This seems like a true circle. Many of you may know me as Donn’s son or as the “pastor’s kid.” The truth is, I hope that I can be much more than just those things. It’s not that I am embarrassed of my family or am resentful of them in any way. It has more to do with the fact that since my family moved here back in 1995 I have always been known for what my family members did.
Originally I was that State Patrol officer’s kid. Then my mother became the secretary at the church we were attending and I was her son. After that my parents became the volunteer youth leaders and then I was the son that wasn’t old enough to be going to youth group. Then my dad felt called to be the pastor of a new church… and well, you get the idea.
I thought that it would be better in school and truth be told, it was worse. Every action/inaction was a reflection of my family who, it seemed, EVERYONE knew. It was not until college that I experienced the freedom of not being known. For the first time in my life people got to know me for who I was and not who my parents or brother were. It was just me.
Now that I’ve moved back to Strasburg I have already been reminded that this has not necessarily changed. Again, it’s not a bad thing; I’m proud of my family and what we stand for… but I would also like for the people of MVF to see my actions apart from my mother, father, and brother.
So when I was asked to write a blog to introduce myself, I thought about how I could write this. I decided the best thing to do would be to describe what my life has looked like since I left Strasburg and really started asking myself the question, “Who am I?”
I graduated in 2008 from SHS and got out of town as quickly as possible. I knew that I wanted to be a youth pastor and so I only applied to one school: Ozark Christian College. When I got there I found incredible freedom to do what I wanted. I was placed in an academic dorm on a floor of guys that prided themselves on being very intellectual and theological.
I felt like I was not accepted or liked. I graduated from Strasburg High School with my Associate’s Degree and entered college as a junior. However, at OCC they had Christian prerequisite classes that I was required to take. This meant that as I was taking junior level classes in theology while I was taking the freshman prerequisite classes that were giving me the required knowledge for the junior classes I was taking.
Simply put, I didn’t do well my first semester. I was placed on academic probation and the frustration that was already evident by the other people who were living all around me only increased. After talking with my academic advisor we figured out what was going on and why I was having such a hard time with everything. After a long talk and some shifting of the following semester’s classes I went from being on academic probation directly to the honor roll.
The summer after my freshman year at OCC, I worked an internship near my grandparents in Colorado Springs at a church that my parents had attended before ever moving to Strasburg. I loved it and only became more confident that this is what God had in mind for me.
I came back to Ozark pumped up and more excited than ever. The dorm floor I was placed on had the rule that every semester we got new roommates. The roommate that I had for the first semester of my sophomore year was the guy who was basically the social leader of the floor. It took all of three weeks of me asking questions and watching movies in my dorm room for him to come to resent me. He quickly turned the whole floor against me.
I was no longer welcome to spend free time with the other guys. So I spent my spare time working part time at an indoor putt putt golf course. I got really good at a sport that no one cares about. I put in lots of overtime and got paid a decent amount. But I had no friends and felt like an outsider.
I was soon offered a weekend position at a church as an intern. I accepted without any hesitation. I was now off campus as much as I possibly could be. I enjoyed the internship a lot but when it wrapped up, I couldn’t take being at OCC anymore. So, I took a break and spent the following year back in Strasburg.
This would be a year of change for me… it became both intolerable and critical for me as far as making me the man I am today. I discovered not just who I was, but more importantly, who God wanted me to be. I even found the woman that I would marry. After a rough year and lots of health issues, I decided to go back to a different school that was closer to my bride-to-be. This lead me to Dallas Christian College.
I found an entirely different environment at DCC. An entire school that was more dedicated to doing ministry than just learning about it. A school that was much smaller than Ozark but was twice as passionate about saving the lost. I was home, almost.
I proposed to Lauren after my first semester at DCC; some of you may remember, as I proposed on stage at Mountain View Fellowship’s Christmas Eve-Eve service. We set our date for January 2014.
The following year I worked hard. I worked the night shift at a hotel during the week and filled in as the children’s pastor for an inner-city Hispanic church named Iglesias De Miestro in Dallas. I also carried a heavy load those two semesters… one at 19 credit hours and the following at 22 credit hours. Sometimes I look back and wonder how I did it, but I know God gave me the strength.
It was all worth it… I had more ministry experience than ever before, I graduated early, had a beautiful wife, and was ready to start this new life adventure! I was hired at Aspen Ridge Church and worked there for two and a half years. I had the pleasure of watching God take that youth ministry from six teens to over sixty. Now that I’m here at Mountain View Fellowship, I’m craving being part of long-term student ministry. Using the experience that I (and all of our youth workers) have, the youth team and I will be able to craft a student ministry for both middle and high school teens that will be welcoming, safe, and encouraging. Our goal is to show teens that God loves them, that the Bible is still relevant today, and that He has a plan for their life.
As you will come to find, our student ministry will always be doing something. Every month we’ll be reaching out to new students and friends of the students already coming. We’ll be showing them first-hand how to serve, and give them experiences that will impact the rest of their life.
All of this will be done though the building of relationships with the students so they’ll always have somewhere to turn and a safe place to talk where they won’t be judged. But most importantly this will all be done so that we can point students to a relationship with Jesus Christ.
I have the pleasure to be part of a team of dedicated sponsors (that are all amazing, by the way… you should hug the next one you see!) that leads this already successful group of students into a ministry that will overflow into the communities of Bennett, Byers, Strasburg, and beyond.
I ask for your prayers and support as we start this mission of winning the students of the 1-70 corridor as they dive into a life-long relationship with Jesus. I ask this not as Donn’s son, Angie’s kid, or the guitar player’s older brother, but as the Youth Pastor God has called me to be, and the man that I am trying to become.