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In January I had the opportunity to go to Camp Geneva on the shores of Lake Michigan for a “Pastoral Identity Retreat” with my fellow first-year Master of Divinity students.

Being at the lakeshore in January as opposed to July was different, but it was no less impressive. The ice piled up on the shore, making jagged cliffs that were both beautiful and dangerous. The blue-gray water that rolled up against these jagged winter shorelines was dark and uninviting. 

Back within the warm walls of the conference center, I had the pleasure of getting to know some of my Calvin Theological Seminary classmates better as we shared our calling stories, talked about our gifts for ministry (and the lack thereof) and uttered some of our fears about and motivations for becoming pastors and teachers.

The experience was both humbling and affirming for me. I heard some amazing stories of God’s work in the lives of my classmates—stories of great sacrifice and genuine wrestling with God. There was a young woman who is following God’s call on her life despite rejection and anger from her family; a young man who was recaptured by God on a hilltop outside of Guantanamo Bay in Cuba while guarding the Muslim detainees there; and a man who rededicated his life to God after surviving a severe car accident more than 20 years ago. 

For me, the opportunity to share my story about how God has led my family and me to this point was further affirmation that we are, in fact, right where God wants us. I gained an even deeper sense that the upbringing, schooling, careers, opportunities, and experiences that I’ve had up to this point have prepared me well for this adventure. I have and will continue to draw on my past experience as I learn about and enter into a career in ministry.

—This article was first published on Michael Ten Haken's blog at

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