Manhattan: It’s not just in New York.
That may sound obvious to those of you who grew up in and around Kansas, but for me, growing up in the Seattle-area, I only knew of the Big Apple, not the Little Apple! But I jump ahead in my testimony – let me backtrack a bit.
I grew up going to church. We had church on Sunday morning and Sunday night, and then again on Wednesday night. And we were there. We rarely missed a church service, and I grew up learning that church attendance is critical for our spiritual well-being and growth. While I have changed some of my doctrinal positions slightly from the church where I grew up, I’m forever grateful for the foundation that church laid for me.
As with many churches, our church invited missionaries to present to the congregation. Usually they would come with a slide projector, but always they would come with stories; stories about how the power of God was spreading in the world. These stories always excited me in a way I couldn’t quite understand. I sometimes would think that maybe God was calling me into missions, but then the missionaries would get to the part about what they had to eat and I knew God couldn’t be calling me to that!
In any case, as a kid, I told my parents that I would either grow up and be a radio DJ, the President of the United States, or a pastor. While my political interests have never fully subsided, and I still like music of all kinds, I knew God had a special plan for me to be a pastor.
Until I didn’t.
Toward the end of high school, I, as teens often do, began to lose my fervor for the Lord. I sensed God was still calling me into full time ministry, but I wasn’t eager to sign up for that. Instead, I went to Washington State University the fall after I graduated high school.
While I was at WSU, I officially changed my major 4 times in one semester. I started with a double major in English and Math, with plans to be a high school teacher. Then I switched to just math. Then I switched to just English. Then I switched to Management Information Systems (which is basically a combination of Business and Computer Science). God was clearly causing me distress in my choices. I did not feel at ease with any of my majors, and I kept feeling that tug towards full time ministry.
During that first semester, I also faced many of the pressures I had not faced growing up in a Christian environment with Christian friends. I turned away from God’s plan at times, and finally came to point at the end of the semester where I had reached my limit.
At this point I had dropped all but two of my classes (who does English Lit. at 7:30am?!) and I remember sitting in my room wondering what I was supposed to do next. I felt as though I was at a clear milestone of my life. I had to decide whether I would follow myself or follow God. I prayed in my dorm room for God’s guidance, (which probably tipped the scales in his favor!), and I decided to fully surrender my life to God’s will. I didn’t really want to commit to making the sacrifices that I knew would come by entering the ministry, but I knew that my life wouldn’t mean anything if I wasn’t living for Jesus.
So I got online and searched for Bible colleges. I found many listings, but only one that I found had their application online. It was located in the state that I had always wanted to visit: New York. There it was: Manhattan Christian College. It was a clear sign from God – the application was online and it was in New York. How fantastic!
I filled out the application and printed it off. Then I went to address the envelope. “Manhattan, N…. wait… KS?? What had I gotten myself into? At that point I didn’t know anything about The Little Apple – not even that it existed – but I believed that God had gotten me this far, so he was going to get me through moving to the mid-west.
It was Christmas break when I finally got a call from MCC, and all the admissions counselors were on break. I talked with the admissions secretary, and in the course of 3 weeks I had been accepted, been given a scholarship, had a dorm assignment, and was on a plane.
I didn’t know what to expect when I got off that tiny propeller plane in a small airport in the middle of a field, but I knew that God had a plan for my life and that I was in it for the long haul. Certainly there have been times along the journey when I’ve questioned my call, sometimes even doubted my call. But I think back to my dorm room in Goldsworthy Hall and I remember the choice I made that day.
Thankfully, God has given me encouragement and direction many times since that day, but that day was my turning point.
Sometimes people ask me, so do you like living in Kansas? My answer is that I love the people here. Sure, I’d like a few more choices in terms of retail offerings in Hays, but I wouldn’t change the journey God has had for me. I don’t know where tomorrow will lead me, but I know that I won’t be on this journey alone. God has chosen me to be a pastor, and he has my back all the way.