My experience in the African Methodist Episcopal Church began in 1958, when I made a decision to unite with the local church. At that time I was ten years old. I attended Sunday School with my grandparents. I enjoyed learning about the great heroes and heroines in the Bible. I knew about God, but I did not have a personal relationship with Him, at this young age.

In 1962, my mother announced that we would be moving to Racine, Wisconsin. I was very concerned because I had never lived anywhere else, except Sebree, Ky. And I was very concerned about the schools in Racine. Our schools and cities were totally segregated. We rode a school bus to school each day, going past numerous White schools.

I thought about what it would be like to attend school with diverse students. I didn’t really know what it meant, but I knew many changes would take place in Wisconsin. I didn’t know what it meant to pray for help in this transitional period of my life. I felt all alone. I had seen something on television about how students were treated when they decided to integrate the schools.

Our family arrived in Racine, Wisconsin in August 1962. I had to enroll myself at Mitchell Jr. High School. My mother had to enroll my younger sisters and brothers in the elementary school. My step father was at work, and could not help. We also had no car or telephone. The first day of school was exciting. The White students were nice to me. During that first year friendships were made with White, Black, and Hispanic students.

One of my new Black friends invited me to attend Wayman AME Church with her. I really enjoyed that church, and quickly joined and became a member of the youth choir. There was also Sunday School, and The Young People’s Department. I often heard the pastor tell the congregation about the importance of praying.

 I started to value my social life more than church or any religious guidance given, graduated from high school, married, had 3 children, divorced, and generally felt broken and confused. My mother was extremely supportive and helpful with the children, as I sought some positive stance to take in my chaotic life.  When I finally heard God’s voice telling me what to do, I listened, and returned to church and entered service to the Lord as a Sunday School teacher, first, and more duties came as I prayed and listened to the Lord.

I started to mend. The Pastors, Christian Education Director, Sunday School Superintendent, Stewards, and wonderful members in the church helped give me direction. This really encouraged me.  After attending college to obtain my bachelor’s and master’s degree in 1976, I enjoyed teaching elementary students, and I became the Sunday School Superintendent, a Steward, Christian Education Board Member, and many other roles.

One afternoon as I prepared to attend a Sunday School Convention, I felt God calling me to be a Minister, and I listened faithfully and obeyed him. I attended classes 5 years, under seasoned and experienced Pastors in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. This is a most excellent way to prepare for the Ministry where one is taught specifically how to fulfill the role of a Pastor with Holy Spirit power, if one is obedient.

God also sent me a husband, Bro. Prentiss Kirby. We were united in holy matrimony on Feb. 11, 1978, at the church where I received my Christian Education, the church where I learned how to pray to get a breakthrough, and how to receive help from God with life-challenges.  My great husband helped me raise 3 great children. My favorite guiding scriptures is “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists, and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”

Rev. Ozetta Kirby is a pastor for Holy Trinity Community AME Church in Mesa


Community is invited to special Church Service January 19 at 3:00 at 220 S Chestnut, Mesa

Faith Matters

Rev. Ozetta Kirby Guest columnist

PART OF THE USA TODAY NETWORK Copyright © 2020 The Arizona Republic 2/24/2020

Community is invited to special Church Service January 19 at 3:00 at 220 S Chestnut, Mesa