Crossroads celebrates new district superintendent at Installation Service
"We need to ask God to get in our stick, we need to ask God to get in our Church, we need to ask God to get in our meetings, in our homes, in our work places, and we need to ask God to get in our lives,” said the Rev. Nola Anderson, Crossroads District Superintendent.
Rev. Anderson delivered a sermon focusing on a theme of “sticks” on Oct. 11 at the Crossroads District Superintendent Installation Service, held in her honor at the Cicero United Methodist Church. She said when God gets into our lives, it transforms us. And that can scare people, but it is time for some people to “get scared by the power and presence of God.”
“It is time for us to get on track so we can see God do things we have not yet seen before,” she said.
Rev. Anderson referenced Exodus 3, where God appoints Moses to free His people from Egyptian captivity. But Moses doubts himself, questioning whether the people will believe him or if he is the right person for the job. So God delivers miracles to prove that Moses is chosen. God turns a rod into a serpent and give Moses “power over the stick” to turn it back into a rod, gives Moses power over leprosy, and more. God provides Moses with everything he needs.
“Moses did not do well on his first outing,” Rev. Anderson said. “But Moses landed the job nevertheless. I don’t know about you, but this conversation between Moses and God is a lot like conversations I’ve had with God.”
Rev. Anderson explained that she is originally from Trinidad and Tobago, born into the poorest family in her neighborhood. Her parents wanted their children to have a good education and a relationship with God. Her mother woke up Rev. Anderson and her siblings early each morning because it was their “time for God,” instilling spiritual discipline in her children.
“I didn’t know it was planting the word of God in our hearts,” Rev. Anderson said. “My father spoke with such joy about God … and I wanted to come to this love that he had for God.”
Rev. Anderson wanted God in her life. She wanted Him to reveal Himself to her. In the midst of her hunger for God, she received her call to ministry and went to seminary. After seminary, she married her husband, Pastor Andy Anderson (currently co-pastoring at the Syracuse United Methodist Churches). Then she faced a difficult choice: to stay or to move to the United States.
“I wrestled with God; I fought it, I cried, I prayed, I wrestled with God because I had to make this decision, a decision about my ministry, a decision about all the things I had worked so hard to accomplish,” she said.
She decided to move. Her belongings had to fit into two suitcases, so she got rid of some stuff, but also had her brother and sister store many items for her.
“God worked through me and eventually enabled me to release all those things because I remembered God was my provider,” she said.
Once in New York, Rev. Anderson applied to different United Methodist conferences in New York. The Wyoming Conference was the first to respond, offering her an appointment in the Oneonta District.
“I thought of ‘Little House on the Prairie’; maybe I will have to ride horses,” she said. “I saw snow covering the houses and said, ‘God, what is this? God, as a child I prayed to see snow, but not this much.’ Some buildings I never knew existed until the summer. But I met some amazing men and women and children of God.”
Rev. Anderson’s background – and the Moses’ story – illustrates that the work we do is not about us but about God working in us, through us, and in spite of us. Moses didn’t want the job God had given him, similar to how Rev. Anderson didn’t want to leave her homeland. But God wanted it. Moses accomplished great things, and Rev. Anderson is now the Crossroads District superintendent. Both stories also show that God provides and cares for His followers.
“We make decisions about things and don’t’ realize that the final decision is God’s. Moses did not understand this,” she said. “God gives us everything we need to get the job done, we just have to use it.”
More than 100 people attended the service, and Rev. Anderson had plenty of family present, including her husband, Pastor Andy, and son, Asriel, who helped his mom celebrate the occasion, playing “Ode to Joy” on his violin during the service.
Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb noted that one of the most important pieces of his work is the selection of district superintendents, emphasizing that he looks for someone who is a “deep spiritual leader” and “missional strategist.”
“A missional strategist is someone who is able to bring the best out of leaders around them, someone who is able to equip others to be who God has called them to be … someone who can help existing congregations reinvent ways they are living out the call,” he said. “District Superintendent [the Rev.] Nola Anderson has all of these characteristics. I’m thrilled that she has begun to serve as the Crossroads District superintendent.”
Rev. Anderson began her appointment as the Crossroads District superintendent on July 1. She closed her sermon by encouraging everyone “to trust God with your stick.”
“All that matters is how much of God is in your stick, and that stick represents that which you have to surrender to God,” she said. “What are you willing to hand over to God so the generation behind you can be blessed?”