Lauren Sandstedt looks back and sees moments when God seemed to be pulling her toward ministry over the past 17 years.
“And that’s a lot, because I’m only 24,” she said. As a child, she’d memorize the communion liturgy – the officiant’s portion – and daydreamed about how she’d look in a minister’s robe.
But ministry wasn’t the path she pursued on as an undergraduate at the University of Missouri. Sandstedt majored in business and headed to the corporate world, winning a lucrative job at AT&T when she graduated in 2017. That path began to change, however, on a trip to Israel led by a pastor at her church, St. Andrew United Methodist in Plano.
“I can’t explain it, but I felt called to go, even though I didn’t know one person on the trip,” she said. In the Holy Land, a series of experiences convinced her she was encountering God in a clear and obvious way. In the Garden of Gethsemane, she began to pray, “Not what I want, but what you want, Lord.”
“It was as if God was saying, ‘Now that I’ve got your attention,’” she said. “I realized the brevity of life and I began wondering if all the things I had thought I wanted – the good job, the apartment, the nice car – were worth it.”
Sandstedt returned home determined to pursue a path toward ordination as an elder in the United Methodist Church.
“Before coming home from the trip, I called my boyfriend and said, ‘You have 24 hours to break up with me, because I think I’m being called to ministry,’” she said.
Her boyfriend didn’t break up with her. He wasn’t even surprised. Having watched her growing involvement in church and her passion for God’s word, he had wondered when her calling would become obvious to her. “He is my teammate and best friend in this new life phase,” she said.
To explore her options after returning from the Israel trip, Sandstedt attended an Inside Perkins event last November with Scott Engle, Ph.D., teaching pastor at St. Andrew.
“It became obvious after the first 30 minutes at Perkins,” she said. “I knew this was exactly what God had in store for my life, and this was the place to make it happen.” She had also heard good things about Perkins from Engle and from her senior pastor, the Rev. Dr. Robert Hasley (M. Th. ’77, D. Min. ’78) as well as from associate pastors at her church who are alums, including the Rev. Allison Jean, the Rev. Jimmy Decker and the Rev. Kim Meyers.
Even though she’d missed the application deadline for the 2019-20 school year, Sandstedt met with Margot Perez-Greene, Associate Dean of Enrollment Management, and was able to obtain an extension. Things fell into place, and here she is.
It’s just a few weeks into the semester, but Sandstedt feels at home. She’s enjoying her coursework and joined the Order of Worship Committee led by Dr. Mark Stamm. She’s continuing to work part-time in the corporate world, as a national account manager for Reflect, a software company.
With this busy schedule, Sandstedt makes time for journaling and quiet time each day to keep herself centered. She calls Isaiah 55:8-9 her “daily mantra” – the passage reminds her “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” She also often turns to 2 Corinthians 5:17: “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”
“That’s how I feel,” she said. “The old Lauren is gone. My whole life is totally different than it was a year ago. But thank God.”