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Lord, How Did I Get Here?

While I was a student at the University of Central Florida and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary,
I often times wondered who my professors were and what qualified them to stand in from of a class.
Of course they all had impeccable academic credentials.
However, I had doubts that some of them had any experience in the real world.
I especially remember one professor who had a Ph.d in journalism but had never worked
on a newspaper.
His theory was great but his practicality was deficient

So, allow me to introduce myself and let you judge whether or not I can offer anything of value
for your ministry.
I was born into a Christian family.
I enjoy seeing the expressions on people's faces when I tell them that I attended church
even before I was born.
Mom was in church every Sunday during her pregnancy.
Dad was a different story.
He was a career Air Force non-commissioned officer.
He was typical of military man except that he didn't curse, smoke or chase women.
He also didn't go to church unless mom insisted.
He became regular after I was born.

I was born several weeks premature.
The doctor was convinced that I would not live 24 hours.
My primary obstetrician was a devout Catholic.
We were Southern Baptist.
Without my parent's permission, he called in a priest and had me baptized.
Many years later I met Pope John Paul II and Archbishop Sean Patrick O'Malley,
both said that due to my Catholic baptism that I was really a missionary to the Baptists.
I enjoyed their sense of humor.

At five years of age, I was on a local television show for kids.
When the show's host asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said "A preacher."
After the show, my mother said, "Johnny, you have to be a Christian
before you can be a preacher.
I replied, "I know mommy. I already belong to Jesus.
He wants me to tell everyone about him."
We talked with our pastor and he concluded that I understood on a five year old level
what it means to be a Christian.
My mother was very conservative and decided that I was too young to be baptized.
However, I know that I accepted Christ as my savior at age five.
I also know His plan for my life is full time vocational ministry.

At age nine, I refused to wait any longer to be baptized.
I went to the front of the church and asked to be baptized.
Once again mom and I met with the pastor and he agreed that I was ready to be baptized.
I knew my baptism was a public acknowledgment of my faith in Jesus as Savior.
I also knew that our Lord had called me to full-time Christian ministry.
I never considered any other vocation.

After my ordination in 1974, my mother told me about being born several weeks premature
and how the doctors did not expect me to live.
Mom had promised God that if He would allow me to live that she would dedicate
me to His service.
She never pushed or encouraged me toward full-time ministry.
She wanted me to hear that unique individual call from God if that was His will for my life.
That is one reason that she prevented me from being baptized at age five
and then made double sure at age nine that I understood the significance of my decision.
I have never had a desire to do anything but serve our Lord in vocational ministry.

As a result, I have tried to follow His guidance.
Immediately following seminary I served as a pastor in Waverly Hall, Georgia.
The missionary orientation center for the Southern Baptist Convention International Mission Board
was 20 miles from the church I served.
I had missionaries preach in my church.

After hearing me preach, Missionary Bill Fallaw told me that they needed me in Brazil.
I laughed.
Life was good.
I had a church who loved me.
My wife and I had a new son who was less than two years old.
I had a new car.
We were debt free.
I had a lovely home in which to live.
I wasn't looking to go anywhere.

The next week, I begin to be uncomfortable with my laughter.
It was clear that God was saying, "Are you willing to go if I call you?"
Six months later, I was appointed as Editorial and Curriculum consultant
for the Philippine Baptist Missions.
We moved to Manila and served five years.
After I trained a Filipino to replace me, we transferred to Guatemala where
I was Professor of Theology and Academic Dean in the seminary.
Prior to arriving in Guatemala we spent a year in Costa Rica at the Spanish Language School.

While there I became very ill and had to return to the United States for medical attention.
As we waited for approval to return to language school, I went back to
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and completed a Master of Religious Education.
I had completed a Master of Divinity in 1974.

While in Guatemala, I completed a Doctor of Ministry degree from Trinity Theological Seminary.
After six years, the seminary was turned over to the Guatemalan Baptist Convention
and it appeared that I would need to transfer to another new country.
Our son was 15 and my parent's health was failing.
We returned to the United States. I became pastor of the First Baptist Church of Maitland, Florida.
In 1993, the Catalina Baptist Association in Tucson, Arizona called me to be the Director of Missions.
I related to 73 Southern Baptist churches.

Seven years later, I resigned to accept the same position in Florida.
The Arizona Association had grown to 96 churches. I served as Executive Director of Missions
for the Palm Lake Baptist Association in West Palm Beach from May 2000 to December 31, 2008.
The association grew from 94 churches to 122 congregations during my tenure.
We were a multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-lingual Association.
I worked with a wonderful multi-national staff.
I also had the privilege of being an adjunct in the School of Ministry at Palm Beach Atlantic University.
For five years, I was the only Evangelical Christian on the Palm Beach Jewish Federation Interfaith Committee.

I now live in Coppell Texas (a suburb of the Dallas/Ft. Worth metro-plex).
I have taken a temporary position as Education Consultant for Bridge Builder Academy.
I like so many others am now waiting to see the next step the Lord wants me to take.
Life is an adventure.
My future is in our Lord's hands.

My wife holds a Ph.d in Communication from the University of Arizona.
During our missionary years, I walked on trails and climbed mountains that no other
North American had ever seen.
As I look back on life, I am surprised at where I have been and how I got to this place
where I presently serve our Lord.
I am still learning and hopefully growing in my understanding of who Jesus is
and how he works in our lives.

I believe we are stronger together than separate and as a result want to share a few things
I have learned along the way.
I expect to hear from those who peruses these pages and expect to learn from you.