Living to Serve the Lord
Storyteller: Carol MacDonald
Writer: Sheila Holliday
Carol MacDonald says you can go through the motions and serve others out of a sense of duty, but there is no joy like serving from a grateful heart. In that, He’s glorified. The wife, mother, grandmother, retiree and CrossPoint Bible Study facilitator says she has also discovered, “When you lose yourself in service to the Lord, you find abundant life.”
Carol remembers falling in love with her Savior and being baptized when she was 12 years old. Growing up in Norwalk, Carol, her four siblings and parents attended a local church where her mom taught the Sunday School classes she attended. But when their pastor refused financial help to someone in need, her father was disappointed with the leadership and withdrew from the church. He only returned in later years, before his death.
“That church, at the time, had traditional services but not much depth of study in the Word of God,” reflects Carol. “At home, my mom would tell me the Bible was poetic literature. Without any discipleship, we eventually all fell away. By the time I was in my teens, I was living life my way.”
By age 23, Carol had married a man from the Seventh Day Adventist religion. “In our marriage we didn’t worship – we let our faith go by the wayside.
Around the same time, Carol’s mom and one of her sisters had returned to worshipping in the same church she grew up in, but with a new pastor who preached the Word, and a devotion to bible study and discipleship. “My son was 14 or 15 and asked me to go, so I did,” she says. “My husband eventually attended with us but he was unwilling to really listen and worship. He would make fun of it, saying things like, ‘Are you going to wash each other’s feet?’”
After discovering her husband had started using drugs, Carol asked him to leave and faced her future as a single parent to their teenage son.
After leaving that church in the midst of marital issues, she eventually experienced a divorce. After years of living life as a single parent, her sister urged her to attend church again. “She had suggested that ‘I might meet someone.’ I remember rededicating my life to Christ as I drove home from that service, and praying this would only be about Him.”
Carol’s dependence on her Savior and the church body saw her through some hard years. Carol’s ex-husband wasn’t regularly paying child support and there were times when she struggled just to pay for laundry detergent. “God always provided,” she says. “I remember the time when I had abdominal surgery at the same time my son had appendicitis. So many people reached out to help us. It was God’s way of showing me His church is bigger than just a local fellowship,” she recalls.
In spite of her spiritual growth, Carol resisted attending her church’s Singles class. “I didn’t want to be classified as a single or divorcé,” says Carol. Finally, at the same time as she was breaking off a relationship of four years, she agreed to join the Single’s group for a Bolsa Chica Beach party.
“I remember praying that day, ‘Lord, why do relationships have to be so hard?’ I didn’t know it at the time, but it was that night at the beach that I would meet Greg, the man who would become my husband of 25 years and counting.”
The couple attended the Singles’ classes and married just four months after they met. “I knew people would think we were crazy, but I also knew God had given me the right person. Greg loves the Lord more than he loves me, but I’m second only to the Lord. I wouldn’t want it any other way. In co-leading with Divorce Care, I would repeat what a blessing that is many times over. We both like hiking, taking road trips and visiting friends and family. But the best thing about our relationship is that we are both in love with the Lord. It’s wonderful having someone to worship with,” she says.
In 2007, Carol and Greg left their church in Long Beach due to unbiblical trends and upheaval, and started looking for a new place to worship.
“I remember my first time at CrossPoint, sitting in the pew weeping at the clear teaching of the Word. That first Sunday I was so blessed by Pastor Bruce’s Biblical teaching, and even more so as time passes,” she says.
Called to Minister
The MacDonalds began attending services and classes, and soon Greg offered to teach Bible studies, as he’d done for years. He began with the book of Genesis, and since then has led studies in many books including Daniel and Revelation. He’s currently teaching the Family Bible Class. His passion, says Carol, is going through a book of the Bible verse by verse, and explaining who God is and how we relate to Him.
To give back her God-given gifts of encouragement, discernment and helps, in 2019 Carol took a step of faith to lead a women’s study of James. A study of Luke in early 2020 followed. “Discipling and leading others requires you to dig deeper into the scriptures and challenges you in a way like no other,” says Carol. “I spend a week on each lesson. I take seriously what Pastor Bruce always advises when reading the Bible – ‘Slow down!’” It’s important to me that the body of Christ know how to live out the scriptures and in so doing demonstrate what it means to be a Christ follower and glorify God – to walk worthy of our calling, for His namesake.
Most recently, CrossPoint church groups like Carol’s have been studying Habakkuk, a book that is a dialogue between the prophet Habakkuk and God. Carol shares, “His prayers reveal he was deeply troubled over Israel’s sin. By the end, he has learned to trust the Lord to work things out for His glory. We can definitely draw parallels to modern-day life. It’s only through a right perspective of who God is and how He is at work can we fuel our faith to sustain us through hard times.”
Carol’s deep convictions about ministry are rooted in verses like Galatians 2:20: I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Along with serving her church family, Carol relishes being a Godly influence on her 19-year-old granddaughter. “She wanted to serve at CrossPoint, so together we served at the blood drive and packed up food from the food drive for needy families (in May 2020, during the pandemic).
“She came to faith about five years ago. At her request, I send her a devotion every night. That’s been a welcome challenge! I want to help her get to know her Lord, and who she is in Christ. I see the Holy Spirit at work, making her more tender, loving worship, wanting to serve and to do the right thing. What more can a grandmother ask?”
Carol adds, “Recognizing that our service comes in many forms is crucial. It’s not necessarily, but can be, feeding the hungry or serving the homeless or widows. It can also be as simple as offering a kindness when offended or caring for your family in little ways. When you begin to see that displaying the character and light of Christ to a dark and dead world is your reasonable service, life gets exciting.
“Don’t know what your gift is? Serve. I’ve done things that weren’t a fit and then I knew it. Keep serving and you’ll find your purpose. I’m praying God opens our eyes to see the opportunities to display and share Him that are always around us.”
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