Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry features a fabulous minister on this blog. Today, we are pleased to interview Gail Whalen. Gail IS what a minister looks like!  

Gail, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.  

Well, my ministry journey is interesting as I honestly never thought growing up that I would ever be a minister. I grew up in the church and was the child that was dropped of at the door of the church and picked up after the service was over. I am thankful that, although my parents did not go with me to church, they at least sent me as it gave me a foundation. I knew the basics of Christianity, the Trinity, and The Greatest Commandment but my understanding was in my head, and not my heart.

I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior when I was twenty-seven years old through the witness of my then boyfriend and now husband of twenty-eight years. I had a good life and was successful but always knew that something was missing. When I accepted Jesus, what was missing was no longer as the Spirit filled my soul with the peace of knowing I was forgiven of my sin, and I would someday go to heaven.

Having Jesus in my life changed who I was, the old self was gone, and I was a new person. At the time when I accepted Jesus into my life, I was working as a social worker in the criminal justice system and enjoyed what I was doing. I felt the call to ministry about a year after accepting Jesus, and just a year later my husband and I packed up all our possessions, said good-bye to our family and friends, and moved from our home province of Newfoundland to Nova Scotia, Canada so I could attend Acadia Divinity College, where I graduated with my Master of Divinity degree in May of 1997.

It has been an amazing journey, and since graduating, I have in the past twenty-two years served the Lord in different churches in Nova Scotia Canada through the Canadian Baptist of Atlantic Canada. For the past five years, I have been serving the beautiful people of the Falmouth Baptist Church in Falmouth, Nova Scotia.

One of the other places that I serve is with the Atlantic Baptist Women. We are women from four provinces in Atlantic Canada and in June of 2019, I became president. Atlantic Baptist Women are women who are passionate about serving God as we have a rich heritage of demonstrating the love of God to others throughout the world. Our roots began in 1870 today we consist of 197 women’s groups with more than 2,000 members throughout Atlantic Canada. We not only support others in mission by prayer and finances, we also engage in mission both locally and globally.

What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry? 

My greatest sources of joy in ministry is serving the Lord. There is peace in knowing you are doing what you were called to do. I am humbled to serve God and God’s people. It is a joy to watch people grow and to journey with them in their struggles in life and in their faith. It is a joy to dedicate babies and watch them grow, baptized people, perform marriages especially when you have married the parents and then the children. Where does time go? It is a joy to lead in worship every Sunday and such a privilege to bring God’s message. Although it is hard to see people you love pass away, there is also a joy in celebrating their life and knowing they are with the Lord.

Although I have been in the pulpit and not the pew with them, one of the greatest sources of joy is my family. I have a supportive spouse, who has walked this journey of ministry with me, and for that I am so thankful. There has been great joy in watching my children grow up in the church and being part of their faith journey. Paul and I have raised three children, Jackson, 22; Abby, 20; and Ashton, 16. Although I am their mother, I have served also as their pastor. As their mom and as their pastor, I have prayed and continue to pray for them and have always strived to allow them to be themselves and encouraged them to grow in their faith and commitment to Jesus.  

Finally, I have great joy in serving the Lord through the Atlantic Baptist Women. I have been part of this organization in different ways for twenty-six years, and I am so blessed to know and to serve these wonderful women of God as their president. In 2020, we will celebrate 150 years of serving God in missions and I am humbled and honored to be part of such a faith filled group of women.

What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?

I will confess that being a pastor is challenging. If I am honest it is not an easy calling, and therefore, it is so important at all times to keep the focus on God. My greatest challenge in ministry has been keeping my eyes on the Lord and not looking to those around me for direction, affirmation, and confirmation, but first and foremost in all things, seeking God’s will and way.  

As a pastor, it is easy to become a people pleaser as we all like to be loved. Working with and accommodating the needs and requests of so many people in the church, can be a challenge. I have said this on many occasions that I have adopted the mantra from Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20:12, “God, I do not know what to do but my eyes are on you!” There are many times when faced with the challenges in ministry that I do not know what to do and therefore I have to trust that God does and keep my eyes on the Lord. Seeking God’s guidance first, having the peace of Jesus and the discernment of the Holy Spirit always lands me on my feet and provides me with the courage to make the right decision and to move forward. There are and always will be many opinions in the church, but the one that matters the most is God’s. So I press on keeping the focus on doing the will of our Lord.

The other challenge in ministry is balancing being a wife and raising a family and at the same time taking care of my own spiritual needs. Learning my limits has been a challenge but I have learned that if I do not take care of myself, I can not take care of others. Praying and reading my Bible provides food for the soul, walking my dog strengthens me physically, and having a supportive Christian spouse and friends has made the journey easier. When I put God first in all things, I am always amazed how God has always given me the strength to do what I need to do. I have learned over the years, with age comes wisdom, so, give things to others to do and to also let things go. It has been a process!!! God is good.

What advice would you give to a teenage girl discerning a call to ministry?   

When I was feeling the call to ministry, I was hesitant as I felt there was no way God would want me in ministry. I wrestled with the call to ministry and tried to ignore it, but I could not so. I took the time to pray, read scripture, and asked God to affirm it. When I finally accepted what God was asking me to do, I told my minister and he said, “What took you so long to figure it out?” He had seen the call on my life and was sitting back waiting for me to come to accept it. It was such an affirmation to me.

So, I would tell any girl who is feeling the call to ministry to not ignore it. God has given us all spiritual gifts, and God can and does call women to ministry. I would tell her if she is feeling called to take the time and pray about it, read the scriptures, and ask God to send someone who can affirm her call and journey with her. I would also encourage her to talk with a woman who is currently in ministry. It is so important to have a good mentor who can not just affirm your call to ministry but someone who can walk with you in the journey and help you grow in your faith and calling. Just remember that the God who calls you to ministry will be with you and faithful until the end.