How I Became A Believer
I was born on February 11, 1972, down in “Nawlins”, Louisiana. I was raised by Christian parents, who raised me well, and took me to church, so I assumed that I was a Christian, also. When I was twelve, my Dad was stationed by the Navy in Virginia Beach, VA. We were attending London Bridge Baptist Church at the time, and it was during this period of my life that I really began to wonder about my salvation.
You, see, every week, I’d sit in church and hear about salvation, and Jesus Christ, and the cross, and the resurrection, and so forth. We’d study about it in Sunday School, and sing hymns about it, and I’d learn all sorts of facts about the Bible in VBS and Children’s Church, but through it all, I had no real relationship with Jesus myself, just lots and lots of religion.
Things were going pretty hard for me in school those days, and, coming off yet another move like I was, I’d managed to get pretty depressed about my life, and began thinking about, you know, “ending it all”.
As I lay awake one night that fall in 1984, I found myself wondering, “If I’m a Christian, shouldn’t I be happy?” Where was the peace? Where was the joy? Where was any of the things a Christian ought to have? Nowhere to be found in my life, it seemed. As I pondered this, the Holy Spirit gave me my answer, “Maybe you don’t have these things, because you’re not really a Christian, after all.” To be honest, I couldn’t really remember a time when I’d asked Jesus to forgive me for my sins, and be my Savior. I’d heard hundreds of sermons about it, but I always thought I was fine the way I was. So, that night, alone in my room, I asked Jesus to forgive my sins, and be my Savior, and love me, because I was awfully lonely. He heard my prayer of faith, childish though it was, and forgave me my sins, and entered my being, and cleansed my iniquity, and became my Savior and Lord, and He has never stopped loving me. I fell asleep a different person that night, and though I still had plenty of troubles to face in life, I no longer had to face them alone, or without God’s grace.
How I Answered the Call to Be a Missionary
This is a longer tale, but one that basically boils down to this: a desire for something more. All of my Christian life, it has always been the same. I’ve always wanted more of God, and never could settle for mediocrity (not that I never tried). When I went off to college, I’d decided to “live my own life”, so to speak, and did so in rebellion against my parents. This brought the consequent rebuke and pressure from God, and thanks to my bitterness over various things, some pretty serious torment to boot. So, by the time I met Kyle Guimon in 1991, I’d managed to make a pretty good wreck of myself.
I wanted to know God, even then, but couldn’t because of my carnality and sin. I’d all but given up on ever being free from sins, when Kyle asked me if I’d like to go to a Seminar he knew about, where the speaker would be talking about “resolving youth conflicts”, or some such. I agreed, because at that point, I’d heard it all, I thought, and figured I had nothing to lose. I was ready to hear whatever God might have to say at that point, because I couldn’t stand the torment any more. I went, and God did speak, of many things. The rest of the crowd there, and the speaker, might as well have not even been there, because I was hearing God, and He proceeded to bring my attention to every area of violation in my life, and how they’d brought me into bondage, and what the Bible prescribed to gain liberty. For the first time in years, I felt hope, and I rushed to the cross in repentance. I laid aside my sins that week, and walked away clean, and free, and at peace, at last.
So began my restoration. Kyle and I met Ken Spilger, the Area Coordinator for the Seminar in that area at the time, and within months, we were going to his church. I never knew such a church existed. Here was a place where the people seemed genuinely interested in knowing God. The sermons were more than repetitious, shallow, evangelistic messages. The music was worshipful, and melodious, rather than repetitive, sensual, and worldly. The women dressed modestly, and the men were honorable. I felt like I couldn’t learn enough, and here, finally, was a church where I could be taught. My Pastor, now my father-in-law, and Kyle, saved my life, you see. They helped me grow, to get from where I was, to where God wanted me to be.
Now, you’d think, after all God had done for me, I’d be anxious to get into ministry. God had certainly called me, and I went to college to prepare for it, but for some dumb reason, I hesitated to take steps in that direction. I was with a SAR group up in Michigan for a few years. I came back to St. Louis and worked as a Paramedic for awhile, and was moving up in the medical field, and was happy, but not at peace. God shut the door, soundly, on that. So, I tried a few different things, and finally settled on Computers as a field of study and occupation. I excel at such, as this website shows, and I was moving up in the Technology field, and I was happy, but not at peace. I had married my Pastor’s daughter, and had enjoyed the pleasant distractions of married life, and parenthood. I was working, and serving faithfully in my church, and enjoying my home, my wife, and my children, and I was happy, but I was not at peace. Inwardly, I was resisting God, and trying to make up for it with good works, and He steadfastly refused to let it go, or give his blessing in any of “my things” that I tried to do.
2003. My wife wants to go to the Camp BIMI reunion week, and I agreed to go. That week, Gerry Baugman preached on comfort zones, and I realized that that was precisely where I was – comfortable, serving God, but not obeying His full will. I did not want to just work a job, and settle into mediocrity, and never attempt anything great for God. So I took a chance. I repented, and surrendered to God to be a missionary, and I prayed and asked God to help me to know where He would have me go. Once again, God shone through the fog of my ignorance and reminded me of certain things. Remember, James, how your mother wanted to go to Africa, and never got to go? Remember how you felt when Kyle shared my vision for Uganda with you, and how your soul burned with desire to go and do likewise? Remember how I’ve sent Africa missionary after Africa missionary through your house, on deputation, on their way, while you remained? Remember your wife, who laid her vision down, so I could bring you together, who was once certain she was going to Africa? Did you really think it was all a coincidence? It was all so clear. So I gave my wife the news, and it was like a total confirmation of the vision she thought she’d lost forever. You see, I had to answer God’s call. No one else could do it for me. This way, she could be confident that it was God’s doing, and not her pressuring, that was leading me to Uganda, Africa.
We came back from Camp BIMI and surrendered to the mission field formally before our church. We returned to Chattanooga in June, 2004 for Candidate School, and were approved by the board, by a cloud of many witnesses, and have embarked on the great adventure of our life. The rest, as they say, is history.
There are many things I could do, and maybe succeed at most, but there is only one thing I was ever meant to do. I am to be a missionary to Uganda, Africa, where I and my family will spend our lives in the service of the Almighty.