Sam Mitchell: Answering God’s Call
- Cabot W. Peterson (‘92)
It’s not unusual to hear people say they’ve been “called” by God to do something. It’s more rare, however, when people say they heard the “call” while listening to the radio. In Sam Mitchell’s case, a first year Unification Theological Seminary (UTS) Doctor of Ministry student, the “call” he heard was loud and clear… and then he chose to ignore it.
One day in the early spring of 2013 Mitchell stayed late in his office to do some work and turned on the radio to his favorite station. Almost immediately he heard a voice say, “if you believe that God is directing your life to somewhere contact Dr. Kathy Winings, and then the voice left a number to call.”
‘That quickly caught my attention,” says Mitchell, “as if someone was saying, ‘listen to that.’” Having every intention of calling, he quickly jotted the number down and put it in his desk drawer. As often happens, however, good intentions give way to the mundanity of everyday life, and soon weeks had passed without his having called the number. Still, every time he opened the drawer it was sitting there,
“Every time I went in my desk drawer to get a pen or something that paper would pop out at me,” says Mitchell, “and it would keep haunting me: ‘Call Dr. Winings.’ So, after about six weeks of continuous annoyance I decided to call Dr. Winings.”
Once he did, it didn’t take long for him to realize why that “haunting” feeling was so persistent, as he soon found out.
“The beautiful thing about it,” said Mitchell, “is that when I finally did call Dr. Winings it was as if she was expecting my call. She was so very receptive, she was so very warm, that I was drawn to listen to her and to tell her about what I had heard [on the radio]. After talking for a while she said, ‘Why don’t you come over and see me.’
The rest, as the saying goes, “is history.”
When Mitchell showed up at the appointed time he intuitively knew there was something different, even special, about their meeting. “The way Dr. Winings told me she was expecting my call tells me it was more than the matter of just a human working; I think it was divine.”
There was something else he also intuitively knew: “Before I got back out onto the street I was convinced I was coming [to UTS].” That was in April, 2013, by August he was sitting in a classroom; three years later he graduated in May 2016 with a Master of Divinity degree.
A lifelong Seventh Day Adventist, Mitchell, who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Education, has always felt a special bond with God. “My relationship with God is, like I said, He speaks to me and I speak back to Him. He’s like a friend.”
By his own admission, however, he never wanted to be a minister and has been a teacher all his life; he’s always seen himself as an educator. Despite this belief, he recognizes the unusual circumstances surrounding his call to UTS marks a fundamental change and that he’s entering into a special time of preparation in his life, a time of preparation on a Biblical scale.
“When God calls you to do something he always prepares you first,” says Mitchell. “God is calling me to something bigger than myself. This [UTS] doctoral program is preparing me for something greater. I have always seen myself as Abraham, and just like Abraham God is leading me somewhere. Where it is I cannot directly tell you, but I feel it more every day.
“There is so much from my being here [at UTS] that is so mysterious, and so much I know that is beyond human advocacy. And every day God is opening up to me more and more what it is I need to do.”
Married to his wife, Linda, for the past 26 years, they have shared many things together, including four biracial children - two older boys and two younger girls - aged 25, 19, 15 and 13. By his own account, Mitchell’s future actions will not create any hardships on his family or his relationship with them. He sees his newfound direction as merely the next step on a journey he’s been traveling on his whole life.
The youngest of seven children, he grew up outside of Kingston, Jamaica in an Adventist home that provided him protection from the various temptations young people often fall prey to; he never smoked, drank or took drugs.
“My [Adventist] upbringing gives me a broader concept of my way of life,” said Mitchell, “and that my life is dependent on God, so I have always drawn on the belief that God is my protector and the director of my life.”
Somewhere along the way he also developed the belief that serving others is the best way to serve God.
“The whole matter of service has been a thing of my life,” says Mitchell, “so what I’m doing is just advancing my ability to serve. All those who know me would know me as someone who’s served. To my family and everyone it’s not anything new, not anything strange because they know it’s my era of serving.”
Although he has completed only the first of four intensives to be held over the next two years, he has already decided in which direction his service will take him.
“I never came here [to Barrytown] with a thesis in mind, with a project in mind,” says Mitchell, “but since I’ve been here I’ve been strongly inspired to work with children. The project I’m working on right now is creating a ministry for the protection of children.“It could be here in America or it could be somewhere else. That’s something I feel strongly the Lord wants me to work on. As to whether or not this is the ultimate of what God wants me to do, I’m not sure. There may be something else.”
Whatever that “something else” might be is unclear. What is clear is that there’s no fear of what God will ask of him or where he’ll have to go to perform whatever task he’s asked to do.