By Lauren Evans
My memory stretches to remember a time when I did not know about God. It had to be from the very start of my life, that God began pouring out His prevenient grace, leading me to faith, even before I could understand. God used my loving family as a vessel to first introduce himself to me, and at this dawning, I was baptized at the age of six months old.
My first memories of God come from the days of my early childhood, at daycare. I can remember feeling enchantment and peace, especially on the playground: in the air, through the wind and in the light drizzle of an afternoon rain. In elementary school, I became aware, mostly when I was alone, that Someone else, unseen, was with me. I remember thinking thoughts, knowing that I was not just thinking them to myself, but that God could hear them, too.
God was always there, always listening, even if I happened to forget about him in the presence of others. I knew he was, so throughout the day, I would think to God, consult with him, and hear him in my heart. Soon, at church (St. Paul United Methodist), I made the connection and learned who I had been encountering. Yes, it was at church, that I learned who this someone was, that is always with me. God. It was not long before I understood that God is not just someone; God is the One.
I continued to learn about God at church, from my parents, my sister and from Lucy Doolittle, a high school girl in the youth group that I looked up to and loved. Lucy babysat my sister and I for a couple of summers, teaching us about having daily, intentional quiet time with God and reading our Bibles. In time, I had meetings with my pastor, Dr. Keith Ray, and Mrs. Margaret Smith, a gracious lady of compassion who served as a dear Christian mentor to me. Then, at the age of eleven, I confessed and confirmed my faith in God, in Jesus Christ, accepting the gift of God’s love that was initiated so many years before. I began to find myself intrigued by worship elements, wanting to know why we do the things we do when we worship at church. Pastor Keith taught me that worship is a verb; it is not just a thing we do on Sunday morning at church; it is a way of life.
I grew with this knowledge into high school, remaining ever fascinated and captivated by God. I learned God to be the One from which everything emanates. I considered, often, how He was connected to everything that exists and to everything that is part of my being, thought, and purpose. I tried to remember to commune with God ceaselessly, and he revealed the gift of himself to me in every facet of life – from dance choreography, to leaves on a tree, to people and friends that God strategically placed in my life. I wanted to be just like Jesus to others, so God filled up my cup with his light, and I did my best to share this light with all that were around me.
All was well, until I began college. For one of the first times, fear crept into my life, and my child-like faith faded. Without warning, I became consumed, dominated and exhausted by the demon of an eating disorder. Nonetheless, I knew, even in the pain, loneliness and fear, God was there, his hand was upon my life, and somehow, God would use this tribulation for good.
In the midst of my struggle, not far into my freshman year at Clemson University, my roommate, Christina Devon, invited me to go with her to Cooperative Student Fellowship (CSF), on Thursday night. The group met at First Baptist Clemson. From our dorm, I walked with Christina to church that Thursday night, and I never looked back. The people of CSF and First Baptist Clemson not only became my friends, but they became my family of faith and my support group.
Outside of studies, my college life was church. Indeed, I would spend more time at church than in my dorm, on campus or anywhere else. Sure enough, in my suffering, God was drawing me closer, calling me to depend on him and proving to me that he is faithful through the ups and downs of life. It came to pass that if it was not for my battle with an eating disorder, I would have potentially never set foot in the church that became my home away from home and my safe haven –the very church that would later call me to ministry.
Upon graduating college, I received a degree in elementary education. Teaching school was what I had dreamed of doing all of my life. After two consecutive years of searching for a full time teaching position, I came up with two part time jobs: one as a reading interventionist, and one as a dental office assistant. Of course, I was very grateful to have any job at all, but I knew God had to be up to something when the door of every teaching position for which I interviewed closed.
God began to answer my prayer when I received an unexpected phone call, one July afternoon, from Casey Callahan, my campus minister at First Baptist Clemson. He told me that the church was looking for an interim children’s minister, and asked if I would be interested in sending my résumé. I gladly told him that I would, and as soon as I got off the phone, I cried tears of joy and excitement, honored that God would even consider me to do this job.
I thought to God, “Are You sure? I do not know enough to teach your children about you and your story. Yet, how important it is to teach children about the things of eternity. What a privilege, Lord! Are You sure?” Feeling unqualified and eager all at the same time, I submitted my résumé. A few days later, Casey called to ask if I would come for an interview. I did, and I soon began serving as an interim minister to children. Nine months later, I was asked to serve full time as the Director of Children and Family Ministries.
It has been three years that I have served at First Baptist Clemson. The journey of job hunting that I traveled to get to this point has taught me that God’s plans for my life are always vastly better than my own plans. I could have never imagined loving a job as much as I love mine – I get to work at church! Sure, there are some times at my job when I feel like I am limping as I lead – times when I feel like I have no idea what I am doing. Yet, I serve with the hope that I can be a vessel (much like my family and other mentors were to me) to help children discover and know this God who is with them, and who will lead them, just as God has led and continues to lead me.
Lauren was born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina. She graduated from Clemson University, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education. Lauren began serving at First Baptist in September of 2012. Lauren is currently pursuing a Master of Divinity degree at Gardner-Webb University’s School of Divinity in Boiling Springs, North Carolina.