I was born on Christmas Eve, 1971. It just so happens that my dad’s birthday is the same day! When I was young that wasn’t particularly great but in the past few years it has become something very special.
My parents are retired but my father was a Methodist pastor and my mother a homemaker (she passed away in 2012). I grew up in Missouri and lived near Springfield for 13 years until moving to Oakmont, Pennsylvania in June of 1998.
In 1974 my parents adopted my sister Cherry from Seoul, Korea when she was approximately 16 months old. She was abandoned in a police box in Seoul. Her arrival into our family was anything but good from my perspective. My “perfect” little life was being wrecked by this little bundle that came off of an airplane. I sure was confused!
We spent most of our early years in small communities and I did what other boys my age did, I played guns and rode bikes, watched TV, played sports and tormented the girls in my classes as well as my sister. I was also active in the church because my dad was the pastor.
My spiritual curiosity really began as the result of a TV show entitled “Chico and the Man”. It starred a man named Freddie Prinze who played the part of Chico. God used this man to arouse my curiosity about whether I would go to heaven or not. You see, on January 28, 1977, Freddie put a gun to his head and committed suicide. The show ended but I was left with a lot of questions. I began to question my parents about where Freddie went and the door was wide open for them to share with me how to go to heaven when I died. It wasn’t long after this that I realized I was a sinner and my sin was resulting in separation from God.
On July 28, 1977, we were at a friend’s house in Springfield. We had gone there for my dad to make hospital visits. My mother had been reading Corrie ten Boom’s book, “In My Father’s House” (Chapter 5: Five Is Not Too Young) and she had been thinking about me being five and wondered if she should ask me if I would like to invite Jesus into my heart as my Savior. So, she called me into the living room from the back playroom and talked to me. She explained God’s plan for my life and told me about heaven and hell.
She asked me if I understood, and if I would like to get ask Jesus to be the leader of my life. I was definitely ready! She felt my dad would want to be there with us, so she told me we would have a prayer just as soon as he arrived from making hospital visits. I couldn’t wait! Finally, we heard his car in the driveway. I was bursting to make the decision official! I ran to the front door and threw it open. As my dad approached the door I called out, “Hurry, Daddy, Hurry! Get in the house! I want to accept Jesus as my Savior!”
My dad was the most surprised person on the planet right then, but he hurried in, and said, “What is going on?” Then I told him how my mom had explained to me what Jesus said about me needing to come alive spiritually by receiving His forgiveness and leadership for my life, and I said I wanted to pray and ask Him into my heart. He was thrilled. So Cherry stayed in the playroom, and I knelt at a gold sofa between my parents. They asked me if I wanted them to pray a prayer that I could repeat, but I said that I wanted to say my own prayer and invite Jesus in. In fact, immediately after I prayed, my mom had the presence of mind to write down word for word what I had prayed. It reads as follows ...
“Jesus, I want You to come into my heart and save me from my sins. Jesus, You know that I am a sinner and I have made many sins and mistakes. Please forgive me. Thank You for coming into my heart. Jesus, I just want You to know that I love you very much and You, too, God. In Jesus name, Amen.”
The next day they took me and bought me my first Bible, and my mom wrote my salvation prayer in the front of it. For most of you, that Thursday was like every other one but for me it was the beginning of a new life in Christ. At 4 p.m. that day I became a Christian! Jesus was my friend and the leader of my life. I went forward to confess my faith in the evening service at Cassville United Methodist church on Sunday, July 31, 1977.
My parents tell me that I was very exuberant about my new relationship with Jesus. I sang Jesus songs all the time, said little prayers, and played church with my younger sister. I always had to be the preacher and I managed every part of the service, from the sermon to the offering to the official greeting of the stuffed animals who attended the services in our living room. I encouraged Cherry to do special music and give little skits with me. My enthusiasm in song leading was evidenced by my oft-repeated phrase, “Come on, folks!”
I remember having a peace come over me and I knew from that moment on that Jesus would be with me and would take care of me. He would be my best friend in the whole world. He promised to comfort me, guide and direct me, and provide for me. I want you to know that never once has He ever messed up! He has kept His Word for nearly 30 years and there is no doubt in my mind that He’ll continue to keep His Word.
Let me take just a minute to interject something about my dad and mom. They’re the greatest parents in the world! The love they showered upon me was greater than words can express. The marriage they modeled for my sister and me as we were growing up was wonderful. They were so faithful and loyal to each other and to us.
We made it, with God’s help, on one income so that my mom could stay at home and raise us. I would not be the man that I am today if my mom had not stayed home and taken care of us. She is the greatest prayer warrior I know. What she can’t do because she’s not around me day in and day out she does today through prayer. In fact, I know she and my dad pray for me every day.
I was baptized by immersion following my conversion on August 25, 1979 at Roaring River State Park by my dad. That was a special time in my life as I reflect back on my life because it was an act of obedience that I was following in the steps of Christ. I was publicly identifying with what He had done in my life.
We moved around a great deal as I was growing up. The longest time we ever stayed in one place was about 4 years. It was during one of these moves that my relationship with the Lord went to a new level. It was in 1984 immediately after we had relocated to a new town that my parents sent me to a camp for 10 days. Needless to say, I freaked! I had just been uprooted from all of my friends and on top of all that, I was at a camp where I didn’t know anyone. I suffered terribly from homesickness and loneliness. My parents were good friends with the camp owner and he made it his project that week to disciple me. He gave me the Scripture verse that has become my “life verse”...
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
During my sophomore year my dad began to weekly disciple and mentor me. We memorized Scripture, read books and studied the Bible like I’d never done before. I remember having to force myself to go some weeks but each time I left there was a new desire for more of God and I could sense that I was growing in my walk. I had no idea at that time how much I would value the training that my dad was pouring into me. He gave me a vision for discipleship and evangelism. He gave me a passion for ministry. It’s safe to say that this period of discipleship is one of the most important reasons that I am who I am today.
