Jeremiah 33:3—Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not.
Many of you know me, and some have known me for some time. My testimony of Salvation is also available on the blog. But I wanted to share something a little different. A Christian’s testimony should not end with his salvation, that is just the beginning of a great life. The following story is in no way my attempt to brag or proclaim my own goodness, all the glory goes to my Saviour, Jesus Christ.
As many of you know, I am 25 years old, (I’ll be 26 on June 9th) and so I do not claim to have a lot of life experience, but I do have something that may be a blessing to you. I want to tell you what great things the Lord has done for me in my short time here.
I was saved at the age of 15 on December 12th. My life previous was a very self-righteous, proud, pretensive, and a religious one. When I finally saw my need for a Saviour, I got in on the best deal ever in my life. When I got saved, I wanted to be sincere in my life and actions toward God.
When I got saved, I still did not get everything right immediately. I still enjoyed my country music, and other secret sins. It took a little while to fully let the Spirit of God work in me (He is still working on me, definitely a job). I carried a lot of pride and religion with me for some time. I know for a fact that I was saved during this time, though others may deny it to be true. (This is why I have tried to show as much grace as I can to teenagers who get saved, but who still struggle with issues)
In my senior year of High School, I began to put my thoughts towards what I wanted to do after graduation. I was pretty confident that I wanted to work in the construction industry. The Lord began to deal with my heart about going to Bible College. I felt that if I had given myself to 13 years of an education, then I felt I should give some time of my education to God. I was praying about where to go, not wanting to leave Beaufort with my family and church, but wanting to learn the Bible better at the same time. One Sunday evening, I walked up the church steps at church and a Brother Allen Wiseman ran up to me and said “Bro Baker said he would reopen the Bible Institute here at church if we have 10 men. Right now we have 9 ready, are you interested?” I replied immediately that I was willing, ready, and excited to be a part of it.
So that fall, we all started out ready to conquer our courses. The first year was pretty interesting. I saw grown men get mad over stupid stuff and do everything but have a fist fight, I saw men argue the Bible with the teacher and make a fool of themselves, and much more stuff.(Unfortunately I was not always innocent either) But through that time, we had a ball. Friendships were forged, and some of us tried to grow up, and the rest were forced to whether they wanted to or not. Unfortunately only three of us showed up for the second year. Some of the other seven had good reasons and excuses why they quit and some didn’t, but that doesn’t matter.
At the end of that first year, I asked Sheila Halvorson to marry me. I was 18 and she was 19. I know that I was young, but I knew I had to get her before someone else did. She was (and is) the best girl I had ever met. Many counseled me to not get married during Bible College, they said I should wait, but I didn’t listen. She was probably the best thing to help me in my studies. We would sit there for hours with her quizzing me. She would go with me for my public evangelism requirement and even attended some of the courses with me.
I graduated after the three year program was finished. I wasn’t top of the class(that was Allen Wiseman) and I was not Teacher’s pet(that was Sam Baker mostly), but I finished. A lot of people asked what I intended to do after I was finished and my answer was always that I intended to be a faithful church member, a good husband and father, and work a job. Some think that might be a waste, but I felt it was God’s will.
I started my own business and got pretty focused on that for some time. Working long hours was hard, but it put food on the table for a while. I very rarely missed church because of it, and always tried to make time for family. But about a year after graduation, the Lord gave me a burden for the teenagers in my church. I saw many of the same issues in their lives that I had in my adolescence and wanted to be a help to them to encourage them to serve the Lord and not this world, flesh, or the devil.
My wife and I, with the help of my best friend and his wife (Eric and Andraea Fair) started to reach out and help these other “church kids.” We scheduled fellowships for every other Friday night for them to play games and have Bible studies about issues that were relevant to their lives. We tried to make our lives available to these young people to be there friends and encourage them to get saved instead of running to the world. It did not take long before our house became the “hangout” spot for all the teenagers (about 15 to 20 of them). They would come over to our house after church on Sunday Evenings and Wednesdays, Sheila would have sleepovers for the girls (I tried it once with the boys, DISASTER), and a lot of the teenagers who could drive would just randomly show up and hang out (usually at supper time). It was the best 3 years of my life. We went to summer camp 3 years in a row, and I think I personally had more fun then some of the teens. We went to youth rallies and had fun there too. But better than all that was when the Lord dealt with the hearts of some of the young people and they accepted Christ as their Saviour. We had 6 teenagers get born again during this time and it was a joy to my heart. Some of these teenagers are struggling with issues in their life, and some of them have fallen out, but I believe that some of them got it, and I still try to encourage some of those young people to this day.
