At the age of around 12 I had figured out that God didn’t exist. I was certain of this. Every encounter I had with a “Christian” seemed to reinforce this view. And I was 12, so I knew I was right. I had even read a few pages in a couple of books in the library on the subject. It also helped that my group of friends also looked down on Christians, and by looked down on them, I mean we thought they were fairly stupid people to believe in God. At this point in my life the word Jesus was something I would hear my Dad say when he was angry, and I guess I had heard that Jesus was a cool guy (if he had even existed), other than that I didn’t know much about Jesus. I had gone to a Summer Sunday School Week thing with my neighbor when I was around 8 years old, I just don’t remember anything about Jesus, just snack time and singing silly songs in a big room.
By the age of 14 I was very much against Christianity. I saw Christians as really being the cause for most of the problems in the world. I thought Christians were all about being ‘good people’ and I kept hearing about ministers doing bad things. Hypocrisy = False, so I kept right on thinking Christians were some of the dumbest people on the planet.
At the age of 15 I began to get involved in Wicca. I studied spells and attempted divining spirits. My experience in this made me realize that there was another dimension to existence. A Spirit world. I guess what was attractive about Wicca and Witchcraft at the time was that a few of my other friends were into it, so I wanted to be cool like them. But during this time of my life there was always something in my gut that kept me questioning if this Wicca stuff was worth anything, at times I even thought maybe I was simply crazy.
At the age of 16 I got wheels. I bought an old Toyota Tercel hatchback from a junkyard. During this summer I was driving around with a friend when we saw a gathering of people outside of a house. And we saw a Christian, we knew she was a Christian mainly because we gave her a hard time for being a Christian in High School. Yeah we were jerks. So we had to stop and give her a hard time again, I mean it was summer and we hadn’t been able to make fun of her since school had been out. So we stopped and she came over to the car. She was nice to us and asked us to come stay for a Bible Study her parents had at their house every Monday. We laughed at the idea and left, joking about how stupid that entire conversation had been. But something was really bugging me. “Why was she so nice to us when we were so mean to her?” After I dropped my friend off at his house I drive back down that same street and found that everyone was leaving the house, and she was outside again. I stopped and she came over to the car. I basically asked her “What is wrong with you?” and she talked about Jesus. I thought that was weird but she asked again if I would be willing to come to their Bible Study on Monday evenings. I said no. But the next Monday I ended up going, I wanted to find out why she was so different. The curiosity was too strong to resist. What I encountered was a family that cared deeply for each other and for others. This was kinda new for me. Not to say that my family wasn’t caring, but everything was always surface level with my family. After that night I was at their house almost every day. I had found a family that made me feel good, and loved. I liked that. And over the next few weeks I realized that what was different about them was that they had accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior and that He had changed them. I knew that God was real now, and I knew about his Son, Jesus. And I knew that God wanted to change me. But for a few weeks I fought this idea. It went against everything I had believed. Yet I knew it was true so I did what I knew I needed to do, I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I was then baptized at a small Baptist Church in Springfield.
After this I tried to live a double life spending time with my new Christian friends and still with my previous friends who were not pro-Christian. This was a hard balancing act and I kept finding that my old friends just were not good for me. I was now a Christian, and my old friends were starting to get into bad stuff. So I began looking for somewhere to go where I could find Christian’s my age. I found that at Chatham Baptist Church. I got involved in their youth group and began spending more time with other Christians. It was there that I learned that most Christians struggle, and as bad as this may seem, this was encouraging to me. I wasn’t the only Christian having problems battling the old self or desires to break Gods will.
When I graduated from High School I attended Lincoln Land Community College where I became a member of Christian Student Fellowship (CSF). It was while I was in CSF that I grew a lot with God. For the past two years of being a Christian I had really not learned much about the Bible, I had made being a Christian mostly a social thing, but CSF changed that. I began digging into the scriptures and by doing this my life changed more and more. I realized that God had shared with us a message that can help transform your life. Now that is cool. I also went on a mission trip to Mexico with CSF and God opened my eyes up to a whole new world. And I knew he wanted me to be doing something more than what I had planned.
God wanted me to do something with ministry. I simply knew this, every part of me told me this. I was scared, not sure what to do. But since I didn’t have any Bible Background I knew I needed to learn the Bible better. So I ended up at Minnesota Bible College (now Crossroads College). Bible College wasn’t what I had expected. I expected to meet Christian’s that were excited about ministry and serving God, and I met a few people like that but overall I found a community of Christians that were simply comfortable where they were and growth in Christ was something more discussed than practiced on a day to day basis. I got more involved in a Missions group on campus where one other student became a great influence in my life. we talked a lot over the course of the next few years. We came up with crazy ideas to fund missions projects, but more importantly we talked about God, and through these conversations I grew in my understanding of God. I know now I was at MBC primarily to meet the people I became friends with, more than to sit in class and listen to professors. After I graduated from MBC I worked a bit in Minnesota but then moved back to my parents house in Illinois. I had a ton of student loan debt and really didn’t know where God wanted me to go, so I worked. The bills all wanted to get paid. Then I met New Mission Systems International at a conference in Witchita Kansas called the National Missionary Convention. They asked me to consider moving down to Fort Myers,FL and work with them while I figured out what God wants me to be doing. A few months later I flew down to Fort Myers, FL to check them out and I loved what I saw. They had a community of believers working alongside one another in preparation to go all over the world. This wasn’t the kind of community I found in college, but a community dedicated to serving and growing. So I made the decision to work with NMSI. I started raising support and then moved down to Fort Myers, FL without even 10% of what I needed pledged. I knew so strongly that God wanted me there and that he would provide. This wasn’t an easy decision but one that really stretched my faith to move over 1,000 miles away and have no idea how the bills would get paid. After a couple months with NMSI I realized that support was not really coming in and I was considering getting a job in the evenings so I could work at NMSI. This is when an opportunity to be involved in Campus Ministry at Florida Gulf Coast University opened up, so I jumped at the opportunity. I served Christian Campus Fellowship as a part-time Campus Minister for two years. This was an amazing blessing. The experience I got from this was abundant, and it allowed me to continue serving with NMSI. God provided, more than just enough money to pay the bills but an amazing experience as well.
At NMSI I met my wife, Jaime as well. So of course I am glad I moved to Florida. Before we got married we began plans to serve in Kenya with NMSI through a program called AfricaHope. Our initial plan was to work in the US for about 5 years to pay off some debts and then move to Kenya. But Jaime was unable to get a Nursing job (even though there was a shortage) so we decided to begin raising support to head to Kenya as soon as possible. We saw her not getting a job as a sign from God to move to Kenya sooner rather than later. After about a year our support raising efforts were not going well. We had been at 40% funded for most of that time, so we were discouraged. At this time Jaime’s oldest brother was diagnosed with cancer for the second time in his life. So we decided to put our Kenya plans on hold to be with him. I got a job with Atos Origin to pay the bills and then we bought a house as an investment so we wouldn’t be paying rent. (hopefully this works out well for us) Just before 2007 Jaime’s oldest brother passed away. Jaime is now working at Healthpark Hospital as an RN, and now we are trying to figure out what God wants us to be doing. It appears that we will be in Cape Coral for at least the next 3-5 years, that is fairly certain, but after that only God knows. But we are excited to be following Him, and know that wherever that may be, He always goes ahead of us. Maybe it will be Kenya or Kentucky, I have no idea. But I want to be open to go wherever He leads.