I want to invite you to join me on a little trip.  We’re going to have to get in the Way Back Machine in order to get there, but it’ll be fun.

In June of 1997, I had just finished my sophomore year of high school.  Our new youth pastor was going to take us on a mission trip to a place called SIFAT somewhere in backwoods Alabama.  I had never heard of this place, but was looking for something to do before summer band started again, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get away for a while.  So, I went.  It’s amazing how the simplest of decisions can change our lives.

While we were on that trip.  I heard a story that would change my life.  During the Third World experience that we had one night, a man from Rwanda shared with us his story of surviving the genocide that took place in 1994, a tragedy that claimed (by some estimates) nearly 800,000 lives.  (If you want to get a glimpse of what happened, watch Hotel Rwanda.  Incredible movie.)  What got him through it all was his faith in God.  I remember it being still, and he closed his story by singing the hymn Because He Lives.  And the words of the chorus will always remind me of that night:

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.  Because He lives, all fear is gone.  Because I know He holds the future, and life is worth the living just because he lives.

I didn’t sleep that night.  I was up most of the night wondering why in the world God would let something like this happen, and every time I did shut my eyes, all I could think about was what this man’s life must have been like.  The next morning, we rolled out of our hammocks, and hiked back to our work area.  Along the way, they told us to be quiet and reflect on our experience the night before.  I was walking along the road, and I heard something.  I’ll never forget the spot, whenever I go back to SIFAT, I stop there and reflect for a while.  I heard somebody call my name.  Now, I’m a rule-follower, so I was not happy that somebody was talking to me, and I turned around with an obvious look of displeasure on my face… and there was nobody there.  Many months later, as I reflected on that experience, I realize that it was God calling me.  Looking back, I know that was when I was called into ministry.

I struggled with that call for some time, but came to embrace it.  And by the time I was making my college decisions, I knew that I was not going into teaching like I had planned.  I was going into ministry.

I spent four years at the University of Evansville getting my B.A. in Religion (with a minor in Biblical Studies).  I then attended Asbury Theological Seminary to get my Masters of Divinity (I always feel like I should pull out a sword when I say that…).  I spent a year and some change as an associate pastor, and was commissioned by the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church, and in November 2008, I came to the wonderful town of Veedersburg to pastor the United Methodist Church in Veedersburg and Hillsboro.

On Monday, April 4th, I had the most important day of my “professional” career.  It feels a little weird to call it a “professional career” because I don’t see it like that – like somebody might see their job as an engineer or retail manager.  Two days ago, I met with the Board of Ordained Ministry of the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church.  I had an interview that lasted for an hour and a half, and then three hours of waiting to hear the results.

At the end of the afternoon, I was sitting in a room with my interview team, and they congratulated me for being approved to be ordained as a member in full connection with the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church.  On June 11th of this year, I will kneel before the Bishop, close the door on one journey and open the door to another.  Nearly 14 years to the day, that hot Alabama summer day when I heard the voice of God call me into ministry, I will accomplish the first stage of my journey, and the rest of my life will be dedicated to serving the Lord as an ordained clergy person.

It’s unbelievable.  It is a testament to God’s faithfulness.  Even through my difficulties and my weaknesses, God has indeed called me to be a pastor in the United Methodist Church.  I am filled with awe at God’s faithfulness in my life, and my prayer is that I may be used so that many others will come to know the truth of Jesus Christ, and enter into a redeeming relationship with God.