Once Edith Carlin gave her life to Christ, she became passionate about serving — at home and abroad.

“When you’re willing to serve, there’s always an opportunity to grow and expand,” said Carlin, co-pastor with her husband, Cary, at the Glory of God Worship Center in Denham Springs.

Carlin’s personal ministry has expanded beyond the walls of the church and even the borders of the United States.

Last November, she spent two weeks in Nigeria, where she taught at a Bible college. Carlin will head to Kenya in mid-August to teach at two conferences for women and pastors.

“These teaching trips came about from some international schools wanting their students, both men and women, to see a woman standing in the office of a pastor,” she said. “These nations don’t always hold women in favorable regard, and these students need an example to encourage them to follow the call of God on their lives and to encourage others to do the same.”

Carlin, 50, knows about getting encouragement and the call of God.

“I grew up with a respect of God, but I never had a knowledge that God loved me,” she said.

She and Cary attended several churches before getting married.

“It was like a season of life where we both just wanted to know more about God. The Lord just revealed himself to me that He loved me as I was,” said Carlin, who earned a degree in petroleum engineering from LSU.

Carlin said the decisive point in her conversion came in 1988 after reading the biblical account of a woman washing Jesus’ feet.

“That just touched me in a way where it just became real to me. That’s when I got saved, when I accepted (Christ), and it just took off from there,” she said.

In 2001, Carlin was part of a group that founded Glory of God Worship Center. She was content leading and serving in the music ministry and doing other work around the church when she was asked one day to fill in when the speaker couldn’t make it.

“That was the start of my ministry,” she said.

Nine months later, she was named co-pastor.

“I had no goal or ambition of being a pastor,” she said. “I just wanted to serve the Lord. I was just leading the worship, cleaning the toilets, everything practical that comes along with leading or heading a church.”

After being called to pastor, Carlin earned a master’s degree in theology through the Life University program.

As pastor, Carlin was dedicated to find missionaries to support. She took her first overseas trip to Austria in 2006. Her latest trip to Nigeria left a lasting effect.

“It was very humbling. The Nigerian people are amazing,” Carlin said.

The country has been in the news for its rife of violence, including the kidnapping of 200 Nigerian girls from their boarding school in northeastern Nigeria by Boko Haram Islamists.

“I could not imagine what those parents feel,” Carlin said.

The majority of the girls were Christians, Carlin said, and Christians are often attacked for their beliefs. The country is about 42 percent Christian and 50 percent Islam, Carlin said.

Being able to practice our beliefs openly is something so many Americans take for granted, she said.

“Could you imagine waking up Sunday morning wanting to go to church, knowing that if you go and bring your child with you that you’re in danger? Your life can be taken from you,” Carlin said. “As Americans, we don’t go to church because it’s raining. We just don’t have the real temptations to not believe and serve God like these Christians in Nigeria do.”

Carlin added, “This is the body of Christ suffering. ... As the body of Christ, we should be concerned. As Americans, we really should have a heart for people who are suffering throughout the world, and I hate to see us grow cold.”

Carlin was able to help minister to Christian students during her two weeks. The 90 students in the capital city of Abuja and 150 students in Port Harcourt included pastors, lawyers, accountants, doctors and government officials.

Besides the constant threat of violence and numerous security checks, another big challenge Carlin faced was combating false doctrine among Christians.

“Even though they were believers, they followed erroneous doctrine that kept them in the dark, that kept them from really understanding how much God was really for them,” she said.

To help support the work in Nigeria, visit gogwc.com or mail donations to Glory of God Worship Center, 1114 Rodeo Drive, Denham Springs, LA 70726. The church holds services at 10 a.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Being an effective witness

The first step in reaching others for God is exemplifying that love of God, Zachary minister and author Elmo Winters says in his new book “Growing by Going: A New Approach to Being an Effective Witness.”

“Effective witnessing must demonstrate the genuine love of God,” said Winters, the apostle/overseer of Faith Bible Ministers in Baton Rouge. “No one is ever led to Christ without experiencing His love. It is not enough to be able to quote John 3:16. The true motivated witness must live John 3:16.”

Winters will host a book signing from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at SACHA, 19900 Old Scenic Highway, Suite J in Zachary.

Readers will find the 91-page “Growing by Going” a helpful source in leading others to Christ. Winters draws on his rich 37 years of experience in personal witnessing and soul-winning as a pastor, missionary Bible institute instructor.

“I have made soul-winning the mantle of my life,” he writes. “Leading people to our Lord and Savior has become the main focus of ministry for me. I see it as my responsibility, my function, my role in life and (simply) my ‘reasonable’ service to God. ... I would simply say soul-winning is ‘my thing.’”

Unfortunately, Winters said too many churches and members have not made it “their thing” to go and proclaim the Gospel as mandated in the Great Commission.

“Failure to fulfill the Great Commission is the main reason there are so many mini (as oppose to mega) churches today. Churches have substituted programs, conferences and events for simply following the Word of God. The instructions of Christ to ‘Go and tell everyone’ has been replaced by ‘Come and tell no one.’ ”

Contact Winters at (225) 305-3006 or elmow1@att.net.

Essence of gospel music

One of the joys and most underrated parts of the annual Essence Music Festival in New Orleans is the free gospel performances on Sunday at the Morial Convention Center.

This year’s edition was “Praising Together: All Star Gospel Tribute to Yolanda Adams.” Several performers honored the gospel star by singing one of her hit songs with Adams sitting on a couch in front of the stage.

Performers included Erica Campbell, Kiki Sheard, Kim Burrell and James Fortune. But one of the most pleasant surprises was rising star Jonathan McReynolds, who blended his influence from India.arie’s neo-soul sounds with gospel.

McReynolds stoked the crowd’s spiritual emotions with a song titled “Lovin’ Me.”

Words included: “I’m nowhere close to a perfect man, and it takes a supernatural love to even understand. And behind the wall, behind the mask and confident smile was a broken man trying to grow up and make life worthwhile. And I know there were times that you probably shouldn’t, but I thank you for always loving me. And know anyone else they probably wouldn’t, so I thank you for always loving me.”

The guitar-playing McReynolds closed his 20-minute set with Adams’ “Open My Heart.”

He started it with humor: “Nobody in their right mind would want to sing this song in front of Yolanda Adams, but I’m young and I’m new, so when you get the last choice, what can you do? I’m really honored to sing this song to you.”

Faith Matters runs every other Saturday in The Advocate. Reach Terry Robinson at (225) 388-0238 or email trobinson@theadvocate.com.