Blog Post 10/23/22
RECEIVING AND ANSWERING MY CALL by Pastor Colette Stringfield-Rhodes
A dear Sister of mine asked me a question the other day…it took me awhile to gather up my memory in order to answer her. Don’t worry it is all coming back to me in leaps and bounds, and I won’t keep you in the dark.
In recent years, I was feeling the Call to extend my ministry beyond semi-retirement. God told me this was the most important phase of my ministry. And I know He really said it to me, not just because He also told that to Kenneth Hagin at one time. That statement actually fit for me too at this time of my life. I was born in 1948, the year Israel returned to their land, which was the last Old Testament prophecy that needed to be fulfilled before the Lord’s return. I believe God planned for me to be a teacher now, in these end times and that this would be what He has been preparing me for all of these years! In the past 5+ years the Lord has been gradually getting me ready to put myself out there for Him again.
In the past 37 years I have gone through intense times of working in ministry and seeking to find my place and my stride. There were 3 sons, trying to make ends meet by side jobs, and discouragement seemed to hit me at every turn. I plowed through all of those with great bravado, but eventually felt so drained because I didn’t think anyone would or could understand what I was preaching.
Oh some received my message to an extent, but what I thought should be life changing and earth shattering in the best way, seemed to only get me remarks like, “I’ve never heard that before.” Sheesh! Try hearing that in a flat voice that sounds accusatory. So there were high times in the Lord, but also times of discouragement and fatigue. Plus I could not travel much to teach due to my youngest sons needs, and I was convinced I sorely needed to travel in order to succeed.
Today … I will be 74 in a couple of weeks. So even though my spirit was willing to revive my Call, my flesh was a bit weak and on the aging side. Not making a negative confession here, because I believe “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” but it was more than a renewed call, it was a challenge. I had moved into an apartment complex in 2018 with elevators and everything I would need on one floor, if that tells you anything. And in the 5 years since I moved here, I have undergone a total knee replacement and hip bone graft and stem cell surgery with all of the physical therapy etc. At times I was in a wheelchair, then a walker, with more than one round of each.
I was part of an Online Church out of Australia during the Pandemic of 2020-21. Through my experiences volunteering and participating in that Church, I was encouraged by the Lord to seriously consider this new phase of ministry. I felt the Lord doing His thing and giving me a needed boost. Now, a few years later, I have actually begun the new phase of my ministry with a passion!!
Ok, so back to chatting by phone with my Sister in the Lord the other day, she asked me this: “What did it feel like to be called into the ministry, and how did the call come?” Wow…that opened up some places in my heart that I haven’t visited for some time. And, honestly, in hindsight, my journey has been way more dramatic and profoundly supernatural than I understood at the time when I was living through it. That’s because I was also deeply embroiled in my day to day living conditions at the time.
Now, I step back in time, to the days before I knew I was called and how it all transpired:
I was the most melancholy child you have ever seen. I worried about things and others around me, I was kinda cranky because I felt the truth was not being told every day— by people around me and by people outside of my family. My Dad was a sweet man, but pretty preoccupied with his job and hobbies. My Mom was hard to please and I didn’t agree with her on much. I felt like I was relegated to the Stringfield side of the family, which she made clear that she didn’t appreciate. Anyway, before Mom went on to be with the Lord at 99 years old, we were completely reconciled by the power of God and the Word, so I’m not here to dwell on past hurts. (That is a fabulous testimony for a different day.)
A few weeks ago, my grandson, Ronin, celebrated his 11th birthday. And for some reason the Lord showed me myself at that age, lying in my bed crying from a broken heart, and Dad coming in and promising me that everything would be ok. He really had to let go of a lot of arguments and give in to a lot, in order to the keep peace I guess. It was sad for him, and I could see it. Think about how pitiful that was for such a young soul as I was. My sister wasn’t a cryer, but she used her energy to try to cheer us all up all the time, like that was her mission. I have to say neither of our reactions to the atmosphere at home was healthy. (We didn’t have my youngest sister yet until some time later that same year.)
