A little over eight years ago, Sunny and I made the move from Kingsport, Tennessee to Huntsville, Alabama. I had spent the previous three years as the Youth Minister for the Northeast Church of Christ in Kingsport, a wonderful, loving church family that took us in as newlyweds and nurtured us as we began our ministry and, more importantly, our life together as a family. Sunny and I were married in August of 1999 and two weeks later, we loaded up our cars and made the drive to the northeast corner of our home state in response to God’s call. We couldn’t have been in a better place for those first few years of our marriage.
After three years, an opportunity came our way to associate ourselves with Madison Academy, a pre-K through 12th grade Christian school in Madison, Alabama just west of Huntsville. The school agreed to hire us both, Sunny as a third grade teacher and me as campus minister / Bible teacher. Sunny was qualified and prepared for her position, but the school took something of a chance on me; although I originally enrolled as an education major my freshman year at Lipscomb, my degree was in Bible — with an emphasis in youth and family ministry — and I’d only previously been employed in congregational ministry. But for whatever reason, school administration decided to roll the dice and put a youth minister in the classroom with 11th and 12th grade students eight hours a day, five days a week. It was wonderful. I don’t know how much the students learned, but I can still remember some of the spiritually meaningful conversations I had with several of them: conversations about God and faith and doubt and fear and struggles and how Jesus makes sense of our lives. I was also in charge of our daily chapel service for all 7th-12th grade students and teachers, 450 people in all. Little did I know how this daily activity of worship coordinating would help to prepare me for what was going to come next in our lives.
Shortly after moving here, Sunny and I began helping out in the Mayfair Youth Ministry with our good friends Corey and Alisha. I like to tell people that I’ve never really had a formal job interview at Mayfair; I just showed up and started blowing up balloons and ordering pizza and doing whatever I could to help out my buddy in his ministry. Over time, our volunteer roles grew into part-time work — I’d teach class all week and do the weekend warrior thing with the youth group. By 2004, with twins on the way and Sunny leaving the school to be a stay-at-home Mom, the opportunity arose for me to join the Mayfair youth ministry staff in a full-time capacity. A few years later, in 2006, I transitioned again, this time into my current role as associate minister. For the past four years, I’ve worked with Gary Bradley in the areas of preaching and pastoral care. Gary has been many things to me: a professional mentor, a father figure, a personal friend, and a wonderful example. I’m thankful to count him as one of my primary influences in ministry and in life.
The past eight years have been a tremendous blessing for us. Sunny and I have grown in our marriage; I’m still learning, but thankfully I’ve learned to love her better in the past eight years. Our family has also grown: Joshua and Abby Kate came along in 2004; Jackson completed our family when he arrived in 2007. We’ve made some wonderful friends here, too, friends who have been there when the kids were born, when one of us was hospitalized, when we needed shoulders to cry on and loved ones to share in our joy.
All in all, the past eight years have been a tremendous blessing for us. Tonight, I’m quietly thankful for God’s leading in our lives. As always, it’s so much easier to see his leading in hindsight.