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 around 27 years, had 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.
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.
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 in 2003, Birne and Lynella Wiley from Missionary TECH Team were in town. 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, Roger Feenstra, 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.
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!
Fast forward to today! We’ve served as full time faith-based missionaries since 2003 with different organizations, Missionary TECH Team, Crossroads Missions and the Global CHE Network. In 2018 the Metanoia Center received it’s IRS 501c3 designation and became our fourth ministry to serve with as urban missionaries. Phyllis and I founded Metanoia Center and now serve as its Co-Directors.
Updated: August, 2020