I was dragging my heels,” Sam Perry says, remembering the long road that led him to Calvin Theological Seminary (CTS), Grand Rapids, Mich.
After nearly a decade of experience in campus ministry and missions work, Perry and his wife, Sandee, decided Perry should enroll at CTS.
The decision came over a period of several years and was prompted by several conversations. One by one, those who knew Sam well were telling him the same thing: “You should think about taking a class at Calvin seminary.”
The first one was a respected InterVarsity Christian Fellowship mentor, Rev. Harry Lew. Next, Perry’s church elder encouraged him to enroll. And then a friend who worked with Sam and Sandee in missions in China suggested it.
“You start hearing it enough and then you realize, hey, maybe I’d better sit up and pay attention,” Perry said. “Maybe the Lord’s trying to tell me something here.”
So in the fall of 2003, Sam and Sandee followed the call, trusting God to provide for the financial needs of their growing family. They made their way to Grand Rapids, moved into an apartment, and Sam enrolled in the M.Div. program.
He was looking forward to a good theological education and opportunities for spiritual formation. He was not necessarily anticipating miracles.
But a funny thing happened: about two months into the program, the Perrys started to see God providing for them in amazing ways. During the fall quarter, Sam received an e-mail notifying him that Twelfth Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Jenison, Mich., was seeking a ministry intern—a paid position that included the use of a house. “It was one of those things that God totally dropped in our lap,” Sam says. He and Sandee started attending the church, and soon Sam became the intern pastor.
But the house and the job were only the beginning. They also found a church home.
“We moved in three days before Christmas, and people we didn’t know were coming over and bringing us a turkey and plates of cookies,” Sam recalls. “The generosity of the people of Twelfth Avenue is unbelievable. I don’t know how we would have made things work financially without the way God worked through them.”
Now in his fourth year of seminary study, he says that the educational opportunities—both formal and informal—have been invaluable. He and Sandee and their five sons (ages 6 months to 13 years) have lived in the house provided by Twelfth Avenue for the past three and a half years.
Sam says that being a husband, father, student, and intern pastor has asked a lot of him and his family. He is honest about the commitment required to manage this season of life. But Sam and Sandee take the demands in stride.
“In ministry, there are going to be a jillion demands all pulling on me at once,” he notes. “You’ve got to be disciplined. I’ve certainly gotten practice in this area,” he adds with a smile.