Quaya Ackerman, a licensed local pastor who serves Arthur, North Dakota, describes her calling to ministry as a "Moses" experience. "God has placed a call on my heart via many different experiences in my life," said Ackerman.
It began when she was a confirmand and she started to question “what is this thing called salvation?” Pastor Quaya describes, "I was very blessed to have an amazing youth mentor and pastor, Pastor Paul Baker. He was willing and open to answering all of the questions that my peers and I had about life, love, and being a disciple of Christ.”
Her call flourished during a time at Wesley Acres Camp. Ackerman remembers the Romans and Christians Camp explicitly, "Even though it was just a role-play situation, the fear, pain and rejection that the Christians endured helped me to understand that being a Christian and a disciple of Christ is WAY more than just going to church and sitting in a pew."
In early adulthood, Quaya deployed as a soldier in the National Guard. "Those were trying and tough times as many around me were struggling," she said. "Being away from family and friends for an undetermined amount of time and living daily with the fear and realization that we did not know if we would live through this experience was quite humbling and exposed many to the vulnerability of one’s life."
Again, God placed a call on her heart to be a friend for those in need, an ear, an encouraging entity in the lives of her battle buddies. "We were able to build a powerful support system with other Christians in our unit," said Pastor Quaya. "Even though we were from different denominations, it was at this time that I learned that God does not discriminate on a person's background or religion. If you ask Him and accept Him as your Savior, He will be there for you in your time of need. Just ask."
Deuteronomy 31:6 became a "staple" in the deployed soldiers' lives. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
She described that when she returned from deployment, she was a young adult who needed to relearn how to be an adult.
"For a few years, I struggled to regain my relationship with God and to see, hear, and feel His presence in my life."
Quaya started regularly attending Flame of Faith in West Fargo. She attended week after week but didn't offer any of her spiritual gifts. "I felt that my gifts were not needed," she said. "Then, one Sunday, I let them know that I played the piano and God took the reins back in my life! Amen!”
Pastor Quaya became more and more involved in Flame of Faith with Staff Parish Relations Committee (SPRC) and various leadership roles. Many in her beloved church family encouraged her throughout her call journey.
"Pastor Thom Bowsher was one of those individuals," Quaya described. "He encouraged me to spend some time behind the pulpit, first reading scripture, then lay preaching. Randomly, I was looking at the conference website one day and saw something about a discernment retreat. I thought, 'hmm, maybe this will help me to decide what God is calling me to do in my life,' and IT DID!"
Her journey continued. Quaya pursued becoming a certified lay minister (CLM) and attended licensing school at Lake Poinsett Camp.
Ackerman shared, "I met many more wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ. I also attribute my calling into ministry as a result of their encouragement and support!"
A year into CLM, she was approached by Deb Kjerstad, Dakotas Conference leadership development director, to be a candidate for the conference lay leader. She accepted and was elected to this role at 2016 Annual Conference."
After accepting the role of conference co-lay leader, her work life in medical technology took a turn. "It almost seemed that God had placed roadblocks in my professional career to clear a path for ministry," said Pastor Quaya." I begrudgingly accepted these roadblocks, but still felt confused."
Pastor Sara McManus was vital in her life during this time. It was a time of frustration. "I was not sure about the path that God had led me down, but now as I reflect I understand that the trials He placed in my life were there to allow me to learn how to persevere and endure," said Ackerman.
She left her career in medical technology and was unsure what was next. "For a few months, I felt as though I was in the wilderness just as Moses had been, and our Risen Savior had been. Unsure of the direction that God was leading me. It was again a trying time, in which I went to God often with frustration, and time after time I could hear the still small voice telling me to 'wait.'”
She had served as conference co-lay leader for ten months when Rev. Randy Cross, Northeast District superintendent, approached Quaya to consider an appointment.
"The burning bush became a burning evergreen," she said. "The skies opened up, and I accepted 'THE' call into licensed local ministry wholeheartedly saying, 'Here I am, Send me!'"
Pastor Quaya began serving at Arthur UMC July 1, 2017. "I tell my congregation, I love my calling. I encourage them to seek God's call in their own lives," she stated.
Her journey is not complete. God has again placed a call in her heart to go further. In January, after being accepted into the Kairos program she began working towards a Master of Divinity.
“I am so excited and eager to see what God has in store for Arthur UMC and myself," said Pastor Quaya. "I am so thankful, grateful and blessed to serve Him! God is good!"
Everyone's call receives a nudge or two along the way. Ackerman states, "It goes without saying that I would not be where I am today without the support, encouragement, and immense love that I have received from my family and husband, Matthew. If it wasn’t for my parents' strong moral compass which brought me to church every Sunday since I can remember, I would not have experienced those God moments that can only come from being in the house of God. Holy Spirit moments that I cherish are: listening to my grandpa sing, being a part of - and teaching - Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, being lifted up by my church family through all the milestones in my life. They taught me and continue to demonstrate the "how" to be a disciple of Christ, a servant of Christ."