After 3 years, this ministry took a turn. Eric and Andraea moved to Papua New Guinea to run a missionary home, and almost all the teenagers grew up and moved out of the youth group. Some were still able to come, but without the large crowd, they soon lost interest. After having a few fellowships with 0 attendance, and Sunday School classes with only my siblings in them (they felt bad for me and continued to come), I began to think maybe it was time to do something else for the Lord. I thought that maybe I should try to work harder at the youth group, or maybe the Lord wanted me to go somewhere else. I prayed about the issue, and went to a few other churches that were wanting to have someone come work with their youth, but every time these opportunities fell apart to show me the Lord was not in them.
So finally, one Friday night after having no one come to the church for the fellowship again, I got on my knees and begged God to show me what to do. I told Him I was willing to do anything. I would stay and be faithful in church, I would go to mission field, I would move north, south, east, or west, but I just wanted to be available for his will. That Sunday Morning, my pastor walked up to me during song service and asked me if I was interested in pastoring a church. I told him “NO,” but all through the service all I could think about was how I had told God I would go anywhere and do anything. After church I went and asked Pastor Baker to tell me more. He told me that a little church in Brunswick GA had called him that morning looking for a young man to come take the church as pastor. I said that I was not ready for that, and Bro Baker encouraged me to at least check it out because it can’t hurt.
So we made the 1 hour and 45 minute drive to Brunswick GA to see the situation. When we arrived in town, we were amazed at how similar it was to the town we lived in. Very coastal and Southern. We went to the morning service and the pastor took us to eat after the service. Everyone was so very friendly to us and they had no idea why I was there. I spoke to the pastor about it over lunch and he told me he would call me. He called me that next week and invited me to come preach at the church the next week. We came and I tried to preach, (but I am not very good). The church really seemed to like us and we really liked them. We came back for the next month and a half on Sundays to get to know the people. They decided to vote on us, and they called and said that they would like for me to come pastor their little church.
I was shocked and amazed that the Lord would bring this opportunity in my life. I definitely did not feel qualified for this in any way (that feeling hasn’t changed), but after some prayer and counselling with my pastor, I accepted the offer the church had made me. The church decided that they wanted to offer me a small monthly salary. I never asked them to do this nor did I expect it, but I am extremely grateful for it.
When we made the decision to move here, we put our house in Beaufort up for sale. At the time I am writing this, someone has a contract on it and are scheduled to close on the 29th of June. We were looking for a place to live in Brunswick, but did not want to have to make 2 payments. The house right across the street from the church came open for rent and so I went to see the man about how much it would be. We walked through the house and my wife really liked it, and he then he told me the price. It was pretty much exactly what the church has agreed to give me as a salary. What a blessing this was.
Since we have been here, the Lord has opened tremendous doors. We have tried to make an effort to go out and knock on the doors in the community to spread the gospel and invite folks to come. We have had a few people come from this and some have even stayed. We also have had the tremendous opportunity to preach and serve at the local homeless shelter and have seen the Lord really work in this ministry. Lastly, one of the opportunities we have had in this area that is really amazing is the street preaching ministry. We go and preach regularly at the waterfront and have never had an issue with any local authorities telling us to quit. We also go once a month to the festival downtown and preach publicly and also never an issue. We have had a police officer come over to speak with us, but only so that we could give her the gospel personally. Overall people seem very receptive to this and we have even seen some visitors come to the church as a result of all this.
I have now been here in Brunswick as the pastor of Open Bible Baptist Church for almost 10 months. So far, I have only survived by the grace of Jesus Christ. Times have been great, and at other times I felt like it was more than I could bear. But God has been good to help me through it all.
As I look back on the great things the Lord has done for me (and much to my amazement, with me) in the last 10 years I am excited to see how the next ten years will be. Lord, help them to be better than these last 10 years. I have failed many times. I have been unfaithful at times. Other times I was just lazy, but God is faithful. Thank God He loves me in spite of myself.
Ephesians 3:20 21 –Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
Unto him be glory in the church by Jesus Christ throughout all ages, world without end. Amen