Pastor Timothy Carroll
How do you know God’s call? Listen.
I was raised in Dale City, VA, not far from Falls Church. My parentswere from New York and I was the only one of the three childrenwho was born in Virginia. My father was Irish-American and mymother, Italian-American. My mother’s parents were from NorthernItaly, liked to drink wine and Grandpa had fought for Mussolini inWorld War II. My father’s parents were from Brooklyn, liked todrink beer and Grandpa had fought for President Truman duringWorld War II. Visiting my grandparents on both sides year after yearwas God’s way of developing love within me for different kinds ofpeople.
Growing up, I had friends from a variety of backgrounds and ethnicities,Black, White, Asian, and Hispanic. I remember my mothercommenting that this was different from how things had been in NewYork, where neighborhoods were more segregated. In Dale City, differentethnicities and backgrounds all lived in the same neighborhoodsand went to the same schools. God used these friends andneighbors to help me see that there weren’t any good reasons to segregatepeople by ethnicity.
When I was twenty-five, I left the northern Virginia area with mywife Dorothy and moved to St. Louis, Missouri. The purpose was toget a Master’s of Divinity degree at Covenant Theological Seminaryand become a pastor. While there, I studied under Dr. Nelson Jennings,a former missionary to Japan and pacesetter for multi-ethnicmission in the United States. He helped me to see the central importanceof the Church’s multi-ethnic identity.
Throughout seminary, I met many people who felt burdened forparticular forms of ministry. Some referred to this focused desire astheir “calling.” Some felt called to ministry in the military, others“heard” a call to urban church planting, and still others sensed thatcampus or youth ministry was where God was leading. During seminary,I did not hear such a specific and concrete call. Maybe I wasn’tlistening. All I knew was that I wanted to communicate the fantasticnews of Jesus Christ to people, whoever and wherever they were.
I was ordained as an Assistant Pastor in February of 2013. CrossroadsPresbyterian called me with the understanding that the particu-lar role I was in would change around 2016. As the year 2016 rolledaround, I happened to be reading Esther Meek’s “A Little Manual forKnowing.” While reading it, I considered how I might know whatGod’s calling was for me. Questions like this one helped me recognizewhat to do:What would you say is your current knowing venture? Here at theoutset of your venture, what puzzles do you have about knowing?I was puzzled with how to hear God’s call to a new vocation. Turningthose questions over and over led me to see that at the very least acall requires a voice. To know God’s call required me listening for hisvoice. He had spoken through the way he crafted my life. He had spokenthrough Scripture. He had spoken through his everyday involvementin my life. My goal was to walk by the Spirit so that I could hearwhat he had been saying clearly.
During a Presbytery meeting in December 2015, Chaplain Doug Leestood up and informed the gathering of Presbyters (i.e., church leaders)that CCCVA had been looking for an English Ministry Pastor for over ayear. He asked that the Presbytery pray for CCCVA and help them tofind someone. At that moment I thought, “Well, here I am listening andmaybe that was God calling.” After prayer, I found Pastor Tan to followup. He told me to call him John and said that I should talk to the otherPastor who is also named John. When I met Pastor Chua, he told methat everyone at CCCVA is named John (which was clearly a joke becausehe was with Elder Ben). Nevertheless, his comment was funnyand we all left that meeting with the sense that maybe we were all hearingand seeing more clearly what God was up to. Within a few weeks, Ifound myself at the Woo’s Christmas feast. In the kitchen, Pastor Chuaoutlined a vision for the church which was multi-ethnic: Mandarin,Cantonese, White, Hispanic, Arabic, etc. It was hard to believe that thecall I had heard at the Presbytery meeting was corresponding to howGod had been writing my life up to that point. The multi-ethnic family,neighborhoods and emphases in seminary all made more sense in lightof this opportunity at CCCVA.
After that party, I was sure that what I was hearing about the EnglishMinistry at CCCVA was something I needed to really pay attention to.
And I am very happy I did.
We have a great opportunity at CCCVA to develop a multi-ethnicministry. Just look at the ratio of races in the Bailey’s Crossroads area:The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:14-18 that Christ “For Christhimself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into onepeople when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall ofhostility that separated us. He did this by ending the system of law withits commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews andGentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups.
Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by meansof his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put todeath. He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who werefar away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. Now all of uscan come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of whatChrist has done for us.”May God bless our efforts to reach our neighbors so that we might bethe flesh and blood reality of Christ’s multi-ethnic body.