Finding Calcutta: Where am I now? Is this my calling?

Mary Poplin reading an excerpt from “Finding Calcutta” at 2011 Carnegie Mellon U. Veritas Forum

As we open Finding Calcutta: What Mother Teresa Taught Me About Meaningful Work and Service (Mary Poplin. IVP. 2008), let’s begin by wrestling with “Finding (my/your) Calcutta.”

  • Jesus is Savior and Lord. We want to know His calling for our lives. We want to know His calling for our lives together in the Church.
  • It is personal – “Serving Jesus” versus “Serving People” (or “Serving Causes”).
  • It cannot be about us either too much, i.e., going it alone, or too little, i.e., I’m just an insignificant part of Cosmos. Each of us has been created by a personal, knowing, loving God for a purpose in His Kingdom.
  • The starting point is to be God’s where each of us currently finds himself/herself.
  • Deeper insights into our calling are not forced and may not be dramatic. Scripture commends us to be content in our circumstances, taking all our cares to God, and trusting in Him for guidance. We are also not to limit God through our own small expectations.

“Finding Calcutta” Outline

    • Planning
      • Where am I now? Is this my calling? We can view our life’s walk with Christ as a journey. There are times when we walk in silence with Jesus; times when we debate. There are times when we run the race; others when He carries us over hurdles. There are times when we search and wander, and times when we see Him show us the path.
      • Where is Calcutta? Somewhere beyond (just) ourselves.
      • My calling has to be about me, right? It must be about God first. This was a clear mark of the character of Mother Teresa.
      • How do I get there?  How should I prepare for the journey? We are warned by Scripture to count the costs. We are admonished, in ways of our faith, to be child-like. Our preparation for our calling is not an educational pursuit or technical training alone.

  •  On the ground – finding my Calcutta
    • Prayer: We frequently do not have the answers. God calls us to turn to Him to seek it or His peace in waiting if the answers are not immediate.
    • “Follow me.” Jesus’ words are clear on the “what,” but not the “how,” the “when” and the “where.” They are simple and direct. They require our trust.
    • Find yourself in “doing”– not by being the critic of Calcutta. Do everything with a grateful heart as onto the Lord. We could always do better, bigger, more … tomorrow. God wants His workers in the fields today.
  • Some (many?) of us are already there – and just need to realize it and redeem it through God’s grace.


  • It’s a good thing I’m not called to be Mother Teresa. The picture of Mother Teresa is inspiring and intimidating. Not everyone is called to be a minister or a missionary. God calls tax collectors AND students, factory workers, researchers, farmers, professors, bankers, post-docs, retail clerks, teachers, health care professionals, engineers, etc . . . to be His workers.
  • What is my legacy? Ecclesiastes reminds us that the earthly return on our labor is simply passed along. Your heirs inherit your wealth. The successor in your job when you retire will change the way things have always been done, perhaps riding your good work for a number of years.
  • What have I gained? Continuing towards Calcutta. I start on my journey by choosing the Master, Jesus as Lord. I’ve started on the journey; I’m looking forward (not back).

Where am I now?  Is this my calling?

  • What is your Calcutta?  
  • What experiences brought you to an awareness of your calling?
  • From Scripture describe an individual and his/her pathway to realizing God’s calling.
    • Joseph (Genesis 49:22-26)
      • Favorite but spoiled son
      • A slave
      • A prisoner
      • An adopted prince
      • A provider for God’s people, his family
    • Ruth (Ruth 4:9-12)
      • A foreigner
      • A faithful daughter-in-law
      • A moral, trusting woman
      • Wife of Boaz, grandmother of King David and in the lineage of Christ

My struggle to write this book, to tell the truth about Mother Teresa, and my struggles in the university are a testimony both to a lost public conversation and to a worldview that is very difficult for many in Western culture to comprehend fully, even some of us who profess Christ.”” — Mary Poplin. Finding Calcutta. Accessed 8/15/2011, 2:44 pm.

Next in series: Finding Calcutta: Where is Calcutta? Somewhere beyond (just) ourselves.

“Finding Calcutta” Cover

As I mentioned last week, if you don’t have a local/campus book discussion which you’re a part of this fall, I encourage you to gather some friends, start one up, and share your group’s thoughts with us on-line. As an individual and/or group, please feel free to respond to/wrestle with one, some, or all the questions raised. You’re also more than welcome to ask your own 🙂

Note: Genesis of the series:  You’ll notice the influence of  Head, Heart & Hands, Os Guiness’ “The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life,” and “Why Christian Apologetics?“* As with the Head, Heart & Hands series, the material is drawn from an adult elective at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (EBIC) facilitated by Kevin Milligan in coordination with the author speaking for our Christian Scholar Series (an EBIC-ESN partnership). In Spring 2011, Mary Poplin spoke in Pittsburgh, South Central PA, and Baltimore as part of an ESN partnership with Undergraduate Ministry and Graduate & Faculty Ministry. To God be the glory!

*To skim or not to skim: A ‘case’ study of “Christian Apologetics” and Why Christian Apologetics – Hell on  newly released 752 page casebound Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for the Biblical Faith (IVP. 2011).

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Tom Grosh IV

Tom enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa and their four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he teaches adult electives and co-leads a small group), among healthcare professionals as the South Central PA Area Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), and in higher ed as a volunteer with the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). The Christian Medical Society / CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine is the hub of his ministry with CMDA. Note: Tom served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship / USA for 20+ years, including 6+ years as the Associate Director of ESN. He has written for the ESN blog from its launch in August 2008. He has studied Biology (B.S.), Higher Education (M.A.), Spiritual Direction (Certificate), Spiritual Formation (M.A.R.), Ministry to Emerging Generations (D.Min.). To God be the glory!

More Posts - Website

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.