Joy Dister’s earliest memories include being in church, pretending to be the preacher reading the Bible from the pulpit. Joy grew up at Morenci (Michigan) United Methodist Church. As a child and youth, she attended Lake Louise United Methodist Church Camp and Detroit Annual Conference camps, where she felt the Holy Spirit prompting her toward ministry.
However, after graduating from Eastern Michigan University, she followed a path toward hotel management; and in a few years found herself in Dallas-Fort Worth advancing up the career ladder. All the while, she remained involved with The United Methodist Church and knew she wanted more. As she thought about her life goals, she remembered the promptings she had felt as a child and realized that her soul could only be satisfied if she said, “Yes,” to God.
As Joy began looking at seminaries, she was drawn to the diversity of eminent professors at SMU Perkins School of Theology. She wanted a place where the professors provide an excellent education and care for the students’ well-being and spiritual growth. Joy says, “Professors at Perkins take time to know and care for students beyond the classroom as they challenge them to become ever more thoughtful theologians.”
In her third year at Perkins, Joy served as the director and campus minister of the UCF Wesley Foundation at Navarro College. She has been a licensed local pastor for two years and is working toward ordination. Later, she would like to pursue a doctoral degree. As Joy continues to pay off undergraduate college debt, the United Methodist Ministerial Education Fund allows her to follow God’s promptings to attend seminary full time. “I have been blessed beyond measure and appreciate the opportunity to grow personally and professional at Perkins,” she says. “I strive to make good grades and do well in school because I know many people have sacrificed to make this possible.”
As Joy celebrates the church’s Social Principles and the intentional inclusion of women and racial ethnic minorities, she is hopeful for the church’s future because of the powerful, worldwide connection United Methodists share. She experienced this firsthand while on a mission trip to Costa Rica where they sang Charles Wesley hymns in Spanish. Joy said she felt the presence of the Holy Spirit even though she did not understand a word.
Joy is excited to be a United Methodist. “In this time of constant cultural shift,” she says, “there are new opportunities to make disciples of Jesus Christ. I am excited to be a part of a church that cherishes the tradition of The United Methodist Church and yet creatively seeks to make our faith and discipleship journey fun and meaningful. The Holy Spirit is at work in a mighty way; I am excited to ‘do life’ alongside people and bring Jesus to a hurting, broken world that needs to hear of his healing touch and unending love and grace.”
As a child, Joy pretended to be a preacher, but thanks to the United Methodist Ministerial Education Fund, there is no pretending that she has become a thoughtful Christian leader.
— Kathy Armistead, Ph.D. is a Nashville-based writer and United Methodist deacon. Find her at kathyarmistead.com.
Originally published by UMCGiving.org.