I was raised in a church-going home for the early years of my life, and I am forever indebted to my parents and that small Congregational church for how I was exposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ and His Word during this period. It was sometime during junior high school that my family stopped going to church, or at least I stopped going with them. God’s more visible intervention into our lives came at age 15, the same year that the process began for my parents’ separation and eventual divorce. Having heard of our situation, someone referred our name to the pastoral staff at Chicago First Church of the Nazarene, which was approximately 10-15 minutes from where we lived. I will always remember the day when the associate pastor of that church came and knocked on our front door. When I answered the door, he told me that they were in prayer for us and that we were invited to come to church anytime. Shortly after that, my mom, two younger sisters, and I attended the church for the first time --- the very place where I had participated in a T-ball league several years earlier. My mom and sisters became regular attendees of that church, while I attended with them on occasion. I mostly gave myself to the two common pursuits of all of the guys that I knew: sports and girls. Yet, this church loved me and made me feel welcome every time I came, no matter how long it had been. A group of senior adults made up the greeting team there. It was like they were there just for me, watching and waiting for me to come through the doors. I will never forget how those little old ladies would kiss me on the cheek, and the older men would slap me on the back and talk about my favorite thing: Chicago sports. I felt welcomed and loved. I did not know it at the time, but God was preparing me and making a place for me to go when the crisis would come.
Two years later, I found the bottom falling out of my life, as it had been for some time. Everything I tried was failing. Everything I tried to hold onto was slipping through my fingers like sand. On a January night in 1985, I drove home in a fit of rage because of what I felt I was losing. Because of the icy back roads, I lost control of my car. It spun out of control and wrapped around a large oak tree. Photos later revealed that just about the only part of the car intact was the driver’s seat, yet I came out without a scratch or even a bruise. I remember the stunned moment when the car came to rest. While it was not an audible voice, I heard something more clearly than anything I have ever heard: “If you had died just now, where would you be?” I knew the answer to the question. I ran the rest of the way home, and prayed in my bedroom that night. This was it for me. I don’t know the exact words that I said, but I told Jesus that my life was His, and there was no going back. The first place I wanted to go was that place where those people loved me. I could not wait to go, and wanted to be the first person to arrive and the last one to leave. I soaked up everything I could, as often as I could. Something began to happen in me, and a difference began showing up in my life. The older people at church told me there was something different about me. It was an exciting time. But the changes were far from over.
One month later, in February, the teens were responsible for conducting the Sunday evening service, which was something they did on a quarterly basis. They asked me if I would like to help, and I gladly accepted some small role in helping to conduct the service. As I did this, something began to stir in me that I did not understand. I asked my youth pastor something like, “If God wanted you to be a minister, how would you know?” He said something like, “You’ll just know.” It became clearer in my heart and soul this was not only what God wanted, it was what I wanted as well. The path was fairly well laid out before me. I enrolled at Olivet Nazarene University, which was approximately 35 miles south of where I lived, and made preparations to begin attending there in the fall. God was laying the path before me.
In my second year at Olivet, as I was studying for ministry, I met Trina. We were engaged at the end of that school year, and then married the following year. No other step in life, besides giving my life to Jesus, has been more important and precious to me than my union with Trina. She is the apple of my eye and my partner in every way. Following our graduation from Olivet, I took Trina to the far-off land (what seemed like to us) of Kansas City, MO, where I studied for three years at Nazarene Theological Seminary. It was during the latter part of our time there when we felt God’s leading for us to go into the field of full-time iterant ministry with me as an evangelist. After graduation there in 1992, we spent the next seven years traveling together throughout North America, holding revival meetings, campmeetings, and special events. We had made the commitment to stay together as a family, and so we traveled together in an RV during those years. A little over half-way through that period, our daughter Chaili, our treasure, was born to us in Memphis, TN, which was our home base. What a gift from God. We continued traveling as a family for three more years, and Chaili was in 43 different states during that time. After these three years, we began to feel that it was best for our family and was God’s calling for us to settle in one location and for me to become the pastor of a local church. The people of Beebe, AR First Church of the Nazarene were gracious enough to call us to their church for me to be their pastor. I am forever indebted to those people for that opportunity and all I learned about being a pastor in those two years. In addition this, our son Carey, another precious treasure, was born to us in Arkansas. Little did Trina and I, two northerners, know that we would have two southern-born children! Shortly after Carey was born, we moved to Joliet, IL, my home area, for me to be the pastor of Crystal Lawns Church of the Nazarene. The next six years were far more precious to us than we can explain. We grew as a family in every way, and are so very deeply grateful for those people and the opportunity to be a part of their lives and to grow together in Jesus. They are family to us, and our family continues to hold a special place in our hearts for Joliet even to this day.
In my sixth year in Joliet, God had begun stirring in our hearts again. There seemed to be a new phase of His calling for us as a family: one which we did not fully understand. It has been our desire and intent to spend a lifetime in Joliet. Yet, we wanted to respond to Jesus, and so we reluctantly moved to a new home base in Tennessee in order to walk in His calling for us. I was back in the field of itinerant evangelistic ministry, but it was and is now different than before. There may not currently be an adequate term for this calling, for it is a combination of evangelist, pastor, and teacher. God has taken all of these experiences, each one of which we are eternally grateful for, and blended them into something that seems unique. Yet, it is something which we feel that we were made for and that He has prepared us for throughout this journey. If you would like to read more about this ministry, please go to the Calling page.
Our family continues to grow in Jesus in every way. We love Him, each other, and others more than ever before. We praise Him for all He has done and is doing in our lives, for being who He is, and for the privilege of being His. What a Jesus He is.