A Call to Higher Faith: Carol and Clark’s Story
Strolling along the beautiful water behind her picturesque Savannah home one evening, Carol Rogers Smith had an encounter with Christ. She knew in that quiet moment God had called her to serve His people. She said, “Lord, if you want me to leave this home, I will.”
Years later in 2007 Carol and her husband Clark traveled from Savannah, Georgia to Ridgecrest North Carolina for the New Wineskins Missionary Network Conference. During the long drive Clark waded through his thoughts. He and Carol owned and ran a successful recruiting business. They were both active members of Christ Church Anglican in Savannah where they had served on vestry and in other leadership roles and had been involved in mission. Clark and Carol had a wonderful (some would say ideal) settled life. They knew that the Lord Jesus was calling them into deeper service, deeper love, and deeper mission. But that, as it is with all calls, was a scary notion. What would this call look like? What would it mean for them and their family?
On that North Carolina drive they spoke about next steps. Carol said, “Clark, don’t you remember, when I told the Lord I would be willing to leave our home to serve him?” It was as if they were both set free to fully pursue what, if anything more, the Lord was calling them to. And they were heading to New Wineskins (if you don’t know what that means, let me tell you, the timing was perfect).
The first evening of the conference Missionary Bishop Derek Eaton spoke on the “The World God So Loved,” the call of Abraham. “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you,” (Gen 12:1). The following morning, Bishop Rennis Ponniah apologized for choosing the same passage - the call of Abraham. Carol and Clark began to see that the Lord was calling them to attention, to their own missionary journey to leave behind what they had known to the place he was calling them. But where? They prayed to God for answers, but instead he called them, just as he called Abraham to higher faith. He said, “Get ready. You’re tied to your home and your business. You need to be ready to serve me.” On the drive home, they knew they needed to sell the home and the business. But how? A franchise recruiting firm for corporations isn’t an easy business to just pick up and sell. They were both faced with the enormity of the challenge when they returned to Savannah that late Sunday evening.
Monday morning, as usual, Clark came into work. What wasn’t usual was their two top producers asked if they could speak to him privately. They closed the door behind them. These recruiters revealed that they admired what Clark and Carol had done with the business and were hoping they could partner with them. Would Clark and Carol be willing to guide them in that endeavor? Clark said, “I will do you one better, I will sell you this business and teach it to you as you go.” They responded with enthusiasm, but they didn’t have the capital. A deal was worked out in which the buyers could provide the capital from their future sales. So, thanks be to God, the business was committed for sale to trusted colleagues in one short week!
Overjoyed with the Lord’s immediate provision and confirmation, Carol and Clark went to work on selling their home. This process took much longer than they anticipated, but they immediately began to prepare spiritually. They took seminary courses at Trinity School for Ministry and learned the dynamics of inner-healing prayer through Christian Healing Ministries. They received short term mission leadership training from SOMA and Gateway Mission Training. They began going out on mission, first to South Africa.
Eventually Clark and Carol moved to a smaller home as a base for mission, going and serving when and where the Lord calls them. They have traveled all over the world, bringing training, healing, and discipleship to various people. This ministry eventually became E412 Ministries (based on Ephesians 4:12) which specializes in “equipping the saints” by leading training conferences for parishes and dioceses on evangelism and discipleship, both domestically and abroad. They lead short-term mission trips to serve and teach Biblical principles of evangelism, discipleship, and works of the Holy Spirit. They work toward reconciliation in marriages, families, and people groups. They assist Christian missionaries on long term missions. Between them they serve on the SAMS, New Wineskins and American Anglican Council boards and are members of AGMP (Anglican Global Mission Parnters).
I hope when we’re in our sixties Bo and I can be as cool as Clark and Carol. They embraced that missionary spirit with which the Lord loves to bless his people. When I asked Clark and Carol what they would say to others who were feeling the special call to missions they said, “To have faith, trust, and be willing to go even without all the answers.” Carol also said that she and Clark stay grounded in the life of their local church. They still serve in choir, in guilds and with the healing prayer team. They still host a Bible study and, when they are in Nepal or East Africa, their group continues in another home. In other words, they are not lone missionaries, but they do missions with and through a local community.
After listening to Clark and Carol, two more things stood out for me from their story (besides, you know, the obvious radical faith and trust part). One is how united they were. The Lord spoke to the two of them. They were truly a team, and as they put it, “great traveling companions.” Carol laughed at the many times she was in challenging accommodations and she would say, “At least I have my great traveling companion!” I think it is imperative for missionary couples to be unified in their call to serve Christ, and the love and respect they show each other is a profound testimony of God’s love for His people. Secondly, I noticed a true humility to learn under people. They were very steadfast to point out who discipled them, when and how. They noted their long- time priest, Fr. Marc Robertson, certain professors from Trinity, and Anglicans leaders around the world who have mentored them along the way. This regard for spiritual authorities is something I don’t often see in my generation (sorry millennials) and something that is deeply important. It is a sincere willingness to be a student before a teacher.
Faith, trust, obedience, staying grounded in local church and in “everyday” mission, love and respect for your spouse and family, and a humble spirit to be led before leading and be taught before teaching – all are good takeaways. And by takeaways I truly mean things to take with you on your missionary journey - for you (and I) may do something Carol and Clark did, which was something that Abraham and Sarah did, and something even that our Lord Jesus Christ did. It is something Christians have done through the millennia and will continue still to do, onward and upward:
“Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you,” (Gen 12:1).
Lilly Sanders Ubbens is a published writer and mother of two. After growing up as a missionary kid in Honduras, Lilly went on to earn a masters degree from Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA. While there, Lilly met and married the love of her life, Bo, and they now serve at Christ Church Anglican on the Mainline in Wayne, PA. You can contact Lilly here.