CLAYTON — What a difference a year makes when you are seeking God’s will.
That’s the lesson 23-year-old Melissa Ringwalt learned between her third year serving in various summer ministry roles at Camp Pinnacle and this year, her fourth, when she returned with a totally different outlook on life.
The difference was complete surrender to God’s call on her life wherever she found herself, especially if it meant her least favorite and most avoided location – a Third World country.
“I had served as a cabin leader for 12 girls in 2013 and 2014 then became one of three unit leaders over six cabin leaders in 2015. I knew all about teaching my girls about God’s call and surrendering to His Will but it wasn’t personal. I kept God at a very comfortable distance in that area,” she says.
That was before the end of last year’s GA camp experience after teaching sessions on the Chris and Katie Nalls family serving in Mozambique through the International Mission Board.
Every week she participated as a Skype call was place to the city of Tete, the city where the Georgia Baptist family is serving and where the young girls in the north Georgia mountains asked questions and interacted with the family on the other side of the world.
Challenging GAs to be open to God’s voice
Every week she challenged her young wards to be open to God’s work in their lives.
And every week she was aware of the possibility of being open to that challenge in her own life.
That summer the theme verse was Ezekiel 36:26 and how God has come to remove the roadblocks that prevent believers from following Him.
“I eventually became convicted that I had the heart of stone reflected in that verse. I did not want to go overseas for any particular reason, and especially not to a Third World country.
“I always liked to learn about missionaries and their sacrifice but not actually participate in that sacrifice. I didn’t even like going to garage sales and seeing used, hand-me-down items that reminded me of being in a Third World,” she says with a sheepish confession.
Resisted the call to missions … especially in a Third World County
“Simply put, I was not comfortable with a call to missions. I felt being a school teacher with my new degree from Toccoa Falls College was good enough.”
But near the end of the summer the Bible verse began to wear on her as the Nallses said they were praying for two girls to come serve alongside them and help homeschool their children, teach English to the locals, and provide a witness in the community.
The summer ended and she found employment at Walt Disney World in Orlando before following her carefully-crafted future of teaching full-time. But in the first few months she could not shake the Bible verse and felt God softening her heart.
She inquired about the International Mission Board’s Hands On missions experience, applied, and to her surprise was accepted. She sent out prayer letters for support and in two weeks had raised all the funds necessary for her part of her expenses, with the IMB covering the majority.
While this was progressing a fellow Pinnacle worker, Paige Knox, was experiencing a similar call and was also accepted into the program with very little coordination between the girls.
Last summer a Pinnacle staff member, this year a missionary
Now exactly one year later and with five months of Third World missions under her belt, Ringwalt is back at summer camp – but this time as the summer missionary. Rather than teaching second-hand she shares personal experiences what it is like to walk out on faith and trust God at His Word.
It’s a real-life experience than many of the week’s elementary and middle school girls will remember and may lay the groundwork for a similar step of faith down their own roads.
Perhaps the biggest joy is seeing seven of the students she and Paige taught English to at the local university come to faith in Christ.
“What I learned is how God is working in every country; I gained a deeper understanding of how He is the same God in Africa as he is in Georgia. He is the God of everyone, everywhere.”
She also came to appreciate the power of prayer and “to see how God used Paige and me so far from our comfort zones. God took away my fears of living in a Third World country taught me how much He loves everyone and wants them to know more about Him.”
And, she says, “I’ll never be the same again.”