Some moments in our lives leave indelible marks on our memories. If we close our eyes, we can recapture the feelings they invoked. It can be anything from a first kiss to the first day of working a real job.
For Jason Woll, answering the call to ministry is one of those vivid memories.
“One night when I couldn’t sleep, I stayed up all night praying,” said the 2019 graduate. “I prayed, ‘God tell me what to do.’”
The next morning God did.
Before his call to ministry, Jason was certain of his path. His life was planned. His course was set. Everything seemed straightforward. He enjoys working with his hands. He likes cars. His career was clear. After finishing high school, he planned to attend a trade school to become an auto mechanic.
But God had another plan.
When Jason got a car of his own and began working on it, his dream changed. He knew he wasn’t called to be an auto mechanic. Like many of us, he faced the big question: What am I going to do with my life?
This crisis brought on that sleepless night when he cried out to God for guidance.
God answered. Immediately.
The very next morning, Jason’s pastor suggested he enroll in an online ministry program.
It’s like that sometimes with God: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7 (NKJV).
But the prayer God answered wasn’t just Jason’s.
His decision to accept God’s call was an answer to a much older prayer. Two pastors in the Dakota conference had been praying for years for a student who would return home to minister.
God’s like that too sometimes: answering prayers after a long wait.
God’s answer to Jason may have seemed instantaneous, but, in truth, God spent years preparing him. God spoke to Jason’s heart long before he was ready to listen. During Jason’s sophomore year, Brad Gienger, the pastor at Dakota Adventist Academy, saw something special in him. He recognized his heart for ministry. On several occasions, Pastor Gienger spoke with him about the possibility of studying to be a pastor, but Jason was not ready to listen. Not yet.
But God is patient.
And, when Jason was finally ready to listen, God called once again.
Even after Jason realized the online ministry program wasn’t the right fit, he recognized the voice of God calling him to ministry.
And he said, “Yes.”
Sometimes we only recognize God’s hand of guidance when we review our lives. Now, when Jason looks back on his life, he sees God’s leading.
After high school, Jason enrolled at Union College and began his degree in theology. Throughout his four years at Union he never once questioned his calling.
“Friends would ask me,” said Jason, “’If you could do anything else, anything you wanted, what would it be?’ I had no answer. I knew I was called to ministry.”
His choice of schools was also God-led.
Like all of Union’s theology major, he was required to do a semester-long internship during his senior year.
Union’s ground-breaking pastoral internship program immerses seniors in a community for an entire semester where a pastor/mentor is assigned to guide each student.
Many students complete their internship close to Lincoln, but Jason knew he wanted to return home to the Dakota Conference.
He was placed in the Bismarck Seventh-day Adventist Church in North Dakota where he assisted Pastor Tyler Bower. The conference provided a duplex on the academy campus, 15 minutes away from the church.
“It was great to be off campus,” said Jason. “I found it extremely beneficial to focus on ministry and not worry about school.”
His semester spent outside the classroom and inside ministry was edifying. Pastor Bower, his mentor, guided him and allowed him to lead. He gave Jason opportunities to experience the life of a pastor.
And it’s not all potlucks and preaching.
“Pastor Bower was open and honest about the issues and conflicts that can happen in the church,” admitted Jason. “It was incredibly eye-opening, and I learned a great deal.”
But his pastoral internship didn’t simply teach Jason about the job and its challenges; it gave him a glimpse into his own heart for ministry. That semester in North Dakota was a time of self-discovery and personal growth. He found he delighted in one-on-one bible studies and his passion for youth ministries was reinforced.
“One of my favorite experiences was with a student from Dakota Adventist Academy,” Jason said. “Once we started the Bible study, it was exciting to see the student’s growth. It was great for me too, because I was able to feed myself for the day through the Bible study. Throughout the experience, I saw growth in the student and in myself. That was exciting.”
Jason’s time at the Bismarck Seventh-day Adventist Church prepared him for a future in ministry.
“It was an amazing experience,” Jason shared. “I appreciated the opportunity to learn what actually happens in a church. Being in a classroom is great and important, but being able to apply those things in the field was invaluable.”
Jason’s enthusiasm and commitment to ministry did not go unnoticed. When the president of the Dakota Conference came to talk with the junior and senior theology majors, he offered Jason a job.
Jason was the student the two pastors prayed for—a student who would return home and serve in the Dakota Conference.
Jason Woll graduated in May of this year with a B.A. in Theology, with an emphasis in Biblical Languages.
His life in ministry began this fall when he was assigned to be associate pastor of the district in central North Dakota including the Mandan, Turtle Lake and McCluskey churches under the mentorship of Pastor Harold Chin.
His advice to theology students approaching their senior year: “Go off campus for your student pastoring. It is so beneficial.”
Trena Reed is a Union College graduate and freelance writer based in Lincoln, Nebraska.