How does a 53-year-old from a small town in Pennsylvania move half way across the globe to Nigeria Africa? The answer is simple God, the process of getting here was not so simple.
My faith steps began in 1997. I was saved in June of 1997 at a Promise Keepers rally in RFK stadium. I attended this event with a group of men from a small Methodist church. As we sat and worshiped, God moved in my heart. Have you ever heard 46,000 men sing Amazing Grace acapella? I did on this day and it changed my life forever. As we continued to worship, it began to rain, my pastor at the time, Mel, sat in the rain with me and I gave my life to Jesus Christ.
During the weeks and months that followed my commitment to Christ I dug into His word. My first church Bible study was in the book of Revelation. During a business trip I was flying through Atlanta International Airport. I was waiting for my next flight and reading the Word. The Bible I was using at the time had a very distinct blue cover. A group of 3 young people were walking by me and stopped and asked if I was reading the Bible. I said I was and we then began to talk about the Bible and God. The conversation lasted about 15 minutes or so and they then continued on to their terminal. God had given me a divine encounter with those 3, but He was not done. I boarded my flight and was sitting next to an older gentleman. Once the flight was airborne, I took my Bible out and began to read some more. The older gentleman saw my Bible and asked if I was a Christian. Our conversation about God lasted for about 45 minutes. God had given me another divine encounter.
During the next few years, I took a couple other Bible studies, I gained a good amount of Bible head knowledge but I did not have a close relationship with Christ. As time passed, I drifted away from the church. Although we attended a few churches over the next 18 years, we did not like the religiosity and the performance that they seemed to have.
In the spring of 2015, my wife, Beth, began to attend a small house church in Newark, Delaware. She enjoyed this church and told me how different it was. In May of 2016 Beth was diagnosed with breast cancer. We were facing a double mastectomy, chemo therapy, and radiation therapy beginning in June of 2016 and not ending until late February of the following year. I wanted to support her, so I started attending the house church with her. I thought I was going to support her, but God had other plans for me. I started to form strong relationships with the pastor of this little church as well as with the leader of the men’s group I participated in every Sunday morning.
In November of 2016 I was on a hunting trip with my uncle. We were hunting on a small island off the coast of Maine. I was going through some heavy brush and got winded. My heart started to race and I had a pain go down my left arm. I stopped sat down and it passed. I continued the hunting trip and did not let anyone know this had occurred.
Fast forward to January 2017. My wife and I had come home from a party to celebrate my parents 50th wedding. I was unloading the car. I experienced the same symptoms as during the hunting trip. The episode passed, I finished unloading the car and then went to bed. I did not tell my wife. The next morning, I got up and went to work. During work my left arm did not feel right. I finished work and drove home. My arm still did not feel right when I got home. I told Beth what was going on and we immediately went to the ER. (by the way my wife is a nurse so she was not very happy with me!!)
I was admitted to the hospital immediately. I was scheduled for an angioplasty. As part of an angioplasty a dye is injected into the heart area and then a scan is done to reveal any blockages. The scan showed almost 100% blockage in a main vein going away from the heart and also in a small branch off of it. Due to the location and amount of blockage I would now need to have a double heart bypass. I had NOT had a heart attack. The surgeon told me that if I had a heart attack, even if it had occurred in the hospital, the chances of my survival would have been slim to none. I underwent the double bypass procedure without issues. I was praying to God when I went under and I was still praying when I was coming back out of the anesthesia!
As part of the surgery tubes are placed in the chest to facilitate drainage. A few days after the surgery the tubes are removed from the chest. The procedure for removing the tubes was very eventful. The tubes are actually sutured to the skin of the chest to hold them in place. The physician began cutting the sutures. My wife was watching closely to make sure ALL the sutures were cut. Once the sutures were cut the physician told me that the pulling out of the tubes was going to be very painful, after all, he would be pulling things out of my body. The first thing he pulled out was a small wire that was the heart monitor. I felt the pull and the wire move out of my body no problem. The next thing to be pulled out was one of the two drainage tubes. The tube is pulled out fast and hard to minimize the pain, much like ripping off a band aid. The physician began to pull the tube hard and fast. I came up off of the bed as he continued to pull and yelled out in pain. When he finally stopped pulling, the tube was still attached to my chest by one suture that neither he or my wife had seen. “That suture should not have been there,” the physician kept repeating. God revealed to me that the pain I experienced in having the tube pulled was just a fraction of what Christ experienced in His sacrifice on the cross. My tears were only partially because of the physical pain. The rogue suture was at last cut, and both of the remaining tubes were removed. As I was recovering in the hospital my wife was going crossing the hospital parking lot every day for radiation therapy. Praise God she has been cancer free for 4 years now.
My bypass surgery was on Thursday morning. I was supposed to remain in the hospital for 5-7 days. I wanted to go to church on Sunday morning and knew that with God’s help, I would be discharged earlier. I did not get to go to church, but I was discharged at 11 am Sunday morning. I attended mid-week service for the first time two days later. Three weeks after my discharge, I was back at work.
God changed me during the hospital stay. I had not been faithful in my Christian walk for almost 20 years. I was at the brink of death but He had other plans for me. God showed me the personal relationship that he wants to have with me and with all of His children. I trust Him in all aspects of my life. I am now an Elder in this church. God was still not done….
In April of 2019, Beth and I traveled with a group from Ignition 633 Ministries to Makurdi, Nigeria. Our missions team spent 10 days in Nigeria. During this trip God opened my eyes and my heart to the Nigerian people. During a joint worship service with a few hundred people in an IDP camp (Internally Displaced People) God allowed me to see the Nigerian people as he sees them, it was at this moment I knew we would be returning to Nigeria with a team that would live in country full time.
Once we returned from the April trip, Beth and I knew we had much to do. We would have to take all of the “things” accumulated over 30 years of marriage and clean them out. Between April when we returned to the US and October when we were to go back to Nigeria, we cleaned out our house into a 30 yard dumpster, we got rid of our cars and our dogs and cat (this was very hard on Beth especially). We sold our house. We are now blessed to be part of a Missionary team serving Nigeria.
I am so thankful that God’s faithfulness knows no bounds. Even when we give up on Him, He never gives up on us!