In my 10 years of blogging, I have never really taken the time to give my testimony publicly on my websites. I have just never seen my own testimony as something that was very extravagant. It definitely was not a "The Cross and the Switchblade" type of story. I also suppose I have always just been focused on other projects that I never really cared to share my story. That is why I am sharing it in this post. I hope and pray that my experience of how God has changed my life will encourage you, as well.
My story began when I was a child. My grandfather was a United Methodist pastor, and he had always been a positive example in my life. He always pastored smaller congregations, and with this came a close-knit community. I remember going to church when I was a younger child, although not always to my grandfather's church. My mom and dad divorced before I was 2 years old, and my dad had custody of me for many weekends. I would go to church with my dad's side of the family, if we went to church at all. I do not remember the denomination of the church we attended, but I do remember the warm and friendly atmosphere.
As a younger child, I just did not get the Gospel. I simply missed the point. When I was a child, I had the impression that good people went to heaven and bad people went to hell. Of course, in my mind, good people were those who went to church and put money in the offering plate (my grandma always gave me a dollar to put into the offering plate each Sunday I went to my grandpa's church). Good people also had to do good things for others, learn the bible verse for the week, and do the kind stuff that Jesus did. If you had asked 8 year old me if I was a Christian, I would have said, "Yes, because I go to church and do good stuff." In short, I was a very flawed view of anthropology, as well as a flawed view of what it meant to be a Christian. This all changed later in life. For the time being, though, I had what I now recognize as a works-based theology.
I remember being in class when I first heard my teacher mention what happened on September 11, 2001. I had no idea what was going on. I was too young for that. All I knew at the time was that my mom, who was a soldier in the Army Reserve, was being sent to Fort Benning, Georgia in response. I was 10 years old at the time, and I still remember how worried I was about what was going to happen to my mom. After mom went to Fort Benning, I went to live with my grandparents. They had custody of me throughout the week, and my dad got custody of me on the weekends. It was during this time with my grandparents that I saw my grandfather live like Christ. To this day, I don't think I have ever met someone through whom Jesus shone more brightly than my grandfather. Despite this, I still didn't get it.
Not long after my mom was stationed at Fort Benning, my dad was arrested. I won't go into any of the details here, or probably ever on this blog, but I was the only one in my family that saw him get arrested. I was taking a martial arts class at the time to help me focus, since I was diagnosed with ADHD as a child. It was in this public setting that I saw officers come in and arrest my dad. After this happened, my dad's wife at the time was supposed to come and pick me up and take me home. After some time, it became apparent that she was not coming. The Instructor of the class had gone back into his office, and a short time later called me off of the floor. He was a godly man, and he explained to me what he knew about the situation that was going on, and asked if there was anyone else that he could call to come and pick me up. The only ones that I knew to call were my grandparents. I still remember how this elderly man, now a retired Grandmaster, stayed with me through it. I knew he was a Christian, and this small act had a lasting impact on me.
After the arrest, my family had a difficult decision to make. My dad's case had made the papers, and I had already experienced bullying in Elementary school, and some in Middle school. My mom thought this would make things worse on me, so she decided that it was best that I move down South to live with her. I fought her almost every step of the way. My friends were up here. My family was up here. My home was up here. I did not want to move. However, if I had never moved to the South, I don't think that I ever would have come to understand the Gospel.
I went to live with my mom, kicking and screaming the entire way. She was living right across the Chattahoochee River from Fort Benning, in a small town called Phenix City, Alabama. It was here that my mom began to take me to a small Baptist church. At first, I started going because I was told that sometimes the youth group played games after church. It was here that I heard the pastor preach about the need to have Jesus in your heart, and that was the only way to be saved. We are all sinners, and deserve God's judgment and wrath, but God sent Jesus to pay the price for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God. I don't know if that was the first time I had heard that message or not, but it was the first time that I clearly remember grasping what the pastor was trying to say. It wasn't long after I started attending that I responded to an altar call at the end of one of the services. The pastor prayed with me, and I understood that as the moment that I became a Christian.
Around the same time that we started attending this small Baptist church, my mom enrolled me in a private Christian school called Eastwood Christian School. It was located in Opelika, Alabama, approximately 30 minutes from where my mom and I lived. Here, I had daily Bible lessons each morning. It was here that I received much of my early understanding of what it meant to be a Christian. I am truly grateful for the foundation that I received while I was there. I graduated from Eastwood in 2009 at age 17.
Around the time I graduated, I began to feel God calling me into ministry. I went to the pastor of the Baptist church that we were attending, and told him about the call. He told me to make a public statement about how I feel God calling me, and ask the church to support me in this call. I did this the next Sunday, and the church congregation was very supportive. Eventually, I began to lead different ministries. I started leading Sunday School classes and small groups. Over time, however, some things changed at the church. At first, I was told that I would not be licensed to the ministry because I was too young. The pastor of this church made it clear that, since deacons must be 21 years of age, he would not license anyone under 21 years of age to the ministry. While I was not entirely happy with this, I dealt with it. I then tried to get the pastor to mentor me in the interim until I could become licensed. I asked for (I believe) one meeting per week, for an hour. He agreed, but over time it became clear that he was intentionally "out of the office" whenever he knew it was time for our meeting. In short, the congregation supported my call to ministry, but the pastor stood in the way at almost every opportunity. Furthermore, there were some other changes in the church that were not making people too happy. My mom, sister, and I decided the best course of action was to find another church.
We ended up at Landmark Church of the Nazarene, just up the road from our previous church home. The pastor at this church took a very different approach to helping me discern God's call for my life (at this point, I knew God had called me to the ministry, but didn't really know what role he was calling me to). When I explained the call of God on my life as I understood it, this pastor recommended that I attend a Bible College, and pointed me to Nazarene Bible College. I was given the opportunity to lead in various roles, similar to what I had done at the Baptist church. I believe that it was this recommendation and practical experience that, more than anything else, helped me understand where God was calling me. I graduated from Nazarene Bible College in May of 2020, with a Bachelor's in Bible and Theology. I am currently pursuing an M.Div. from Wesley Biblical Seminary.
In 2017, I felt led to leave Alabama and return to Indiana. It was here that I have found an excellent church community in the Columbus, Indiana First Church of the Nazarene. The pastors on staff here have helped nurture the call of God on my life and have been there for me through some of the more difficult times that I have faced. I have also found support from my soon-to-be wife (Abby, on the off-chance that you are reading this, I love you).
This brings me to today. That was it. That was my story. It seems kind of dull compared to some testimonies that I have heard. But who knows, maybe it will bless one of you who read this post. Perhaps God will use it to help someone. In the same way, don't be afraid to tell your story. It may just help someone else, as well.