News - Calling: Wait, Who Said That . . . Mom or God?

Calling: Wait, Who Said That . . . Mom or God?

Calling: Wait, Who Said That . . . Mom or God?

Harry Bonney ’47 draws from personal experience and half a century of Kingdom work to help others understand the hard parts about responding to divine call . . . hard parts like saying "yes" to God when "yes" means relinquishing something we dearly love.

At age 91, the former pastor and conference superintendent in the Free Methodist Church shared his observations via a phone call from his home in Spring Arbor Michigan, where he still guides others through God’s word by teaching Sunday School using material he creates from his personal study.

What advice does he give today’s students about following God’s call?

“One, be sure it is God and not your mother or somebody else, and two, when you’re sure it’s God, obey."

He has learned to question people when they say, "God called me." “I want to be sure that it’s God," he explains, "not their conscience or some other influence.”

Unmistakable, Authoritative

Bonney then shared an experience of "call" that took him away from leading a church that he loved. God's "voice," though not audible, came to him one night in the form of a question: "If you are elected superintendent, will you serve?"

The clear authority he experienced left no doubt about the course of action he would choose. Though Bonney did not welcome the prospect of relinquishing his pastorate, he knew obedience was paramount.

“I said yes.”

That year, Bonney was elected superintendent at the annual church conference.

“I wept most of the way home,” he said. “I did not want to leave my beloved church. But again, the call was unmistakable. It was not audible, but I knew it was God.”


The certainty of calling makes hard times bearable, he reflects today. It provides a strong foundation for the work that follows.

Bonney’s first encounter with divine call came at age 15 or 16 after he attended a revival meeting in the one-room schoolhouse where he and his siblings attended school.

“I left that night knowing, knowing that I needed to be in God’s service. From that time on I began to prepare for it. It’s never left me for these 75, 80 years.”

A Mother’s Influence and the Rest of the Story

While God’s voice trumps other voices, Bonney still acknowledges his mother’s influence Bonney Familywhen it came to education. She and her farmer-husband raised six children (shown at right, with Harry in the back row, center) in South Dakota during the Dust Bowl years.

“She graduated high school in 1913, which was unusual for women at that time,” he recalled. “She was adamant that we planned to go to college even in those reduced circumstances.”

The children grew up knowing it was not a matter of “if” you go to college, but “when” you go to college. “Things were tight, of course, but we all went to high school, and we all went to college, and we all got degrees beyond college.”

Three of the boys—Harry, Brian and Doane—graduated from Greenville College and pursued advanced degrees. Combined, the trio dedicated approximately 140 years to Kingdom work, including world missions, church ministry and service as conference superintendents.

“We were not perfect,” reflects Harry in retrospect, “but we worked at the job.”

Worked at the job and followed God's call.


GC Vision: We inspire our students to embrace God's call. Go here to tell us your story about embracing God's call. Go here to view our collection of stories about calling.

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This story was published on November 28, 2016

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