In May of 2012, Claudia and I found out that we were going to have our third child. We were renting a small house in Nashville, NC at the time. We decided that we needed something larger and began to look for a house to buy. At the time, I was overseeing 7 drugstores that covered an area from Zebulon to Roanoke Rapids. We looked at houses central to that area. We decided to place a bid on a house that had been foreclosed in Wilson and our bid was accepted. We told our landlord that we would be moving out at the end of the month. It got near the end of the month and the closing on our home kept getting pushed back. The house that we were renting had already been leased by someone else, so we had to be out. Even though we had lived in Nashville for two years, we were not very connected in that community and did not have any family or friends that lived close. I began to get very worried about where my family would live until our home was ready.
I made a visit to my store in Roanoke Rapids, and I was in the office with the manager of the store. I made a call to realtor about issues that were delaying the closing. In a rant of yelling and cursing I voiced my concerns about the delay and where my family would live until the closing. The manager of the store overheard my conversation–there was little way she could have kept from it–she informed me that her church had a vacant (?) parsonage and we could stay there until our house was ready. Relieved, I discussed the offer with my wife and we happily accepted the generous offer. At the time, Claudia and I were not attending a church and had only discussed the possibility of going to church because we felt it would be good for the kids.
Our Lives Changed
We moved into the house in August 2012 and stayed there for about a month until the closing of our house. We were kind of in a dilemma: we were staying in a parsonage free of charge, next to a church, so we felt obligated to go. We met some of the kindest people we had ever met at that church. We began to see what true followers of Jesus looked like. The love that the people of that church showed our family caused us to seek a relationship with this man Jesus. The people of this church helped us move into our new house, and supported Claudia and I when our baby Addison arrived in January of 2013. We were especially drawn to one particular family in the church that we consider the most instrumental in our desire to grow in Christ.
In June of 2013, we began searching for a church that was on fire, as we were, for Jesus. We visited one other church but we fell in love with Wilson Community Church and made that our home. After joining the church, we joined a small group, and began to serve in the church. As I first heard said by J.D. Greear, “Our ’yes’ was on the table.” We were willing to do anything God wanted us to do and go anywhere he wanted us to go. During that summer when we began attending WCC, the lead pastor, Gary Combs, was on a sabbatical with his wife, but, as I love say just to kid him, it seemed like way too long of a vacation. I heard a lot about him, and heard that we had a lot in common, and that turned out to be very true.
Pastor Gary was a district manager for a drug store chain and we can talk for hours about the retail business, strategies, and challenges of the business. We are both very driven and have type A personalities. I am so grateful to God for placing Pastor Gary in my life. He has been a great teacher, and has influenced my life and my spiritual growth. In November of 2013, Pastor Gary ask me to start a community group with him and I was honored to do so. That year, which we led the community group together, was a huge growing experience for me.
In June 2014, I went on my first mission trip, which greatly influenced my growth in Christ. I began to feel the call to serve as a missionary somewhere–anywhere God wanted me to go. I had been out of school for over 20 years and in order to pursue the calling I would have to earn my bachelor’s degree before I could begin my Masters of Divinity. I had never been a good student and had always been content with just passing. I worried that I could not succeed in school. How could a person with limited intelligence possibility go to school while working full-time? I struggled with doubt, but received great advice from my pastor. He encouraged me by explaining that he knew what a hard worker I was, and how hard he knew it had been to achieve the success I had in my current job. He said treat school just like you treat your job. He said, “Just, work it like a job.” As simple as that seems, that was the best advice I could have received.
In August 2014, I enrolled at Liberty University Online full-time and began to work toward a bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministries. My GPA was so low in the few college classes I took after high school that I had to be granted admission under a special status called Acceptance on Caution. It was very challenging to work full-time, go to school full-time, have time for my family, and serve at church. Yet, it was God’s will, and he gave me the strength to succeed. It is amazing how even while up at 4am a lot of mornings and not going to bed until after midnight, God helped me value every minute of time with my wife and kids. These last 3 years I have become a better husband and father, and spent more quality time with my family than ever before.
More that I Could Ask or Think
I just completed my Bachelor’s Degree with a 3.8 GPA and I give all the glory to God. As the Apostle Paul explains, we can do far more that we can even think when we are doing the will of God (Eph. 3:20). I am so thankful God put people in my life that helped me reach this goal and to be able to continue to pursue the call God has placed in my life. I have already been accepted in the Master of Arts in Global Studies program at Liberty and will begin my first class in the next few weeks. I would like to thank, my wife, Claudia for all her support and helping proof my papers late into the night and into the morning. She is my best friend and an amazing mother to our children. I’d also like to thank my dad, who gave me my work ethic. He is the hardest working man I know. He still inspires me with his desire to continue to get up and go even now that he is hindered by Parkinson’s disease. If dad did not work another minute in his life, no one could out work him. They would all be just trying to catch up to my father where hard work is concerned. I’m also thankful to Tim and Jennifer Sharpe for being role models of Christian parents and for being amazing friends. To my pastor, Gary Combs, who has been a wonderful mentor and encouraged me to continue going and to keep my eyes on Jesus, even when it was tough and it seemed impossible. Most of all, I give all the glory to God, “For nothing will be impossible for God.” (Luke 1:37). I am proof that through God we can accomplish anything if we work hard and put him first in everything we do.
I am in awe of God’s amazing grace. Like the Apostle Paul, “I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:12-16 ESV).