Throughout junior high and high school I had the privilege of playing sports like basketball and football. These taught me the importance of hard work and teamwork. I also loved to play tennis and ping-pong. I was active in several extracurricular activities such as the History, Science, Beta, Lettermen’s and Business clubs. I was a member of the National Honors Society and I served on the student council. It was my honor as well to serve as the President of our local chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
It was difficult to take a stand for Christ during these years but with the Lord’s help I was able to do so. I never got into the “party scene”. I was not the “typical” PK in that I didn’t rebel. I’ve never chewed, smoked, tasted alcohol or done any drugs. I don’t say that in a prideful manner. Rather, it is a testimony of God’s grace and His hand upon my life. He “saved” me, as it were, from what Paul calls the “things of this world.” PTL!!
During my senior year of high school I became best friends with the local Bible Baptist Pastor’s son. We became inseparable and I began attending his church on Sunday and Wednesday evenings. My walk with the Lord went to a new level again as I fell in love with His Word like never before. During this period within the Baptist church I developed a hunger to know the Word cover to cover.
When I went away to college I attended Baptist churches for the first year. It was during my sophomore year that God would turn my world upside down as I became acquainted with the person and power of the Holy Spirit.
During the fall semester that year I had an Old Testament class with an old friend that I hadn’t seen since high school. I immediately tried to share God’s love with him but he indicated that he become a Christ follower since I’d seen him last. That was great and I soon noticed something different about him. He had something I didn’t. Then he introduced me to his older sister and a good friend and they both had something I didn’t. They had more passion for God and more compassion toward people. They seemed more at peace with the trials they faced. Yes, something was definitely different.
It took me a couple of months but I eventually discovered something they called the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit”. I thought they were heretics! I marched home one weekend to tell my dad and mom about it and to my shock my parents knew all about it. I was appalled! Well, as you can see, my opinion was changed and I was baptized in the Holy Spirit in November of 1991 in my dorm room at SMSU. I began attending a non-denominational church and actively got involved.
I went home during the Christmas break of 1991 and had a heart to heart talk with the Lord. I had broken up with a girl I’d been dating for over 2 years the previous September and had casually dated several girls that fall. I was determined to tell God what I wanted in a wife and so I wrote out my “List of Requirements” for the ideal wife. I did that the first week in January and I met Amie a week later on January 17, 1992 at Central Bible College. I took her to a concert the following Friday night and before the night was over I was convinced that she was the one! By May of 1992 we were “promised” and in December of 1992 we were engaged. We had to wait so long because she was still in high school and I wanted to finish college before we got married. We were married on June 11, 1994 and are looking forward to celebrating our 17 year anniversary in a few months.
I graduated Cum Laude from SMSU on Friday, May 13, 1994 with a major in Psychology and a minor in Religious Studies. I had attended the Assemblies of God Theological Seminar to begin my Masters in Biblical Counseling during the fall of 1994 but God had closed that door and I was waiting on Him for new direction. That new direction came to me while the Superintendent of the Assemblies of God (Tom Trask) was speaking at James River Assembly of God, the church we had been attending since January of 1994. It was on a Sunday evening, May 23, 1995 that God began the next chapter in my walk with Him. That night I surrendered to the full-time Pastoral ministry.
I immediately enrolled in Berean Bible School and began taking courses to become a licensed minister with the Assemblies of God. While I was taking these courses God changed my life forever. Every aspect of my life was under a microscope. I discovered what it meant to have true integrity. Passages like these became the cornerstone of my ministry:
“Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (James 3:1)
“You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.” (Titus 2:1)
“In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” (Titus 2:7,8)
“I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10,11)
I wanted to know Christ more than I ever had before. I was licensed on March 21, 1996 with the Southern Missouri District and was hired on at James River Assembly where I had the opportunity to use my gifts of administration and organization to help run the ministry there. I had the privilege of ministering to 400+ youth on a weekly basis. I worked with 85 college leaders to develop them and train them to minister. My greatest passion is to see people connect with others in small groups, discover their giftings and to use them to “build up the body of Christ.” I also love developing leaders and discipling others.
Since having come to Riverside Community Church I have had the privilege of developing and training adults as they are growing in Christ. I am able to serve in my areas of strength and have grown tremendously in the area of leadership. It is my continual goal to help people get connected to God and to others in small groups and to find a place to serve and follow God’s call upon their lives. Since He has called me to serve Him in His church, I don’t want to ever stop telling people about His love. My message is the same as it was when I was just a little boy 28 years ago ... “Come on, folks!”
Amie and I have been blessed with two wonderful children … Joshua David, born on April 10, 1999 and Jenna Grace, born on October 7, 2001. Their arrival has taught me how much my Heavenly Father loves me and I am learning how to be a father each and every day. Jesus has honored my commitment to Him. And now, He has placed me in a position to bring my children to come to know Him. It is my goal to always love him in such a way that they will want Who I have, so that they may come to know the wonderful Savior I love.
When someone asks me my story, I reflect back on my life and I wonder what Jesus would say about me. I wonder how my story would read if it were penned in the Scriptures. When everything is said and done, I pray that the following to be said of me as it was of King David ...
“When David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep.” (Acts 13:36)
That’s my heart’s desire – to serve God’s purpose for my life. I want to do that now – in my own generation. Not tomorrow or yesterday – today! I have given myself, my wife and our children to Him completely. All that I have and all that I am is to serve God’s purpose. It is my hope that when my final day arrives that I will be able to say, like Jesus did ...
“I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work You gave me to do.” (John 17:4)