Three Questions: Carol Potratz

Three Questions is a semi-regular series introducing individuals across the NAB by asking them about their story, their ministry, and what they are learning. This week, we hear from Carol Potratz, the chair of the Alberta Baptist Association Global Operations Team, former NAB missionary, and retired seminary professor.

What’s your story?

I was born and raised in the Midwest United States, growing up on a farm in Iowa about an hour from the Mississippi River, before immigrating to Canada in 1989. As motels and restaurants in my rural area were scarce, my parents would host missionaries, traveling evangelists, foreign students, salesmen, and hobos. Through these visitors and my parents’ hearts for Jesus and the world, particularly the children, from a young age I was challenged to think about and pray for others.

From these beginnings arose my life objective and love for hospitality, prayer, and serving others, a love that continues to this day. I’ve had a variety of vocations, from high school teacher to college and seminary professor; from youth pastor to missionary; from short-order cook to associate dean of students. There is a lot I am passionate about: Jesus – especially knowing him and helping others to know him – strong BLACK coffee over vibrant conversation, young people, live theatre with friends, nature, my nieces and nephews, art, cooking, movies, AND teaching!!

I have spent my life in educational, church, and cross-cultural ministry, having served as a denominational leader, an academic, on pastoral staff, and as a two-term missionary to Japan. I served ten years at Taylor (when it was known as North American Baptist College) as associate dean of students and later at the seminary, where I developed many close relationships with students who now serve in various ministry and lay positions around the world.

Through my many life experiences, the Lord prepared me for what he called me to do in Japan, to teach a variety of ages, both women and men, in areas I love, like cooking, theater, painting, communication, music, discipleship, and BIBLE!

In July 2015, I retired from missionary service in Japan and went on faculty at Taylor Seminary in Edmonton, Alberta. I retired from my teaching role at Taylor in June 2019. For the next two years, I served as a pastoral care associate in my home church, Zion Baptist Community Church, until my final retirement in December of 2021!

What’s ministry like for you?

Ministry has always been in a variety of formats for me – it is woven into the fabric of my life. Growing up in an active Christian home where my parents sincerely practiced their faith in a vibrant, practical way helped me realize at the age of 8 that Jesus died for me, and I obediently followed his example of baptism when I was 9 years old. I LOVED the church and wanted to serve, so I started teaching Sunday School on a regular basis at 14. Since then, God has honored my love for him and people by allowing me to serve in positions where I was able to minister in a variety of capacities: with senior citizens through cradle roll, leading short-term teams to a variety of countries, influencing future (and present) ministers and missionaries.

Presently, I serve as the chair of the Alberta Baptist Association Global Operations Team. The GO Team’s purpose is to help fulfill the ABA mission of growing and advancing the Kingdom of God in Alberta and the world by assisting ABA churches in promoting, developing, and resourcing the NAB and other international ministries of ABA churches. (Isn’t that exciting!!) This year, 2023, marks my 50th year in ministry, and I am honored the Lord continues to call me to serve. It’s my sincere prayer that anyone still reading will also PERSEVERE in listening for his call to them to obediently GO and use the gifts he has given them!

What are you learning?

The Lord has been teaching me the same lesson in different ways through the years: that his Word is “living and active,” and it is THE truth, not one-of-many-truths!! During the world’s experience with COVID, there is documentation of the marked increase in anxiety, fear, depression, and suicide, and many people who formerly were “regulars” have dropped out of church altogether! I’m sure there are many reasons, but for some of these individuals, I believe that getting out of the habit of physically attending church where one can share insights from Scripture reading with others, hearing and giving encouragement to one another, and spending time in God’s Word with others (as well as individually) are essential for life, health, and growth! Michael W. Smith’s song “Ancient Words” says it sooooo well (to really get the full impact, please sing or read the entire song; it’s powerfully TRUE!):

Words of Life, words of Hope
Give us strength, help us cope
In this world, where e’er we roam
Ancient words will guide us Home.

Ancient words ever true
Changing me, and changing you.
We have come with open hearts
Oh let the ancient words impart.

As I faithfully come to his Word with an open heart, the Lord breathes life into me and gives me strength to guide me to those who also need a “hope-infusion” or strength or clarity or direction or . . .! Indeed, Ancient words ever true; Changing me, and changing you!!