Students weigh God's call
MACON, Ga. (BP)--Nearly 500 high school, college and seminary students from 15 states converged at "KALEO: Georgia '10" as part of their quest to find God's will for their lives.
The gathering was the 11th KALEO weekend since 2006 sponsored by the North American Mission Board's KALEO Network. (KALEO is a Greek word meaning "to call" or "to call out.")
More than just a weekend event, KALEO is an ongoing network that serves as both a career database and a "farm system" for young people exploring or pursuing a call from God to ministry. In addition to networking, KALEO focuses on personal development, including coaching and mentoring.
"Just like major league sports franchises, the KALEO network serves as a farm system for the next generation of Southern Baptist leadership," said Donald King, KALEO coordinator and events director for NAMB in Alpharetta, Ga. "And just like any sports team, the Southern Baptist Convention needs a strong and deep bench. With KALEO, it is developing one."
Southern Baptists, with the KALEO Network, now have a process in place to identify, track and cultivate students who accept a call into ministry. "There's a framework and resources available to churches and pastors for the coaching and mentoring of these students," King said.
A seminary president, a seminary professor, senior pastors, missionaries, campus ministers were among the speakers at the Feb. 5-6 KALEO sessions at Ingleside Baptist Church in Macon co-sponsored by the Georgia Baptist Convention. Representatives of NAMB, the International Mission Board and the Georgia Baptist Convention also were featured.
Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif., recounted to the students, "I've been a Christian for almost 40 years. I became a Christian when I was 13. In 40 years as a Christian, I've had five call experiences -- just five. They don't come often and when they do, they are so profound that they stamp your life for decades. They establish parameters for your life, which must be lived in the context of that call.
"That call can only be altered by a subsequent, superseding impression from God," Iorg continued. "That means that if and when you are called, you are called. You're not released from that nor can you walk away from that. The only thing that can change your call is another call."
Iorg said all believers receive a universal call to Christian service and growth at the time they accept Christ as the Lord and Savior.
"That call can be expressed by any honorable vocation," Iorg said. "So relax if you want to be a music teacher, mechanic, architect, engineer, physician or nurse. It's possible to do any of those things as a Christian, yet serving and growing in Jesus Christ in those professions.
"Don't devalue the universal call to Christian service," he said, "because for 98 percent of all Christians that's the only call they'll ever receive. God expects them to express that call through an honorable vocation and live in the world making a difference for Jesus Christ."
But a minority of Christians also receive a second call -- a general call to ministry leadership, Iorg noted, while even fewer Christians receive a third call -- a specific call to a ministry assignment.
Allen Jackson, associate professor of youth ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, addressed the question of "How can I know God and how can I know what He wants me to do?"
There are three signs of a person who wants to know God, Jackson said: a person's attitude in approaching God; a person's availability to spend time with Him; and a willingness to adapt to His will.
"If we're not willing to make our life available to Him and adapt to His will, then we're not really interested in God or what He wants us to do," Jackson said. "But four ways to know God and His will are through prayer; studying God's Word; seeking wise counsel from mentors you consider wise, such as pastors or youth pastors; and being aware of circumstances in your life. If we know that we know Him, we will recognize what He's doing in our lives."
One of KALEO's highlights was a presentation by NAMB national missionary Kerry Jackson, an Atlanta artist who uses his drawing ability to share Christ with art students, other artists and in churches as part of his "Drawing to the Rock" ministry.
With music in the background, Jackson took only 10 minutes to paint a portrait of Jesus wearing the crown of thorns at the crucifixion. Afterward, Jackson told the students, "I wish I had had someone in my life to tell me what I'm about to tell you: If you have compassion, a gift, a talent -- no matter what you're gifted in -- you can be on mission for Him."
Jackson's message on ministry and the arts resonated with one KALEO attendee, art student Alyssa Johns, who attends First Baptist Church in Eastman, Ga.
In a follow-up email to Jackson after the Feb. 5-6 conference, Johns wrote, "I recently talked to you about being an art student and not understanding how God receives glory in my work. Meeting you and seeing your work completely changed my mind. I now know that God can and does use my talents in the fine arts to minister to others and bring Him glory."
One of the younger students at KALEO, 14-year-old Daniel Choi of Alpharetta, Ga., had been struggling with a decision to enter the ministry for 18 months. The son of the pastor of a large Atlanta-area Korean Baptist church, Choi was one of several students who were driven to KALEO by his mom, Tina.
While Daniel said it was "strange" to be with all the older high school, college and seminary students, he said KALEO gave him "strength for the future" as he continues to consider and pray about entering youth ministry.
Paul Coogle, a sophomore at Dodge County High School in Eastman, Ga., who is considering becoming a missionary, was one of 10 students from First Baptist Eastman to make the one-hour drive north to Macon for the KALEO weekend.
"A recent church retreat opened my eyes to what my brothers and sisters in other countries are going through," Coogle said. "It broke my heart. It was like God told me to go to a closed country like China, Iraq or Iran. I felt a call and needed to come to KALEO to nail it down. I have a passion to go somewhere and do something. I just don't know where.
"Last night [during KALEO] my friends and I stayed up until 3 a.m. to talk to each other about our struggles," Coogle said. "It's amazing to see how God is working in our group."
In addition to Georgia, King said states represented among the 490 students at KALEO were Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Maryland, Texas, Oklahoma, California, Kansas and Virginia.
Mickey Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board. "KALEO: Arkansas '10" is coming up at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark., on Feb. 27. For more information, go to www.KALEOConference.com. For general information on the KALEO Network, visit www.KALEONetwork.com or call 1-888-554-7729.