By Grace Thornton
The Alabama Baptist
God may have used a burning bush in the past to make a calling known, but for Celine Simpson, it was a burning pile of brush.
It started out simple, she said. Her husband, Troy, had set fire to some sticks and leaves outside their new house in rural Alabama and the neighbors had noticed.
“They thought our house was on fire so they called the fire department and then came down to help,” Simpson said. “Just like real Christians they were loving their neighbors.”
Fanning the flame
They invited the Simpsons to visit their church, Crawford Baptist, Phenix City, and in doing so, they fanned the flame of another fire.
God was at work in Simpson’s life.
It was a story He had started writing “way before I was born,” Simpson said, but she first began to notice it when she met her now husband on the other side of the world.
“I was born and raised in France, and I met my husband at one of the U.S. military bases in Germany,” she said.
And one night as the two walked through the streets they passed a church and he asked her if she believed in God.
“I said no and my heart just ached,” Simpson said. “I knew I had told a lie. But I didn’t know anything about Him so how could I say I knew Him or believed in Him?”
She said God continued to stir in her heart even through her own wedding. In the middle of the ceremony she felt deep conviction as the minister spoke. When they moved to South Carolina to start their family people began to ask her more and more about her faith.
“I visited a church and after the service I was bawling,” Simpson said. “The pastor asked if he could talk to me and he told me more about who God is and what Jesus Christ had done for me.”
She was baptized in May 1997 when she was eight months pregnant with her older son, Dylan, but her newfound faith was still finding its feet, she said. When she moved to Alabama 10 years ago she was just leaving the “wilderness” of figuring out what surrender really meant.
“I truly believe I didn’t really surrender until right before we moved to Alabama,” Simpson said. “We had worked hard at being good parents, but I don’t think we had really realized what it meant to survive by faith.”
But she said God knew exactly what He was doing when He led the family to Alabama for her husband to work at the nearby Army base. She was forced to start over again in an unfamiliar place and she learned to lean on Him daily. She felt like God gave her Joshua 1:8–9 in that season — to encourage her to be strong, courageous and walk into the life God had for her. It wasn’t long before the Simpsons started attending their neighbors’ church.
‘Above and beyond’
And not only that — she secured a part-time job as Crawford Baptist’s secretary.
Pastor Steve Williamson said it was a life-changing move for her — and for the church.
“She thought she was just getting a part-time secretarial job to help make ends meet, but she began to see the calling on her life,” he said.
And over Simpson’s past decade of service — which the church recently honored her for — Williamson has come to rely on her as ministerial staff, he said.
“The way she ministers to others and cares for others goes above and beyond her job title,” he said. “Her faith has matured over the years, and she now understands that what she does has eternal consequences. It’s been unique watching her come to the realization that she was called to do what she does.”
Her earnest prayers and investment in the community have changed lives, he said.
And the congregation of Crawford Baptist has invested back. Through the years as Simpson’s parents have come to visit from France the church has welcomed them in as family. And when Simpson’s younger son, Sebastien, was baptized a few years back, Williamson memorized the words to say in French so that Simpson’s parents would be able to understand.
Simpson said it’s been amazing to see God’s story unfold in her life.
“When I look back and I really realize what He’s done it’s amazing,” she said. “I just love Him so much because He loved me all the way in France before I was even born. He seeks all of us and He has sought me all the way.”
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