“I always felt this sense of assurance that I would do something for the church,” says Lewis.
When Sharma Lewis tells the story of her journey to ordained ministry, she refers to her experience as a combination of “a Jeremiah and an Isaiah” calling.
“Jeremiah was called as a young man,” says Lewis. “And I really do believe that I was called as a young person.”
An interview with Sharma about her call story and ministry. (Part 1)
When Lewis was only 12 years old, she decided of her own accord to join her church, Brannon Chapel UMC in Statesboro, Georgia.
“The Sunday morning that I joined the church, my pastor had what was called an open invitation, where you could walk down front if you wanted to join,” Lewis says. “So, when I stood in front of the pastor, he whispered in my ear, ‘Do you know what you’re doing?’”
Lewis, who had already been asked the same question by her parents, was ready with an answer. “I said to him, ‘I’m coming to accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. I want to join this church.’”
She flourished in the church after becoming a member. She was active in Methodist Youth Fellowship and later, young adult ministry. But she felt something else pulling on her, a call that she couldn’t yet name.
Lewis wasn’t the only one with that sense. When people would say, “I feel like you have a call on your life,” I would say, “Yeah, okay,” and I would dismiss it. And so, I grew up and went to graduate school, still feeling a sense that I would do something in the Church, but really to be honest with you, never thought as a clergy person, as a pastor.
So, Lewis pursued other interests.
“Well, my desire was always to be a doctor, so of course, I pursued it. I majored in Biology, minored in Chemistry, and applied to medical school three times. The first year I applied, I got on a waiting list, but that didn’t stop me. So then the second year, I applied again to medical and got on the waiting list a second time. Then in the third year, I applied again.”
Until she was waitlisted to medical school for a third time, Lewis did not think much of this “call”. Then, Lewis, who had always wanted to be a doctor, had a pivotal conversation with a respected family member.
“My Aunt Essie said to me one day, ‘I know you feel called to go to medical school, but I really do feel like you have another call on your life,’” says Lewis. “And she challenged me, by saying, ‘I want you to really seek God.’” Lewis further explained, “This began what I would call the Isaiah part of my call—surrendering.”
So Lewis began a process of prayer and fasting, like Isaiah, hoping to discern her future and purpose.
“I went to the altar, and I said, ‘I’m open, God. My heart is open,’” says Lewis. “And I heard the voice of the Lord say, ‘Stop running.’ I then heard the Lord say, ‘Go preach my Word.’”
And like Isaiah and Jeremiah, she did.
Lewis is a great example of how people help to affirm one’s call. From an early age, Lewis had a love for the Lord and the Church, but was not sure how to live it out. Because of people, like her Aunt Essie, who affirmed her call, she was eventually able to surrender and say “yes.”
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