Twenty years ago in August, I moved from northern Michigan to Dallas, Texas. To the casual observer, I was just a young college student moving across the country for school. For me, it felt like an adventure with God. In this article, I want to share my story of following God to Texas. I’ll follow up this article with 2 more parts about what it means to live an adventure for God and some of the lessons I’ve learned in my journey. I hope it will be an encouragement to you on your adventure.
Prior to moving to Texas, I attended a university/Bible school for 3 semesters in Minnesota. I desired to be a pastor. After completing those 3 semesters in May of 1999, I decided to move back to Michigan due to some personal failures. I was struggling personally and decided it was best just to leave. I spent the summer of 1999 working for my dad’s employer and living with my parents. That fall, I got a job at a local restaurant and rented a small apartment. I was 20 years old.
In October of that year, I fulfilled a dream and went to New York City for a week to volunteer at an inner-city ministry called Metro Ministries. The leader of the ministry had profoundly impacted my life while I was in high school and I thought perhaps I would become a part of the ministry’s discipleship school. I boarded a Greyhound bus and traveled for about 36 hours, including stops and layovers. I found my way to the ministry by New York’s subway system while also managing to accidentally hit a lady in the face when the subway lurched forward. It felt like quite an adventure for this small town midwestern kid. Nevertheless, after completing my week of volunteer work, I knew in my heart the discipleship school was not the place for me.
Sometimes in following God we know what we are not supposed to do, but we have to wait to hear from God about what we are supposed to do. That’s where I was after returning to Michigan from New York City. During that time, I had a real hunger for God in my heart. I recall that I had such a burning desire for God and His presence in my life. That Christmas, during a choir presentation at church, I recall weeping as I felt God’s presence come over us as we sang. Some months later, I had an encounter with God during a weekend where I had spent a couple of nights praying all night. God touched my life with His power and glory!
Despite my hunger for God, I had no clear direction for my future. I think probably after my personal failure in Minnesota, I wanted to be more certain God was leading me in my next step in life. Because of the influence of Metro Ministries, I believed God had called me to be an inner city pastor. One Sunday night, while praying at the altar at church, I asked the Lord, “If you’ve called me to the city, give me a city.” It was more of a prayer of exasperation. I didn’t necessarily expect God to answer it so specifically, but He did!
That very next Saturday evening, at the end of our worship team practice, my pastor prayed, “Lord, speak to us in our dreams tonight.” That night I dreamed I was driving around a city with my best friend but we didn’t know what city we were in. I asked a couple of people in the dream what city I was in, but they wouldn’t tell me. Then, from the sky I heard a voice say clearly, “Dallas, Texas.” I woke up with a sense of excitement. Texas was not on my radar as a place I might move, but God had a plan for me in Texas. This happened around April of 2000.
In June of 2000, I drove to Texas with a man from my church. There is a university near Dallas that is part of the church denomination I grew up in and I thought perhaps I would go to school there. I scheduled a visit at the university and wanted to spend some time “spying out the land” before I decided to move to Texas. If there were any giants in Texas, I was certainly ready to defeat them!
We drove south through Wisconsin, Illinois and into Missouri. As we drove through Missouri, I took a picture of my Bible, pictured here. I felt like I was following God on an adventure. Interestingly, as soon as we entered Texas, my friend became very negative. He couldn’t say one positive word about Texas. I recognized that the enemy was speaking through him which actually worked only to solidify my conviction that God was leading me to Texas. During our trip, my friend’s true nature was revealed in some other unpleasant ways.
I did not feel particularly drawn to attend the university I visited, but while visiting a church in Dallas, we drove past Christ for the Nations Institute (CFNI), a ministry school. I vaguely remembered having heard about the school but I didn’t know much about it. We didn’t stop but when I returned to Michigan I called CFNI and asked a lot of questions about the school. It seemed like the place for me to be, so I enrolled, stepped out in faith and moved to Texas.
For the last 20 years, I have lived in Texas, except for a 3-year stint in Virginia to attend law school. Over these years, I have seen God lead my life every step of the way, not always through dreams but always by His Spirit. Over the years, much of my family has followed me south. My parents and youngest sister live near Fort Worth and another sister lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma with her family.
God has led me faithfully in every aspect of my life, in finding the right church, in friendships, with employment, in my walk with Him, in ministry opportunities, and in marriage and children. My journey with God has involved unexpected surprises, seasons of agonizing waiting, times of frustration and deep disappointment, and also seasons of blessing and fulfillment. There have been some hurts and heartaches along the way, but in many ways I feel very blessed and full, especially when I look at my wife and 2 growing boys.
I think God has led me in part because I have so earnestly desired to follow Him and know Him. God has led me in the steps I have taken in life, but perhaps more importantly, I have grown in my knowledge of Him and with a greater confidence and assurance of His love. Now I’m 41 years old. It seems like a good time to pause and reflect back on my journey. In some ways, it seems like God has brought some things to a sense of completion in my life and now it is time to look forward to the next adventure with God. In some ways, it feels like I’m just getting started. What has happened to date has been training for greater things. Some of my dreams from God have been fulfilled, but there are many which have yet to come to pass. I’m excited for the next adventure.
What about you? How has God led you in your journey? In my next article, I will talk about what it means to live out an adventure for God. Stay tuned!