Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry features a fabulous minister on this blog. Today, we are pleased to interview Amy Derrick. Amy IS what a minister looks like!
Amy, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
My story might be a little different than most BWIM stories—then again, maybe it isn’t. It has definitely taken turns I never expected. I was raised the daughter of a Southern Baptist minister of music. The youngest of five, I was my parents’ only daughter. You don’t get any more “churched” than I was—you name the church activity, and I am confident I did it. I even had a solo as Mrs. Noah in the children’s choir musical. My entire family ended up going into full time ministry—all four of my brothers became various types of local church ministers. In my later years of high school, I began to feel that God was nudging me toward something, but I had no idea what it was.
I had never once in my life seen a woman do anything in ministry other than teach Sunday School, direct preschool or lead a Woman’s Missionary Union program. In my experience, “ministers” were male. Regardless, I felt God pulling me toward something, but I had not the foggiest idea what it might be. Because I had no role models of female ministers, I didn’t know how to wrap my mind around what a “call” might look like for me. It was scary. But the grace of God for me was that in the midst of a tradition that did not value women in vocational ministry, I had people in my life who believed in me and who trusted God. Those people, who also had no idea of what God could possibly be calling me to, validated me and encouraged me to move forward—even if I didn’t know where it was all leading. I announced to my church family that I was answering a call to ministry (and was promptly congratulated on my future as a pastor’s wife by many in my congregation.)
I majored in social work in college because I figured it was a good background for any kind of ministry. I graduated from Belmont University with a social work degree, attended and graduated from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, worked several summers at Centrifuge camps and the inaugural year of Passport camp, traveled a good bit, had a lot of new and sometimes uncomfortable experiences and through those years I met many amazing women serving in all types of ministry. Along the way I realized that who I AM, and what my natural God-given gifts, desires and abilities are were exactly what would lead me into God’s calling for my life. They weren’t something I had to leave behind to follow God’s way, they were actually the way itself. By living most fully into my God-given self, I was most able to follow God’s call for my life.
I met my husband, John, while working camp, and we married during our seminary years. In him I have had a partner who values and respects me and my unique gifts and calling. Through the years our journey has led us all over the world, and my calling has led me into many ministry roles. I have been a pastoral counselor and community educator, I have served cross culturally as a missionary. I’ve been a worship pastor in a cross-cultural congregation and in a new church start. I served through the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s Global Missions first as field personnel and then for fourteen years in Global Missions administration. During my last fourteen years of working at CBF, I had the great joy and privilege of getting to know hundreds of people as they discerned God’s calling in their own lives. I helped match people to places of service and helped prepare them to go and debrief them after they returned. My greatest joy in these years was the opportunity I had to help shape and begin CBF’s Student.Go program and to give leadership to it for thirteen years. The opportunity to walk alongside college and graduate students who participated in this program and to be even a small part in their journeys of discovering who God made them to be in this world was an invaluable treasure in my life.
In 2014, it was time for me to leave CBF for several different reasons, and even though I left of my own decision, it was not without grief, as leaving a long-term ministry always is. Finding the next chapter in my story was not an easy experience for me. Life changed dramatically for me as we moved across the country, and I struggled to find another place of service that understood my previous experience and my gifting. At the same time, our family began some extremely difficult years due to major challenges that our children began to experience and the resulting trauma that impacted all of us. Trying to find a “ministry” job in the middle of the chaos we were enduring as a family proved to be impossible.
After a couple of “placeholder” positions, through a divine encounter, God quite clearly dropped a new opportunity in my lap to work in the non-profit oral health care field, advocating for those who have the least access to care and serving those who serve them. By accepting this unexpected role, I have learned that my gifts can be used broadly to continue to do what I’ve done all along—to care for those who are most in need and do it with grace and love. In providing me with this role, God also made it gave me the capacity to be fully present with and for my family during the most difficult chapters of our lives. This new role has also enabled me to experience first-hand that there are an awful lot of people out there doing what is truly ministry alongside those who are the most in need in our country, and they do not have “Reverend” in front of their name. They are the caregivers connected to community health centers around our nation, and they are some of the finest, most committed people I’ve ever had the privilege to work with.
I’ve traveled a lot through the years, met a lot of beautiful people, had my heart broken and my worldview stretched tremendously, and I’ve grown to know and love both the people closest to me and the world as a whole in deep and sometimes very painful ways. The needs are overwhelming—both in the world and in my own family. But I fully believe that the only way the world stands a chance is if I, and you, and all of us, fully use the gifts God has given us where we are each uniquely planted. Even if that place isn’t exactly where we imagined we might be. In some chapters of my life, my calling has led me around the world and now it is keeping me close to home. Thanks be to God for both.
What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
Thus far, my greatest source of joy was the opportunity to work with students through my years with Student.Go. To have a front row seat to see how God used the willingness of those students to step outside their comfort zones and experience something new to unsettle and reshape the trajectory of their lives was such a thrill. To see them discover both their God-given gifts and abilities and the wild and beautiful world we live in—AND where those two intersect—was an invaluable blessing.
Currently, I am finding great joy in working alongside the public servants who provide oral health care to the most needy populations in our country. It is a humbling experience to see the dedication of these caregivers and to see how hard they work to make sure everyone has access to care. I am also finding a lot of joy serving in the music ministry of our small local congregation.
What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?
My greatest challenges have been finding ways to both live out my calling and be present for my children’s special needs. It is hard and pervasive and doesn’t seem to get any easier as time goes on. There is nothing I can say here to wrap it up nice and neat with “lesson learned.” It’s just very difficult and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. The trauma is real and overwhelming at times. My personal goals often have to take a backseat.
What is the best ministry advice you have been given?
The best advice I ever received was that your calling can be constant but how it is lived out will vary widely depending on the season of your life. And it is all good.