Leadership takes many forms and develops in many different ways. Leaders in the church and elsewhere are often those who discover their gifts for learning and leading, and then are fortunate enough to find their way into situations that encourage and allow them to develop those gifts.
Gallup, N.M., is in the heart of a Native American reservation where the Christian Reformed Church has a long history.
This is where Kristen Pikaart grew up, the daughter of parents who taught at Rehoboth Christian School, part of a CRC mission station just down the road.
Now she is a wife, mother, and hospital chaplain in that same town. But God had some interesting twists in store for her along the way.
Pikaart left home to attend college as many young adults do. Later, feeling a call to ministry but uncertain of what kind of ministry, she attended San Francisco Theological Seminary, a seminary of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
She completed an M.Div. in 1999 and began a residency in chaplaincy at a local hospital, “never once thinking that this would be my vocation—just knowing that I didn’t have a good alternative plan, and I wanted to stay put as I was just starting to date my now husband.”
Eventually she married Sanjay Choudhrie (a child of missionaries in India), still wondering how God would use her. She enrolled in a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) in the Bay Area while discerning what to do with her gifts and education.
During the first week of the first unit she experienced an “aha” moment. Maybe this is what she was made for! “I did five units of CPE and worked as a chaplain in two local hospitals there before being asked to apply for the job that I currently have in Gallup,” Pikaart said. “[It was] an unexpected return home for me.”
Along the way, a meeting with the CRC’s former director of chaplains, Herm Keizer, at a national chaplains conference sparked her interest in reconnecting with the CRC. At the urging of her church in Gallup, she became a commissioned pastor in 2006. She received board certification from the Association of Professional Chaplains in 2008.
But Pikaart’s leadership journey was not done. In 2009 she was asked by David Koll, the CRC’s director of candidacy, to serve on a committee to review and approve candidates for the ministry of the Word. She realized while doing this committee work that there was a road by which she too could become a candidate for ministry of the Word.
In 2016 she will complete a nonresidency ordination course with Calvin Theological Seminary and, following Synod 2016’s approval of candidates, will transition from commissioned pastor to minister of the Word this summer.
Pikaart is one of a growing number of chaplains and other ministry leaders who continue to learn through various educational agencies, earn ministry credentials with the help of denominational and nondenominational agencies, and then go on to serve in unique and significant ways throughout the world.