I grew up with a kinda of distorted view of who I was. No one told me how much God loved me and that he had a plan for my life because I was the apple of His eye. No one. Even ministers I spoke to over the years, as I was experiencing failure in my 1st marriage. They just told me how all that I did was wrong. No one offered to lead me to the Lord. Years went by and I remarried and after 8 years together, I had a third son. By the time he came into the world, that marriage was all but over too…
Then…the Lord drew me aside. He began delivering me out of some the hell I was living in. I felt very beaten down, and didn’t trust my 2nd husband, and my family and my own instincts told me to divorce him. Finally, I had to do so in order to sell my home and get out of debt. Besides, he was no where to be found… I was very sad, but God helped me to clean up my house and get ready to sell it, and it felt better without the husband there anyway. So I began to cheer up and take care of my baby as well as working at Proctor and Gamble. My 2 older sons were living with their own Dad at that point, and they would stay with me on weekends and visit on holidays, since we lived close by.
But let me back up a bit. The day I delivered the baby, I was delivered by the Holy Spirit from smoking cigarettes, which I had not been able to quit completely during the pregnancy, in spite of doing my best. I quit cold turkey, due to God’s deliverance, before I even knew God. He also delivered me of spousal abuse and all that went along with that, including the self loathing.
I found a babysitter and had to get back to work after maternity leave. After I would drop off the baby every day I would listen to a radio show in the car as I headed to work in downtown Cincinnati. I just so happened to land on a Christian station somehow. Trust me, I didn’t even know there was such a thing. I was 37 years old.
The program that was playing during my half hour drive every morning was Bob Tilton’s Success in Life. He was interviewing people every day who had amazing miracles in their lives. I was so moved and excited by what I was hearing, because I had never heard of this kind of Christianity before. The church I attended with Mom, growing up, was pretty boring. I always had lots of questions, but never got any satisfying answers. Nothing to really grab my interest at all. But this! After a couple of weeks of me listening everyday, the preacher gave an alter call.
Right when I was pulling into my parking place under the highway (I can still the cars’ tires singing up above me,) the preacher called for those who wanted to follow Jesus and no one else. Believe it or not I wanted to! I sooo wanted to!!! I felt that I had lost pretty much everything at that point, except my life and the lives of my children.
So I followed him in the sinner’s prayer, even though I didn’t know there was such a thing. And voila!! I became a new creature that very moment. I felt like I was carried up the stairs to my office by angels or that I had grown my own wings, because I flew out of my old life and into an entirely new one. I glided into my office and actually began to preach from that very day. My boss jokingly asked if I wanted to be the spiritual advisor for the Market Research Department. I know he was joking, but Isaid, “sure,” because I knew I was called to help people and tell them about our fabulous Jesus, Lord of the universe.
I just knew it in my spirit, even if I didn’t know it in my head yet, I was going to be a minister, and from that day forward I couldn’t stop preaching. I was so full of joy. Oh…I forgot to say, my husband had disappeared not long before I went back to work. So I prayed that the Lord would keep him from EVER coming back!
But he did come back one day and got some of his things while I was at work, and then he stopped by at my parent’s house and told my Mom that his mother died and for her to tell me and he was getting clothes to wear to the funeral. But…I never heard from him again after that! He had not been sending me money while he was away at a job for months anyway, even though he had borrowed money from my family to go to a training school for the job. So I was in bad financial straits.
Once when our baby was 10 months old with pneumonia and was in Children’s Hospital, I did call his step sister, trying to reach him, because I had some moments where I felt alone and afraid. She filled me in on how he and his stepdad drank for a solid week or more when his mother died, and that she didn’t know where he was. Oh boy, so much grief and loss.
But the Lord worked several miracles around that hospital episode with my baby boy too, because by then I had learned how to believe God for healing and help for our physical ills. One highlight is that the baby had to go in for a spinal tap, to check for spinal meningitis, around midnight when we were both asleep in the hospital room. I prayed as I stayed behind to wait for them to take him to another room for the test. When the nurse brought him back, it seemed he had slept through the test even as sick as he was!!
And once more I am getting ahead of myself…So after I got saved in my car, a week or so later, the minister on the radio said it was the weekend coming up, and if anyone didn’t have a church home they were to call in to his ministry and they would help direct us to find one in our area. I thought, “This is for me,” because I hadn’t heard of any kind of church that believed the things he was talking about all the time. And sometimes he spoke in a different language that was so beautiful, which mystified me.
So I did it! I called his ministry and the lady on the other end of the phone said, “What?!” She didn’t know what to say about churches. She said she would have to get back with me. She was in Dallas and I am in Cincinnati, Ohio, right? Well the Lord worked it out so that she got back to me and gave me a church that was about 40 mins north of me. Actually it was a Rhema church that was flourishing, but, of course, I didn’t know about Rhema at all at that time.
