I grew up in a family of six children, two brothers and three sisters, in a small town in southwest Ohio. Our family had little to no involvement with church. We believed in God, but we did not incorporate God into our lives. Our belief in God was just part of the American fabric at that time. Everyone, of course, ‘believed’ in God.
My earliest memories of any church activity revolved around a tall slender gentleman who occasionally visited our home named “Pop”. I can remember that Pop was ‘always’ old. In reality, he probably was only in his fifties when I was eight years old or so. I remember when Pop visited us; he almost always wore a suit and a hat. He walked with a cane. When leaving our home, he would remove his hat, kneel on one knee while supporting himself with his cane and pray a blessing upon our household. I don’t recall a time that he did not do this upon departing our home.
I can also remember a couple of times when I went to church with Pop and his wife Janice. They would drop me off at Sunday School class. I would find a way to leave the class as soon as possible. I would lie down on the back seat of Pop’s car or even on the floor, waiting for Sunday School and church to be over.
At seventeen years of age, I was reintroduced to church. My parents were now divorced. My family of three sisters, two brothers, mom and dad was now broken up and scattered all around. Rex, my youngest sibling, my father, and I were living together. That summer, through a friend of my best friend, I was introduced to Jesus. This time things were different. My needs were definitely greater. The focus wasn’t on “church”. Within a youth group of over forty teens, I learned about Jesus. Finally in September of 1972 I accepted Jesus as my Savior.
In December of 1972 I began dating a young lady by the name of Phyllis Coyle. She quickly became my high school ‘sweetheart’.
I began working for Berean Christian Stores in September of 1975. I was only twenty years of age, and still today have been the youngest store manager ever hired by Berean. Finally, with a great job, health insurance, and having dated Phyllis for three years, we decided to marry. My high school sweetheart became my wife, and to this day is the love of my life.
My career and “ministry”, for the past 27 years, has been in Christian retailing. I’ve been employed with Berean Christian Stores a total of 21 years, and 6 years with Zondervan Family Bookstores (now Family Christian Stores). We moved several times to new cities to manage different stores. This was the primary means to increase your salary in a retail environment – having a store with higher and higher sales volume. We’ve been blessed and have enjoyed working with churches and believers of various backgrounds and church affiliations. I’ve held a variety of positions within the two companies for which I have worked, which included: Store Manager, Systems Administrator, Director of Operations, Eastern Division Manager, Director of Information Technology, Webmaster as well as Director of Training and Development.
I have served in various ministry capacities within our local church that include: youth group leader of various age levels, Bible Bowl sponsor, choir and ensemble participation, Sunday School teacher and superintendent, Small Group Leader, Small Group Coordinator, Leadership Teams and trustee.
At forty-two years old, I learned the true identity of the man named “Pop”. One day, while talking with my Grandmother, I noticed a picture of Pop on her dresser. I asked, “Grandma, who is the man in this picture?” She replied, “Why, that was my father”. Pop, by now, had long passed away. It took me over thirty years before I learned that the man who had been praying for me and my family was my great grandfather. I believe the seed planted by my great grandfathers’ prayers, when I was young, caused sensitivity to God in my heart, to where I would accept Jesus as my Savior at the age of seventeen, and subsequently, be highly involved in His work through my job and local church.
I have always had the conviction that I would hold a particular job until God decided it was time for me to move on to something different. In July of 2001, I began to sense that my time in Christian stores, and the corporate world, was ending. God began moving me in a new direction. Thus I began to search for God’s will and leading for this ‘new’ direction.
Another one of my convictions is that ‘God won’t move a parked car’. This meant that I needed to be in motion in order to find out where God wanted me to go and what He wanted me to do. I was confident God was moving me out of Christian retailing and also confident that He would use the skills and experience I learned over the years for whatever His call on my future entailed.
In October of 2001 I started my own ‘side business’. The business had two facets. The first would involve work with local small business’; consulting, training and providing networking and computer solutions. The second would be providing the same products to missionaries, churches and ministries worldwide at a reduced rate or sometimes at no cost. Thus, this business was formed, and the doors were opened in December 2001.
