My call to being a missionary runs parallel with my conversion. The final wall that I had constructed between myself and Christ was committing myself to evangelization. We live in a culture that says religion is fine so long as you keep it within the confines of your own home, and don’t press it on anyone. However, fresh off of accepting CCO’s call to all the Rise Up participants in Halifax in 2012 to lead a Discovery faith study, and accepting Christ’s invitation to place him at the center of my life, I found myself entering into a leadership role on the Carleton Campus in Ottawa. Shortly after deciding to attend my first ever CCO event in Ottawa, I was asked to be the emcee at it, and due to my head first attitude I agreed! All of a sudden I was leading a study, attending events, and quickly becoming a student leader in the Carleton community. Evangelization rapidly shifted from my greatest fear to my greatest joy. After only a few months of committed involvement I decided to run for student executive, and despite the most prominent question on voting day being “who is this Dennis Barry?”, I found myself in the role of student president for the upcoming year.
My growth in mission excelled as I finally embraced my call to a missionary identity. It moved so quickly that I often could barely keep up with all the works God was doing through me, but everything finally felt right. I felt overwhelmed at times, but I never felt out of place, and that is because I had finally found my deepest identity as an apostle of Jesus Christ. From the moment of my conversion I found myself feeling called to work for CCO. I would look around at events and my heart would explode with joy for this movement that had not only forever changed and saved my life and the lives of everyone in that room, but also so many others around the world.
I took my time discerning my call. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just appreciative of all that the missionaries had done in my life, but that I was feeling called to do the same for others. My discernment was multi-staged. For a period I thought that I may have been called toward priesthood, then I thought that I was called to serve God in the general public, but with each stage, joining CCO staff was still on my heart. It wasn’t until I had my first meeting as student president with CCO missionary Andrew Nobauer that I began to really consider joining staff after he said, “I’m not going to pressure you toward this, but I just wanted to say I think you would make an amazing missionary for CCO. I won’t bring it up again for a while, but I think you should seriously consider it as an option.”
In John 1:40 it is explained that the apostle Andrew is the first person to introduce his brother Simon Peter to Jesus. Who knew that my initial call would be delivered by my own brother in Christ with the same name?
Andrew kept his word and left it alone for a while, but God certainly didn’t. In the months that followed I had a constant battle with the idea of joining staff. It would tug on my heart countless times a day. I felt it most during my prayer time, but I would quickly come up with a list of reasons why I wasn’t meant to join staff. I went back and forth so frequently that during the last week of October 2013; a friend’s dad asked if I was going to join staff and I gave him an adamant “no”, shortly after I announced I was officially applying for staff within the month. I constructed barrier after barrier, but what it all came down to was fear. I was afraid to do something radical for God. I was fine living my day-to-day life with Him as the “Boss of the little things”, but I was not ready to leave my comfort zone and rely on Him entirely.
After wrestling with it for several months, I finally came to the point where I had to overcome my fear and admit that not only was I called to work for CCO, but I desired it. This moment happened during a conversation with Andrew and another friend. Andrew and I were encouraging our friend to trust in God and “be all in” despite the fears he had. As we were speaking I felt more like I was addressing my own fears rather than my friends. By the end of the conversation, God made it clear to me that this was what I was called to and I found myself saying: “and that is why I’m applying for CCO staff for next year.”
The journey toward staff can be long and confusing, and by the world’s standards it doesn’t make any sense for us to be doing what we’re doing. But I have absolutely no regrets about the choice I made to answer God’s call. I will leave you with one particular Bible verse that really spoke to me in my discernment:
“Do not worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’or ‘What will we drink?’or ‘What will we wear?’For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today” -Matthew 6:31-34