Shari Kasten
Christian Leaders Institute

I was born dead on January 21, 1974, after coming out feet first. A Christian nurse on duty ran in the hall to beg my dad, who was waiting in the hall, to pray while she attempted to resuscitate me. Twelve to fifteen minutes later my pulse started up again and I began breathing on my own.

I don’t know if this is why I loved God from my earliest days. Maybe I met Him for a moment before I came back.

I am the fourth of five children born to a Vietnam veteran and a former elementary school teacher. From a very young age I remember contemplating God, loving Him, and praying to Him. As a child I sang my best in church and practiced at home singing  like Christian contemporary singers and knew that I was always singing to the Lord and if he wanted to use me more in that area, He would do it.

My favorite class in the Christian school I attended was Bible class. My teacher in grades Kindergarten through four was very good at making it exciting while going through the history of the Bible. She had us memorize many details for the tests. Grades Kindergarten – 4 were in the Lower room while grades five through nine were in the Upper room. Even though I am only forty years old, I was taught in a two-room school house, even in the freezing cold winters of small town Minnesota.

I was baptized as a baby into a Reformed denomination (and also baptized as an adult in January of 2014 for the sake of other Christians who desired it.) My two older brothers are in ministry. One of them is a senior pastor while the other is in leadership teaching seminary classes to inmates in prisons. My oldest sister is an elementary school teacher with five children, while my younger sister is a home-maker with five children. I have been primarily a home-maker for 18 years. God has blessed me with seven children and three step-children. The last two years I have been taking classes at Grand Rapids Community College and at Christian Leaders Institute.

While taking care of children and cleaning the home I listen to Christian radio – about five sermons a day. I like to have my mind busy while doing rote work. I enjoyed listening to Chuck Swindoll as a child, since my mom listened to him. I also listen to David Jeremiah, Alistair Begg, Irwin Lutzer, Tony Evans, Ravi Zacharias, Sinclair Fergusen and many more preachers while doing housework, both local pastors and pastors throughout the U.S. After more than ten years of listening to about five sermons a day from five or more different pastors, my mind has been sharpened and I am able to make (without much effort) short sermons for the children, based on Bible texts, for devotions.

It started with my own children. He or she that is faithful in little is faithful in much. This does not mean that all of my children follow the example I have set. But before God, I did my best. The people I want to minister to the most are teenagers and women. This American culture is only getting more and more difficult to stay faithful to Christ in. I want to help everyone, but especially women and teenagers with their struggles. Especially, I want to help people get up when they fall, and lead them to restoration in Jesus Christ.

I really enjoyed studying with Christian Leaders Institute. This is not the least because I found that my many years of reading Alfred Edersheim, Matthew Henry, John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, Chuck Swindoll, A.W. Pink, and other non-fiction Christian books on missionaries and theology while breast-feeding babies paid off. Many of the classes at CLI came rather naturally to me because of the decision I made about twenty years ago not to waste my time. If I was going to read a book, it was going to make a difference in my life. One book that proved to be a huge turning point in my life is, “John Newton, from Disgrace to Amazing Grace” by Jonathan Aitkins copyright 2007. It is amazing. Every Christian would greatly benefit from reading it.

The reason this ordination will help me is because I need more of the prayers of God’s people and the Holy Spirit poured on me and my family as I assist them and others by His leading.

The words that I would most identify with in this ordination would be Pastor of women and teenagers, Youth Leader, or maybe Evangelist to women in prison. I think all of these are possibilities for me.

I felt God’s calling on my life since I was very young, to serve God’s people. I didn’t understand it could be valid in any way, except by being a mother. The turning point was when I read Darius Jankiewicz’s in depth biblical article on Phebe and the early churches’ blessing on some mature women to be in places of church leadership. Women must not usurp the church authority any more than a man should, of course. Deborah the prophetess was also a “mother in Israel.”

I have always wanted to teach my children everything the Lord taught me through devotions. This forced me to learn how not to be boring. Kids will not put up with boring. I read Christian literature voraciously and listen to sermons on Christian radio while I work in the home. I believe God wants me to serve His people. He wants to give me more of a ministry outreach than only my family and children.

Some of the unique challenges in this area of Grand Rapids, MI are that there are so many denominations while there is not always great love amongst each other. There is also not enough support for the large population in Grand Rapids, MI that is divorced and remarried. There is quite a bit of denominational animosity in this city. It is not the greatest soil for new converts.

My local church has supported us by giving us food and lots of it. They have prayed over me and my family and laid hands on me for prayer at prayer meetings. My wayward son was brought back to God with the help of this church.

I have the abilities to help teenagers and women. Because of the ultra- conservative church I was a member of my whole life till I was 35, when I needed support there was no one was there to help but God alone. Older women were not available. I want to be there for women and busy mothers with young children. It is the hardest job. I want to be there for insecure teenage girls and boys. I have five sons, three daughters, and two step sons, and one step-daughter. Most of them are in their teens.

If Christian Leaders Institute wasn’t here, there would be no way of someone judging my knowledge or displaying my abilities to minister to people.

Thank God for Christian Leaders Institute! They have become my spring-board into serving God with all my talents.
Pray for me and my husband, who has a doctorate in Spiritual Counselling, to be a huge blessing to the whole Church in Grand Rapids, MI. My husband counsels male divorcees, teenage guys and parent/teen relationships, while I counsel women, mothers, teenagers and children. Together we do marital counselling. Please pray that the devil doesn’t get between God, my husband, and I, in any shape or form, ever, and that God mightily blesses us to have a faithful and fruitful ministry.

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