Authored by Dan Roselle
When I was 21, I studied diligently to become a certified teacher. I’d never wanted to be a teacher, but when I realized God was calling me to this vocation, I accepted it. Initially I taught elementary ages, which I enjoyed, but in 1983 the opportunity came to teach at a private high school. I anticipated that it would be different, but I didn’t realize it would also be difficult.
I taught six classes a day of 40 teenage students each. I stood in front of 240 students every day and it wasn’t easy. In those first months, some of them would make fun of me or would talk during class or cheat on tests, and I didn’t know how to handle these situations. Very quickly I got frustrated and angry at myself for not being able to exercise control in the classroom. After only a few months on the job, I remember sitting on the roof of our apartment building one evening telling Jesus that the job was just too hard. I didn’t like it, and I didn’t want to keep doing it. I was hoping that He would have mercy on me and show me a way to get out of the job, but that’s not the message I got from Him. His response came to me clearly in the form of a Bible verse that I was familiar with. It was 2 Timothy 2:3: “Endure hardship … like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”1 To me the message was clear: Even though teaching these students was difficult, Jesus wanted me to keep at it.
Later I looked up that verse in the Bible to see if there was something more that might guide me, and I was convicted by the preceding verse: “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”2 I sincerely believed that Jesus was telling me to stay with this teaching job, not just to make money to pay our bills, but to use it as a means to witness to the students. He was showing me that my ministry was in that high school among those teens. I went back to the school with a renewed vigor.
After three years of teaching at this private high school, even though I had made many friends among the students and their parents, I felt pretty certain I no longer wanted to teach or work with teens. I didn’t feel it was my calling. I can clearly remember expressing these feelings to my wife one spring evening in Tokyo. Imagine my surprise when the very next day I received a call from a friend who asked if I could teach at an upcoming summer camp for teenagers! I agreed to help, but to be honest I wasn’t completely sure that this is what I wanted to do. I asked the Lord to give me a new perspective for this ministry if it was truly His will for me to continue teaching and working with teens.
One day while I was teaching a class about the importance of honesty in our lives and our relationship with others, something unexpected happened. I felt the Lord impress on me how I needed to be honest with the teens about my feelings of uncertainty and how God was working in my life. It was a deviation from my prepared class notes, and it was difficult for me to be upfront about how I wasn’t interested in continuing to teach teens, but it was probably the most effective class I taught at that camp, because I began to speak from my heart.
I was humbled before them as I confessed my attitude and how awry my perspective had become. And as I expressed this, I began to see how much God loved each one in the room. I began to feel that He wanted people who would help these young people through the difficult and often tumultuous teen years. He needed people who would be there for them, to listen, to show compassion, and reach out and take their hand. And at that moment, I just knew that I wanted to be one of those people.
It was at that summer camp in 1986 that I said a wholehearted “yes” to the youth ministry, and until recently it was my main vocation. The fantastic thing was that as I said yes to the Lord, my perspective about teenagers changed drastically and wonderfully. When I began to see how much Jesus loved each of them, it humbled me; it made me desire to truly become a servant to them. Yes, at different times I was their supervisor, their teacher, their counselor, but I was first of all a servant, someone helping them on their journey to discover what God had in mind for them.
The more time I spent with teens, the more I enjoyed being around them. I have taken teens on trips around the world, living and traveling with them 24/7 for 30+ days at a time. Was my patience tested? Yes! Like when one boy almost got lost in a New Delhi train station among a throng of passengers and I had to chase after him. Did I get bugged? Yes! Like during a trip to Beijing after climbing the Great Wall when I had to correct one of the girls, who then looked at me straight in the eyes and defiantly said, “Who are you to tell me what to do?” She later apologized with a note that brought tears to my eyes. But even with the tough bits, I’ve found this ministry to be one of the greatest joys I’ve ever had in my life. It has often brought tears to my eyes to see the inner turmoil of teens or the difficulties they were going through. They wanted help. They wanted encouragement. They wanted to be loved and accepted for who they were. I was moved to be there for them. They needed someone to understand them and to sometimes just listen. I prayed that I would become that person.
I have found great satisfaction working with teens and it has been a thrill to have a youth ministry for almost 25 years. God had to change my attitudes, some aspects of my personality, and even my desires, in order for me to fulfill the calling He had for me. I can think of several people in the Bible that the Lord had to change in order for them to fulfill the calling He had for them.
One of those people was Moses. When God spoke to him in the famous burning bush scene, it’s almost comical to hear Moses’ arguments back to God.3 His first argument is, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” God then gives Moses beautiful promises—that He will be with Moses, that his mission will be successful, and that the Israelites will find a land flowing with milk and honey—He even reveals His name to Moses and says, “I AM WHO I AM.” He assures Moses that the Israelites will listen to him, and He gives Moses the plan for how to get the Egyptians to listen to him too. But Moses asks, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” God then does two incredible miracles for Moses, right then and there—his shepherd’s staff turns into a viper and his hand becomes leprous and then is healed, all within a few seconds. God even describes a miracle He’ll perform through Moses when he faces Pharaoh. Do you know what Moses says? “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” Ah, another excuse to get out of the job he obviously doesn’t want! God tells Moses simply, “I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” Yet Moses again says to God, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”
Of course you know the rest of the story. Moses did eventually do what God asked him to do, with the help of his brother Aaron, but even after Moses initially obeyed, there was still a process of coming to grips with what God had called him to do. If you read the story straight out of the Bible—starting at Exodus 3—you’ll see that Moses begins to change each time he follows through on God’s instructions. Initially, during the plagues vs. Pharaoh segment, Moses still seems to be struggling with his new calling. When things don’t go right or as he expected, he asks God what He brought him back to Egypt for. But as time goes on, Moses grows into his new role and begins to see it with new eyes. I don’t know how long it took for Moses’ perspective to change, but it does seem like it was a process. Moses then went on to do some incredibly memorable things, as I’m sure you’re all familiar with, and God used him to accomplish something wonderful in the history of mankind. When we talk about the miracles God did for Moses and all the rest, it’s easy to forget that his job was not something he initially wanted or felt qualified for. Yet as he accepted that calling as from God, and as he kept going back to God with his questions or reservations about it, and as he took time to listen to God’s take on things, he eventually did change and perhaps he even grew to enjoy his new mission.
Do you feel that God may be asking you to do something that maybe you don’t feel interested in or qualified for? You might feel that you are too young to receive a calling from God. Not so. A calling can come at any time in your life, and you will probably have different callings over the years. If you feel God is putting a call in your heart, why not take time to ask Him about it? And if you’re having a hard time accepting it, ask God to work with you to adjust your attitude or your perspective as needed. He did it for me, so I know that He can do it for you.
1 New International Version.
2 2 Timothy 2:2 ESV.
3 Exodus 3:1–4:13.
Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by Simon W. Copyright © 2012 by The Family International