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  • Sonya Leigh Anderson

Wake Up the Sleeping Church?

“Vocation is the place where our deep gladness meets the world's deep need.”

— Frederick Buechner

I had an experience, years ago, when I sensed I was receiving a “call” from God. It’s not the only time I’ve perceived God’s leading. There have been a handful of other significant promptings, leading to a book written, jobs taken, and of course the adoption of my sons. But this particular “call” was different somehow, and I knew I ought to pay attention. Years later I’m still paying attention.

I remember being in my Andover bedroom—my olive green chair under the east-facing window overlooking the porch. I was praying. Hands extended; quiet tears, Spirit’s whisper:

Wake up the sleeping church.

No specifics.

If my math is right, this would have been my last year working as a part-time assistant at the Montessori school. This assumption is based on a vague association with a comment my oldest son had recently made regarding his eighth-grade Bible class. Which would have meant Nils was a second-grader in his last year at Hand In Hand—the same year Luke transitioned from HIH back to Meadow Creek Christian in grade 5. Maybe this matters.

At this time Kyle and I were volunteers with our church’s Middle School Ministry. I was leading Women’s Bible studies. We were in a small group. Our lives revolved around church.

Wake up the sleeping church.

This language was quite possibly inspired by Eldredge’s Waking the Dead—a book God used in the midst of my own season of spiritual transformation. And while I’ll admit there is a clear connection between the title of the book and my perceived “call”—I have always felt certain this word was purely from God. It seemed important.

Time passed. I took a staff position at my church. I wrote a Bible study. I wrote the first manuscript of what is now a published book. I began a prayer ministry with students at the Christian school. And maybe more than anything else I joined my husband in a wonderful season of linking arms in ministry with our growing sons. We worshipped and we served together. It was amazing.

Fast forward. The years flew by in a blur, which is cliche, I know, but wildly true. Grant’s second year of college I enrolled as a seminary student at the adjoining campus. This call to wake the church was still fresh in my imagination. I wrote papers about it.

By now Meadow Creek had changed its name to Legacy Christian Academy and I spent my Friday afternoons praying on top of a large boulder located on the property thought to be the future home of a new building for the school. (It wasn’t.) But my journals are full of prayers for students’ hearts and church revival.

Wake up the sleeping church.

Around this same time I had a dream. Not another call, but a vision of sorts. God asked me a question; three times He asked it: What do you want? And three times I answered. “I want to go to seminary. Write books. And enjoy my grandchildren.” (This was LONG before I’d had any cognitive thoughts about being a grandma!)

And I wonder…were my dream-answers perhaps the means to fulfillment? Or a hint for a future season?

Another year would pass. My husband spent this year praying that God would use our family for some sort of out-of-the-boat faith adventure. Which He sure and certainly did. I was in my second year of seminary, and Grant was a college junior. Luke was in his last year of High School, and Nils in his first. That fall, just before Thanksgiving we met Felipe and Jimmy—teenaged brothers from the South American country of Colombia. A year later they became our sons.

Just as quickly as we refilled our nest, it continued to empty. Grant got married. Luke met Ali. Felipe and Nils finished high school together. A girl named Sidney convinced our Jimmy to invite her to prom. The evening of our last Legacy graduation—Jimmy’s—while the band played Pomp and Circumstance, Kyle received a phone call from our Realtor, saying we had a buyer for our Andover house.

We moved. Said good-bye to our dearest neighborhood where I’d done countless Bible studies with women from assorted denominations. We packed a pod with household items, loaded cars with bare essentials, and accepted temporary lodging with Kyle’s parents. We spent 2020 building a house while working from home, and that fall I all but vanished from the church position I’d enjoyed for more than a dozen years. We started over.

New house, new neighbors, new church. Radically new season. Every time I met someone new I ached to be known by my old associations. In particular I wanted to be known as the Mom who raised Grant, Luke, Nils, Felipe and Jimmy. At times I felt like a woman missing a limb.

But the greatest ache of all was the post-2020 loss of communal sense of Church. Who were we? WHERE were we? What had happened to us?

Wake up the sleeping church.

It was like waking suddenly from deep sleep with a sense that something profound was missing.

And yet, gradually I began to take stock of my life and I’d find myself overwhelmed by blessing. A Bible study with other new couples in our neighborhood who are quickly becoming cherished friends. New ministries at our new church. Astonishing enjoyment of grandkids dream-prophesied so many years ago. A dream-come-true published book.

Today as I write I continue to dabble in church work and teaching. I’ve enrolled in a few more seminary classes. I’m starting research for a potential future book. I look back and I look forward and I see all the crazy and glorious ways God has called me and kept me and used me. All the while hanging on to the Spirit’s “wake up” whisper. And waiting on the One who can actually do it.

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