God's leading hand was obvious to me, even in the preparation phase when I was applying for a US study visa. One of the requirements for a study visa then was an assurance from the bank that that the applicant had sufficient fund for the time they will be studying in the United States.
It was a Friday afternoon when I went into the Westpac branch at Manukau where I had my account to obtain a signature indicating I had the financial resources to pay for my studies plus living expenses for a two-year period. The truth is, I didn't have in my account the minimal amount as required, but the bank personnel I saw and talked to that day signed my form. For me, securing the bank signature that day was miraculous, but it was one of many signs--some small--that gave me confidence God was leading in that part of my life's journey and ministry. God was faithful.
Actually, the opportunity of being called to serve in North New Zealand from 1980 to 1985 was also an expression of God's faithfulness. I was working as the pastor for the Leone church in American Samoa when I received the call to pastoral ministry in North New Zealand in April, 1980. In October of the same year, during the conference session at Balmoral (Auckland), I was appointed assistant youth director and was reappointed after my first term to the same position until I departed for the US in August, 1985.
The transition to pastoral ministry from Samoa to New Zealand was not difficult though it had its own challenges but there was nothing compared to moving from pastoral work to conference youth ministry. The greatest challenge for me at that time, and with this change was the language. Samoan was my first language, but I had to lift my standard of conversational and written English to ensure I was communicating with my young people--and God provided for me. He gave me courage and helped me improve my speaking and writing in English.
Of course, my mentor and director of the youth department during those years, Roger Nixon, played a major part in my growing and doing ministry in those early years of my professional life. Not only I did I learn from Roger, but I believe God called him to the position of youth director for that time to assist me and help me grow to the person I became when I left New Zealand for the US to study. God was faithful.
When I returned from the United States to North New Zealand in 1993, and served the conference as the assistant general secretary this move to administration was another act of God. I had been appointed in October the previous year in absentia while still studying.
By this time, I had come to learn and accept that in ministry God calls and places people in the right place and at the right time for His purposes if they're willing to be part of His plan. God surprised me with this placement in administration, but He knew what He was doing with my life. Being in administration helped me to learn the inner workings of the church in the areas of organisational management and leadership, committees, policies, and the bigger picture of the Church. God was faithful.
The invitation to be part of the Theology Department at Avondale College from 1999 to 2000 was another privilege to contribute to God's cause, and to learn in the process--and it was another surprise! I had never thought of teaching at Avondale but God opened the way. He was faithful.
When I was approached at the South Pacific Division session in Canberra to be the director of stewardship, Sabbath school and personal ministries at the end of 2000, I was shocked again.
But as I look back over the years of my ministry, I'm overwhelmed with the goodness and graciousness of God. Why He called me to specific ministry areas of leadership at those different times, I will never know, but He is Lord and He is in control. And, yes, He is still faithful today. Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and constantly loves those who love him and obey his commands. Deuteronomy 7:9. Erika Puni is director of stewardship for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, based in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States of America.