Story Magazine - Spring/Summer, 2010

Answering the call

by Kelsey Holm, Communication Specialist

From left, Joel and Wendy Berthelsen and Kathy and Steve Harr are helping those in all walks of life look at call in a whole new way.

The idea of being called by God into ministry usually evokes a pulpit, a collar or a lifetime of service in a faraway destination. But two Luther grads have built a nonprofit ministry around a different definition of the word "call."

Joel, '87, and Wendy Berthelsen, '88 and '05--along with parishioners Steve and Kathy Harr--started Call Inc. in December 2006. Call Inc. is "a teaching mission dedicated to helping individuals discover and incorporate God's unique call into all of life." What it boils down to is this: Whether you're a preacher, a pianist or a pilot, you're called by God.

"We want to help people understand their lives as something God wants to use to bring forth Jesus' redemptive plan for the world," said Wendy. "It's not about dropping everything and becoming a pastor or missionary. It has to do with whatever God has for you. It's about knowing, following and uniquely
serving Jesus in all of life. It's about putting ministry in daily life and the priesthood of all believers into action."

A new way of thinking

Though Call Inc. was officially founded in 2006, the Berthelsens' work on the subject goes back nearly two decades. The couple has worked together at three parishes over the past 20 years. A few years into serving their first parish in Michigan, Joel says, they experienced what would be a defining moment in their ministry.

"We made a shift away from thinking about church in terms of ideas or programs, or trying to fit people into things. The church is people called by God, and we should let the congregation develop out of that," he said.

It's been the Berthelsens' guiding philosophy ever since, including the last 10 years at their current congregation, Hope Lutheran Church in Cedar Hill, Texas, where they met the Harrs.

A divine partnership

Members at Hope, Steve and Kathy found themselves wanting to give more and more time to the ministry approach the Berthelsens were introducing. Now, Kathy manages Call Inc.'s finances and offers friendly hospitality. Steve, using his experiences as founder and CEO of his law firm, gives leadership and teaches classes with Wendy. He brings a different perspective to Call Inc.

"I know my limits when it comes to the message and the clarity of the message from a theological and biblical basis, and I look heavily to them to help me with that," said Steve. "Having lived outside the professional church life and being a lawyer that has focused 30 years of practice on the resolution of disputes between people, I've seen a wide variety of the human spirit. When I teach, I think they relate to me differently than they would a pastor."

After some prayerful consideration, Steve and Kathy made an additional commitment to Call Inc.

"Steve just called one day and said he wanted to put his personal finances toward me directing my time toward Call Inc. for 18 months," said Wendy. "We didn't see that coming. It's pretty overwhelming when someone offers to do something like that."

With the Harrs' financial gift, Wendy has redirected her pastoral time over the past nine months to Call Inc. as a mission outreach of Hope.

"Launching and growing Call Inc. would have been tricky without the Harrs' generosity," said Joel. However, in what Joel calls "just one of those God things," Call Inc. has also unexpectedly received other large gifts from those personally touched by the seminars they attend.

A blessed endeavor

For Steve, others' financial gifts are one more assurance that the commitment he and Kathy have made--both personally and financially--was the right one.

"I come away from these sessions just rejuvenated, full of life and full of energy about my life," said Steve. "There are many things you can pay a lot of money for that don't do that."

Now Call Inc. is focusing on growing its ministry outside the walls of Hope. Wendy is talking with other area leaders and Bible camps and recently met with the city manager in Cedar Hill. He is interested in incorporating call teaching into his city-management practices.

"Jesus' call doesn't just happen inside a church building. It happens in all kinds of places. It permeates people's entire lives," said Wendy.

Her dream is to train other young leaders, so they can spread the message of God's call around the world. Steve hopes Call Inc. is one day as well known as any ministry in the world and that its profound message touches as many lives as possible.

"If people, no matter what age, have the ability to understand how to discern God's will for them, it's a process that can be repeated throughout life," said Steve. "This message is one that every single human being can benefit from."


Call Inc. provides: