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Stephen Purdy, WVoffline

  • Purdy

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My ministry call began in December of 2014 when, as a Stephen Minister, after providing two years of care ministry to a gentleman suffering through a devastating divorce and a second care ministry with a man suffering from Parkinson’s disease. I felt an inner pull at my heart-strings to expand beyond Stephen Ministry to touch more lives. Yet, I had provided care ministry on a one-on-one basis since 2010 as a Stephen Minister and felt like I was truly serving God by helping others. I felt like God pulled at my heart-strings as a way of calling me to do more to serve Him. Although I distinctly felt this “call, ” I questioned if it was real. I wondered if it was genuinely God calling or just a feeling because I experienced fulfillment in the care ministry. This was not the first time I felt an encounter with God.


When I began training to become a Stephen Minister in 2010, about the third week of training, we were studying the concept of “love your neighbor” and how it applies to Stephen Ministry. I struggled with what it means to “love your neighbor.” In my career in law enforcement I dealt with people who were what I considered evil people. How could I love them? Christ tells us in the New Testament to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39). I struggled with that. How could I love someone who did not love others, who exhibited evil behavior? I was reminded that we are all children of God and must learn to minister to each other in love as Christ loved us. For me this concept was very difficult to comprehend. I prayed for guidance and wisdom, for understanding and compassion. One night after saying such a prayer and falling into a deep sleep, I awoke at about 3:30am. I was fully awake and not dreaming. My thoughts were crystal clear. I saw, in my mind’s eye, the unidentifiable silhouette of a person, an image that was backlit, that represented a person for whom I was caring. In the center of his chest was a light that represented the image of God within each of us. I saw a person who was full of Christ who appeared to radiate the Holy Spirit as the light glowed brightly. Then the light faded almost to extinction, and the person no longer shown with the bright light of Christ. A red film began to cover the fading light, representing the evil of the world coming between the person and God. I again looked and saw an image of a light bulb shining dimly within them. It was in a fixture with a cord and plug. The light was fading, almost extinguished.  This person had lost their way and needed help reconnecting with Christ. So, I called on the Holy Spirit and plugged the cord into Christ and the bulb began to glow. As the power of the Holy Spirit increased the bulb glowed brighter, the red film of evil receded until the light of Christ shone brightly again. Then I understood that the way a Christian loves a neighbor is to find that part of the neighbor that has become disconnected from Christ and to call on the Holy Spirit to reconnect their faith and help it grow within them, to nurture that person until Christ shines within them again. For all of us are children of God, and some have lost their way or “gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). It is our responsibility to help them find their way back to Christ by showing them the love of Christ and caring for their needs.


I considered this a God moment. It occurred in September of 2010 and helped me adjust my thinking to better serve the Lord. It made me realize that what I had learned in life to this point was all part of God’s plan for me, and I was still growing and learning. Stephen Ministry was only an extension of His plan for me as I grew and was molded in my faith. God was the potter, I was the clay (Isaiah 64:8).


Now, continuing with my call discernment, because of my background in law enforcement, and my training to challenge the authenticity or reliability of the underlying evidence of a hypothesis (or put another way, to challenge the authenticity of the evidence). The evidence in this case was my feeling of being called into ministry. So, I pushed back, and was hesitant to jump all in or commit to this until I had more confirmation that it was genuine. I prayed for more of an indication that this is what God really wanted. I assumed that if it was not genuine, the feeling would dissipate, and fade into a distant memory. That didn’t happen. The feeling or pull at my heart only grew stronger.


I felt so ill-equipped. To serve God better, I decided to become more educated in what was involved in ministry and expand my understanding and knowledge of Scripture, Christian history, disciplines in faith, and pastoral counseling concepts beyond what was learned in fifty classroom hours of training in Stephen Ministry. In the fall of 2015, I enrolled in a graduate study program in Christian ministry and pastoral counseling at the Rawlins School of Divinity, the seminary at Liberty University. I continued to pray about the call; grew in faith and discovered that ministry takes many forms. My faith expanded with the application of spiritual disciplines of daily reading of the Bible, prayer, and reading devotionals and other faith-based literature. My academic success suggested that ministry was a good fit. I wasn’t doubting God’s plan for me, I was just looking to identify it, define it, and confirm it beyond a reasonable doubt (again a product of my law enforcement background and training).  As I felt His continual pull into ministry, with less reluctance I still pushed back only to discover an even greater pull. I began to feel more equipped to go further into ministry. My faith, knowledge, and commitment to Christ grew beyond my own expectations. I was humbled on several occasions as I struggled to keep pace with the demands of academia.


