me that he creates within me a response of faith in him.
At Seminary we receive a sort of apostleship. While I would never consider myself an apostle like Paul, in a sense all seminarians are training as apostles to go out into the world to share the message of Jesus with those who do not know him, and to encourage and edify those who already do. What is taught in the classroom is the most practical education I have ever received—it truly shows me how to live out my life in Christ. Each year at Seminary is built upon the years prior, with this year proving to be the culmination of all I have been learning to date. It is so amazing to see how all the pieces fit together. I am continuing to learn who God is as I study what he has revealed about himself in his Word. Knowing I will never have a full understanding, it is a joyful journey I can take the rest of my days here on earth to get to know him better, ultimately to truly know him one day in glory.
LBS is faithful to the call to train workers for the harvest. They are faithful to what God has called them to as professors and leaders, and they are faithful to the students they enroll. Learning from both their instruction and example has proved to be the most meaningful part of my time at LBS. Their faithfulness encourages my faithfulness. Being around and witnessing the faculty and fellow seminarians traveling God-honoring journeys encourages my faithfulness to live a God-honoring life.
It is out of this “received grace,” that I could never earn of my own merit, and the “apostleship” that I have received at Seminary, which has grown and brought about “obedience of faith,” so that I may be able to share that life-giving and life-changing faith with the nations that God calls me to, “for the sake of his name among all the nations.” The source of this truly amazing grace and apostleship that creates obedient faith within me to share with the nations? The answer is found at the beginning of the passage: Jesus Christ our Lord.
Claire R. and her husband Dan are currently studying at Lutheran Brethren Seminary in preparation for mission work in Africa.