It was a call Kathy Makus tried long to ignore, and then tried to say she wasn't up to answering.

But, ultimately, it was a call she could not refuse or put off. So the then-married mother of two, a practicing attorney in Walla Walla, embarked on a path that would lead her to a seminary in San Francisco and eventually to the First United Methodist Church in Ellensburg, where she serves as pastor.

Makus attended church as a young child, but religion did not play a large role in her life. In the 1980s as the mother of a young family, she decided to take her children to a local church.

"I was a lawyer in Walla Walla, and a friend and I started attending church to expose our children to the prevalent cultural mythology," Makus said. "The joke was on me as I had a conversion experience."

Her conversion wasn't instant, but it was fairly quick.

"It was about a three-month process," she said. "The closest I can come to it on a spiritual or emotional level is the equivalent physical level of having a leg fall asleep and starting to wake up. It's uncomfortable and prickly for awhile."

Still, Makus thought she could go on with her life as a Christian who was an attorney.

"Following my conversion I began to pray on where and how God wanted me to serve," Makus said.

She said other people began to ask her when she intended to pursue becoming a minister, even though she never mentioned it herself.

She said her husband made it clear he wasn't interested in being married to a minister. But before she decided she wanted to be a minister, Makus said she knew she no longer wanted to practice as an attorney.

The strength of the call continued to grow. Makus said at one point she had a vision in which she held communion bread in her hands.

"It was burning in my hands," she said. "I felt the need to hand it out."

The urge to preach became so strong that she would go in her room and preach to the walls.

She finally wrote to a friend who was a minister and admitted she was thinking about entering the ministry, but listed the reasons why that would not be possible. A few days later she was at a church group and the woman running the meeting referred to her as a person thinking of entering the ministry, although she had never mentioned the idea to her.

When she returned home there was a letter in reply from her minister friend.

"He said, 'I have waited a long time to hear the words you've been afraid to verbalize. I, too, feel you've been called to the ministry. Who God calls, God equips.'"

After questioning herself for so long, Makus realized she'd been asking the wrong questions.

She said the main question was whether God wanted her to be a minister, and all the perceived obstacles were not her concern.

"It was up to God to take care of everything else," Makus said. "If it was a wrong decision then things would not go smoothly for me. In fact, what happened is that everything started to fall into place."

Makus worried about how she would pay for seminary, and then friends offered a $10,000 interest-free loan. Everyone who needed to approve her application to seminary did so, and then she landed another partial scholarship.

She packed up her two kids and enrolled at the San Francisco Theological Seminary.

Road to Ellensburg

After graduation from seminary, Makus took her first position as pastor in Stevenson and Fern Prairie in southwest Washington. She then moved to a church in Dayton, near Walla Walla, which allowed her to spend more time with her children who at that time were living with their dad.

She came to Ellensburg just a few months after the church had spent months in the national media spotlight while a jury of Methodist clergy members ruled that the church's past pastor Karen Dammann did not violate church law by being in a lesbian relationship.

Church member Larry Lowther said when Makus arrived she correctly sensed the congregation needed to recover.

"For the first year she recognized we had been through a lot," Lowther said. "She said at first she would not demand a lot from us, that we could relax and recover."

Makus said she thinks the congregation's energy and enthusiasm is back up at a high level.

"There was a time of healing and now they've just blossomed," Makus said.

Lowther said Makus works well with the congregation.

"She's open to new ideas and she has new ideas," he said. "She's flexible and honest. She works hard on her worship services."

Makus said one of the missions of the church is to use the building to serve in the community and it does so by housing the community's food bank and clothing bank, Habitat for Humanity offices and by offering the facilities for a Hispanic church that does not have its own building.

Coming to Ellensburg, Makus said she knew the congregation did not just talk about openness to diversity, but practiced it.

"This is a delightful congregation that came through that experience with a great deal of grace," Makus said.

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