At the same time I began submitting resumes to other corporations. I surmised, if God were moving me out of my current job, I should try to find out where He wanted to move me to. I needed the income of a ‘day job’ to support the new business I started, until God made it grow enough to support us. I submitted over 30 resumes, which resulted in a couple of interviews and offers. Nothing, however, seemed to match what I sensed God desired for me.
In the meantime, God was working. During this time period, without exception, every sermon, every Sunday School lesson, every portion of Scripture we read, every devotion or message, at our home church and churches we visited, spoke directly to me. My wife and I wept through quite a few sermons as we heard our Lord clearly saying to us ‘get ready, I’m about to do something in your life, get ready’. Dear, close friends counseled us that when God moved we’d know, and know it clearly. In the meantime we should be patient, pray, and pray some more.
By April of 2002 the new business had grown to six clients. The volume of work in training, consulting and web site management and development was sufficient to keep me busy nights and weekends. But, financially, still not enough to support us.
At our home church, Faith Bible Church, Cincinnati, Ohio, we observe a ‘missionary moment’ each Sunday a.m. worship where someone within the congregation, or a visiting missionary, has the opportunity to speak briefly about a mission. One Sunday, Birne and Lynella Wiley from Missionary TECH Team were in town. I recognized the name, Missionary TECH Team. When researching my business/ministry I had visited their web site and had read about their work. Birne shared about the work of TECH in great detail. My ears were perked as I realized that TECH Team was a mission already doing what I had desired to do through my own small business. After Birne finished speaking, I couldn’t concentrate on the sermon. I kept processing his words through my mind and kept thinking that this is what I could be doing. By the end of our worship service I felt compelled to talk to Birne to ask if we could meet. After the closing prayer, I immediately left my pew to introduce myself to Birne and make arrangements for us to meet and discuss job opportunities with TECH Team.
Birne was gracious to set aside time to meet with me the next morning. We talked for over two hours about mission work, TECH Team and also about what God was doing in my life. Our meeting closed with an invitation from Birne to visit TECH in Longview, Texas.
I left the meeting with Birne and went straight to the president of Berean Christian Stores, to whom I reported, and shared with him that I was leaving Berean. I wasn’t sure of the timing, and I wasn’t sure of where, but I was confident that I would leave within the next two years. I would not be leaving for a job opportunity, but for a “calling” in some capacity as a missionary. God had made this very, very clear to me. This conversation with my boss was one that I had been putting off for over 9 months, and now, after meeting with Birne, I was compelled to share this information with Roger.
God began to work in very clear and precise ways over the next couple of months. In mid-June Phyllis and I drove to TECH in Longview, Texas for a brief three-day visit. We found all the missionaries at TECH to be open, transparent and warm. We felt as if we had known them all of our lives, though we had only met them. They opened their homes, their lives and their hearts to us fully. We talked about how to live financially in a faith based ministry, about moving away from family, about being dependent on God to meet every need, not just the ones we can’t meet ourselves. When we left TECH team several of the team members shared with us some specific things that they were praying for us. We knew we had made some great friends and found some wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ.
Within two weeks of our returning from TECH to our home God had made everything clear and had definitively answered our prayers, the prayers of our close friends, church family and the folks at TECH Team. We’ve had so many prayers answered that we actually began a list so we can keep track of them. For example: our daughter came to us and said “let’s go to Longview”, two friends came forward and indicated that they would desire to support us financially if we were to go, I moved to a 100% conviction that partnering with TECH Team was God’s desire for us, apprehension about a large reduction in income disappeared. Phyllis came to the conclusion, after a day of prayer and meditation, that God wanted us with TECH Team and that He would supply the grace for us to move away from family, and, every person we spoke to responded with “if this is God’s will for you, you must go.”
Phyllis and I have believed, even before we were married, that sometime in our mid to late 40’s God would make some kind of change in the direction of our lives. In early 2001, though, I would never have dreamed that it would be missionary work. Now, 30 years after accepting Jesus as my personal Savior, 27 years after marriage, 27 years of employment in corporate Christian stores, four children, and 13 moves later I find myself looking at probably the ‘biggest’ change in my life behind accepting Christ, marrying Phyllis and having children, that of becoming a missionary!
Written: July, 2003