My apprehension dissipated when another event occurred. I reluctantly put off an invitation in 2016 to participate in a “Walk to Emmaus.” I had declined to participate because of the timing of the invitation and the conflict it posed with my class schedule. However, in the fall of 2017, I was once again invited to “Walk.” I checked my course schedule and the walk was scheduled precisely during a semester break between courses. Is this divine intervention and guidance? I accepted the invitation and took the “Walk.” I was still praying about the call into ministry and looking for affirmation. The experience during the Emmaus walk affirmed in an amazing and overwhelming way that this call was meant to be. I witnessed God’s love in such depth and intensity that I was in awe of how the Lord had worked in my life to draw me into His service. How this Emmaus Walk occurred precisely during a week between courses. During the “Walk, ” I witnessed people I did not know, sharing their love of Christ with me. I saw people from my church take time out of their own busy schedules just to support those of us on the “walk.” People went out of their way to drive my wife to an evening “Emmaus” support event. Although I did not get to talk with her, or the others from our church who also showed up to support me and others on the walk, I was moved that they took the time to show their support and love. I received letters of encouragement and blessing from people I did not know. It became emotionally overwhelming and a beautiful example of Christ’s sacrificial love. I experienced God’s love at a level beyond what I ever thought possible. To me, this was an example of His love for me and a confirmation of His divine guidance in my life. There is no longer any question in my own mind and heart, that God has called me into ministry. There is no longer any reasonable doubt of the call. My prayer is now directed toward defining that call and, with God’s help, structuring and directing my ministry to fulfill the call.


With the Lord’s help and blessings, I successfully completed a master’s degree in Christian Ministry and Pastoral Counseling in December 2017. I am no longer apprehensive about entering ministry, rather I am confident. Confident because I am sure that with God by my side and the Holy Spirit in my heart, I can be effective in my call into ministry.

In the past several years, I have given over 20 sermons and lead at least a dozen worship services at church. Recently I was a team member on a Kairos Prison Ministry weekend at North Branch Correctional Institution in Cumberland, MD. This ministry experience was a spiritual event that resulted in bringing at least one inmate to Christ and opening the hearts, and minds of many other inmates to Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Participants were from a variety of denominations including Muslim and Nation of Islam. At the closing ceremony all acknowledged the work of the God, Son and Holy Spirit in their lives. This shows that there is hope as we spread the gospel message and witness in love to the work of Christ in our own lives.

I have been leading worship services at a local nursing home as a lay person and feel that God is calling me to become ordained and licensed so my ministry on behalf of Christ can be complete. I have also been a leader of small group Bible studies over the last seven years; a Stephen Minister for 9 years; and have conducted hospital visits and home visits for members of Crums United Methodist church of which I am currently a member. My wife is very supportive of me in these ministry calls.

I am currently retired a retired Special Agent with the United States Secret Service. I have been a registered member of Boy Scouts of America since 1956 and have served in numerous youth and adult leadership positions. I am an Eagle Scout and earned my religious award, God and Country, in 1962 at the First Christian Church in Independence, Mo. I have undergone numerous security clearance background investigations. Over the last two years I have formally applied to the United Methodist Church to become a licensed local pastor. However, because of the itinerancy requirement, it is not looking like a good fit. Their mandatory retirement age is 72. I am now 70 and in good health. It appears that for me to respond to fulfilling God’s call into ministry I will need the flexibility (ordination and licensing) to spread the gospel beyond the walls of the church, into the community (nursing home in particular), Boy Scouts as a Chaplain, as a guest supply pastor in the community, and to continue in the Kairos Prison Ministry as a member of the clergy, and to perform ministerial duties such as weddings, funerals, baptisms, communion services, etc. I am passionate in serving the Lord and spreading the gospel message.

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