Where did this book begin? I must first return to God’s great “reaching down” to me as a junior at Samford University. He shattered my comfortable Christian confidence with the realization that, even though I knew a lot about Jesus, I had never met Him personally. I was overwhelmed with my spiritual poverty and eagerly opened my heart for Christ to take up residence inside. From that moment on my life was never the same. Jesus gave me the great sense of purpose for which I had long been seeking. Now I had a reason to live!
Jesus seized my adventuresome spirit after graduation to send me to Bangladesh, on the other side of the world, for two years as a missionary journeyman with the Foreign Mission Board. Life there was like being on another planet: the men wore “lungis” (skirts instead of pants), one ate with your hand (not a fork), and daily life reeled with extreme poverty, suffering and starvation. Yet in this cultural catharsis, God displayed countless moments of mercy. Very wise missionary mentors, intriguing international colleagues, and cherished Bengali friendships blessed my life. God erased my fears for Him to control my future and He planted a strong missions seed in my heart. As I crossed the tarmac to board the plane home, I knew I would return to the mission field one day, but where–when–and doing what?–I had no clue.
After a year’s sojourn as auditor for the State of Tennessee, I marched into the office of Emmett Johnson, CEO of Baptist Medical Centers of Birmingham, seeking an opportunity to learn about the hospital world. Instead of offering employment, Emmett sagely directed me down the street to the Masters of Healthcare Administration program at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, where they accepted me on the spot. I never expected to enter hospital administration so quickly, but God’s plans were ordering my steps, and I meekly yielded to His direction.
This Masters program included class work and a residency. How would I know where to go”? God always answers, and provided an overwhelming sense of direction toward North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo. There I encountered a spiritual and professional environment beyond all expectations, fostered by President and CEO, Dan Wilford. My time at NMMC was the ultimate preparation for the myriad of challenges waiting on the mission field.
At the five year mark, God spoke again, “It’s time to go!” and He directed me to Southwestern Theological Seminary in Texas. To a Southern boy, crossing the mighty Mississippi was akin to driving off the edge of the world. But my first week in the “wilderness” I met Jean Griffin who ten months later would become my bride and wondrous wife. At seminary a ravenous hunger for His Word took hold of my heart and mind. Jean and I were ready to go and serve, but our adventure was only beginning!
(to be continued…later this week!)