When I got to that church I was amazed at the heavenly praise and worship and I danced my little heart out doing the Charismatic two-step and I jumped and shouted and cried, because I was so blessed and joyful! And as time went on I got more and more confirmations that I was called to the ministry. (Too much to type at this sitting.) I remember I had a chance to give my testimony one day in church, and I stood in the pulpit holding the baby on my hip. I started preaching about how “we overcame him (he enemy) by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony and loved not our lives unto death.” Revelation 12:11.
That scripture was prophetic and laid out a direction for what I would teach and preach going forward from that day. I had never been one to do public speaking before that. In college it made me nervous. But once I received Christ, I had so much to share and to say, you couldn’t stop me from speaking every chance I got. My new church friends called me a “Sign and a Wonder.”
I joined a House Fellowship group in that church and we met weekly. I also attended the School of Ministry the church provided by attending evening classes on Wednesdays. We had 3 teachers who were our pastors in the church and all Rhema graduates. When I graduated from that, I started my own Home Fellowship group of single people from the church. That way I got to preach/teach every week on Saturday night to the group. The pastors didn’t think having a group on Saturdays would fly, but I knew it would, because single Christians are so hungry for fellowship. I also prayed for and ministered to those in my group in the role of an Under Shepherd.
After about 3-4 years, I went to Rhema Bible Training College in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma when Jesse was 4 years old. I had wanted to go the year before but was impressed upon me by the Lord to wait another year. In hindsight, I am so glad I obeyed, because my profit sharing stock at Procter and Gamble had split that year, so I was able to retire from there with double my investment! Plus Jesse was a little older and could start kindergarten and we could both be in school in the mornings.
I just knew I had to go to Rhema, which my pastors had attended, for Bible school. I already had learned a lot, but boy did I get TONS more at Rhema. IT IS NEXT LEVEL PLUS! My first x-husband and my older sons, Erich and Beau helped me move out there, which was one confirmation of my calling. By that point, I had had many confirmations, and I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less than being an ordained minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was something I had a definite talent for and came to me naturally. Plus all of the years the locust had eaten in my life were being restored by God, so I had the needed experience to minister to others.
While I was at Rhema, I attended Rhema Bible Church, and sometimes I was sitting behind or near Kenneth Hagin. His son was the pastor of the church, and Dad, as we called him, was teaching classes at Rhema at that time, so I got to sit directly under him, which I am so thankful for. He was also still doing his itinerate teaching ministry, which he did up until a couple of months before he passed away at age 86. Right before I graduated in the Pastor’s Class, one of 777 total graduates in 1992, he laid hands on each of us individually and released us into ministry. That was one of the greatest highlights of my life!
I stayed at Rhema Bible Church for a year after graduation and volunteered there. Within about 2 years from returning home from Rhema, I had fulfilled all of the requirements for being ordained by Rhema Ministerial Association International. I worked for several pastors over the years. But besides serving as an Assistant Pastor in churches, I also began my own para-church ministry that was a non-profit 501C3 corporation. I conducted weekly classes in a Women’s shelter in the inner city (Discipleship in the Park) and wrote a ministry teaching newsletter that I mailed out and published on my website.
There are too many roles to name that I played over all of the years in ministry with accomplishments and highlights, and I thank God for every minute. I figured I was pretty much retired until about 4-5 years ago, But, praise God, He wasn’t finished with me yet…the lesson here is, NEVER GIVE UP!
So…here we are today. Many years and many miles later. I have 4 beautiful grandkids: (Leah, Ted, Ronin, and Lenden, ages 21, 18, 11 and 4) and my 3 handsome sons are all grown, (Erich, Beau and Jesse ages, 51, 47 and 37.) They are the loves of my life, each one.
I have a strong call and drive to minister God’s Word and lead others in a relationship with Him and each other and to teach living by faith. I even believe the Lord has added to my mission recently to FORM A NEW PARADIGM FOR PASTORS for this hour. It is all still being unfolded to me…and I praise Him for it every hour of every day.
Thanks for listening…I will no doubt think of more elements of this story as I am just beginning to remember it all. It is hard for me to grasp sometimes that the Lord could take my shattered life, turn it around, and give me understanding and inspiration in His Word to be able to share it with others! What a joy indeed!