by Jeff Finley
Ginger Coakley sensed God calling her into ministry, but she wasn’t sure where to serve.
“I never really felt called to stand in front of people and preach on a weekly basis,” said Coakley, 30, who grew up in a Free Methodist family in Oklahoma City.
Between her junior and senior years at Greenville (Ill.) College, the psychology major traveled with VISA Ministries to Manila, Philippines, where she came to a realization: “Everyone who sits in a pew has a ministry. Everybody who claims to be a part of the kingdom of God has a responsibility to love people and to spread the gospel.”
Her calling was unmistakable.
“I just heard the Lord say, ‘I’ve called you for ministry, and it’s time to go get equipped.’”
She worked with at-risk young people for several years and then enrolled in Asbury Theological Seminary, from which she received a Master of Divinity in 2009.
Coakley is now a Gateway Conference ministerial candidate, but she still doesn’t see herself becoming a church’s senior pastor. Along with a new partner in life — high school teacher Lee Coakley, whom she married in June — she has a new role as Illinois representative of the anti-slavery organization Not For Sale.
“I finally can see what my ministry is: advocating for the captive and letting people know that as people of the kingdom we have a message to bring of freedom and a fight to see slavery abolished in our lifetime,” she said. “I love the Free Methodist Church. Its heritage is rich, and we need to hearken back to our roots.”
Just as early Free Methodists were known for their strong opposition to slavery, Coakley wants today’s FM congregations to be on the forefront of the modern abolitionist movement, not only by rescuing captives but also by educating communities about the existence of slavery. Anti-trafficking efforts range from combating local prostitution to encouraging grocery stores to stock slave-free products.
“You’ve got to change the culture and the mindset,” she said. “A big part of the problem is the supply and demand of human trafficking. It’s got to be a mindset where we’re talking to the traffickers and the johns who pursue the sex slaves.”
Coakley has an ally in Women’s Ministries International (WMI), a Free Methodist Church – USA ministry that is exploring additional ways to work with her.
“It is my hope that Ginger will fill a position on the WMI Executive General Board as a liaison to women, speaking in various venues, raising awareness of the exploitation of women, seeking ways to create new futures for those who desperately need a helping hand,” WMI President LaWanda Bullock said. “WMI desires to assist in raising funding for Ginger in order for her to do this work full time.”
Online donations from a credit card or bank account can be made to Coakley through the “Make a Donation” area of fmwmi.com. Please choose the “Ginger Coakley Support” category.