I grew up in a lower, middle-class home. While we attended church, no genuine relationship with God existed. In spite of two significant moves, first from Houston to New Orleans and then to Southern California, life was stable, until my parents announced their separation and pending divorce the day after sixth grade ended. I was crushed. Suddenly, life felt unstable. My struggle with anxiety began.
In her book, Openness Unhindered, Rosaria Champagne Butterfield writes that the appropriate, daily posture of a Christian is repentance of our sin. God is a holy God and He calls us to be holy. This includes all sin, including anxiety as an expression of not trusting God. We all have sin struggles with which we are born, and I suspect one of mine is trust, both trust of people and trust of God. For me, lack of trust results in struggles with fear and anxiety. My parents’ divorce compounded my natural disposition.
My journey with Jesus began several months after my parent’s divorce when my grandmother shared her faith with me and led me through the Sinner’s Prayer. My commitment was genuine, but not deep. The influence of my high school football and track coaches helped to move me down the path of my spiritual journey, and my brother was the key person who spoke into my life after I returned to Southern California to go to college, two years after high school graduation.
I met my bride, Shelly, while attending California State University, Long Beach. We were part of an awesome college ministry, and later young-married group, within the Evangelical Free Church of Huntington Beach. Attending the tri-annual Urbana missions conference in 1987 was also significant. Five couples from that group went on to serve in missions, including Shelly and me.
After graduating with my accounting degree and passing the CPA exam, I worked as an auditor in public accounting. A little more than two years later, the Holy Spirit reminded Shelly and me of the missionary call He placed on our hearts through Dr. Keith Phillips, the founder of World Impact, as he spoke at our church’s annual missions conference.
Keith’s God-given vision for the inner city, expressed through the work of World Impact, touched our hearts, and three months later we followed God’s call to serve as missionaries in South Central Los Angeles. All three of our children were born and raised in the city: Jesse, 23; Sarah, 20; and Rebekah, 13.
At World Impact’s headquarters, I served with a strong sense of faithfulness and a desire for excellence in administrative roles, as Controller, Vice President of Administration, and Chief Financial Officer, but we also had the privilege of serving in field ministry through a teen Bible club and two church plants. After twenty-four years of service, and with much prayer and the counsel of trusted friends, the Lord opened the door for change, granting us the honor of serving the North American Baptist Conference of churches at its International Office in Roseville, California.
The transition was significant for our family. We had been in one place for twenty-four years and established roots within a missional community wherein we lived, worked, worshiped, and ministered. We moved four hundred miles north from an inner-city environment to the suburbs. We shifted from missionary status to employment status and became first-time homeowners. Our daughter, Rebekah, went from a small, private, Christian school with twelve kids in one grade making up the entire class to a public school with four hundred kids in her 7th grade class alone.
In my journey as a Christ follower, I have learned that our gifts and strengths come with diametrically opposed sins and weakness. Three significant life actions—two of which I believe are God-led—demonstrate courage and faith: moving to Houston the day after high-school graduation with no job lined up, leaving a promising career in public accounting to serve as inner-city missionaries, and then making a major life change to serve with the NAB. Each move led to a place requiring a strong level of trust in God, and given my trust issues, struggles with anxiety followed. I had not yet learned, to paraphrase Mark Buchanan from his book, The Rest of God, to receive as a gift the work that God had placed before me and to worship Him through it.
One of my prayers leading into our latest transition was that God would stretch and grow our family. For me, He has clearly answered that prayer; I have never experienced anxiety to the extent that I have in the past two years. Gratefully, I believe that I am on the tail end of this transition. God, through His Word and Christian authors, by the love and support of my wife and the faithful people I am blessed to work with each day, has been doing a deep work in me.
As I continue to try to follow Dallas Willard’s advice to “ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life,” a practice that requires a strong trust in God, I am blessed and honored to be serving with the NAB and look forward to the fruitful work that He has before us.
“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” (1 Timothy 6:6–8 ESV)