Editor’s note: This reflection is an addition to the March 2018 cover story, “Called and chosen.”

I was born and raised in South Africa. My ancestors were among the first converts of the German Lutheran missionaries, so I have always been Lutheran.

At age 18, while a sophomore in college, I was stabbed—almost to death—in my hometown and permanently lost sight in one eye. I struggled with a God who would allow such harm to happen to me, and I stayed away from church for a while.

Having known the comfort of Jesus who always walked with me, I realized I needed God more than ever. I prayed and asked God to use me as an instrument of healing in the world. I wanted to be a pastor, but the Lutheran church in South Africa was not yet ordaining women.

Two years after graduating from college, I received a scholarship to do my master’s at Ohio University in Athens, where I attended Christ Lutheran Church. There I met for the first time a female Lutheran pastor, Patricia Lull, and my heart began to burn within me knowing I could be a pastor. I shared my story with her and she encouraged me to finish my studies, promising that the congregation would sponsor me at seminary if I still felt called.

Two years later, I reconnected with her and enrolled at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio.

As an ELCA pastor, I’ve had a diverse ministry experience ranging from pastoring inner-city congregations to serving as a chaplain in hospital and retirement community settings.

Yes, there have been challenges. What has strengthened me are the words of a mentor: “If you feel like quitting at least three times a week, then you are being faithful to your call.”

Thulie Beresford
Thulie N. Beresford is a chaplain at Franke at Seaside, a continuing care retirement community in Mount Pleasant, S.C., a ministry of the South Carolina Synod.

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