Whenever I meet someone new, I’ve always had a hard time answering the question, “Where are you from?’ My answer usually goes something like this:
Well, my dad is an American, my mom is from Costa Rica, but they moved to the Dominican Republic right before I was born so I was born in the Dominican Republic. Then when I was seven, my family moved to Mexico City, Mexico, but every four years we would go to Norman, Oklahoma for a year, and my grandmother lived in a small town in Texas called Kerrville, so I spent a lot of my summers there. Then I went off to college in Washington, D.C. In the 19 years since I graduated I have lived a year in Mexico, and six years in Asia. Currently, my home is in California (Easton, to be exact).
I am the son of Southern Baptist Missionaries, and the grandson of two Baptist pastors. Deuteronomy 7:9 says, “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.” When I read the words of this verse, I can see God’s love and faithfulness to my grandparents and parents. I am awed by how God has chosen three generations (so far) to serve Him, and pray for my own children and for my family, that we would continue to love God, keep His commandments, and serve Him with all our hearts.
Growing up in Mexico City was great. My father was in charge of Baptist Student Ministries at the UNAM, the biggest university in Mexico (and I believe it was the biggest university in the world at that time). So I grew up surrounded by college students and always looked forward to when college missions teams would come from the States to partner with my dad in his ministry. We got to be tour guides and translators, hang out with college kids, and best of all, enjoy American treats and candy that they brought with them (come on, it was a big deal when you didn’t grow up with M&M’s and Snickers bars available unless someone brought it from the U.S.). My siblings and I grew up with missionary “aunts” and “uncles”, and the other MK’s (Missionary Kids) were always introduced to others as our “cousins”. I went to a private American School where my classmates’ parents were the “who’s who” of Mexican society, and the academics were of the highest standard.
When I went off to college to Georgetown University, my ambitions were to get a business degree and start climbing the “corporate ladder” like any good American kid would. By God’s grace I plugged into the campus Christian Fellowship my first week there, and aside from my first Sunday in college, I attended Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Maryland every Sunday I was at school. It was there that under the leadership of a college minister named Chuck Jacob, I developed a greater appreciation and understanding of both the Old and New Testaments. Chuck was a lobbyist on Capitol Hill during the week, and on the weekend he was one of the most talented and insightful Bible teachers I had ever met. At 4th Pres, as we called it, I started teaching Sunday School for the younger kids, and began what was to become an ongoing and developing love for teaching others about God’s Word.
Still, when I was ready to graduate from college I decided that my life’s goal was to be a good church member – teaching Sunday School, tithing regularly, volunteering, etc. – while at the same time still pursuing my original goal of climbing that corporate ladder. I landed a great job straight out of college, but I was soon to find out that God had other plans. As great as that first job was, it was soon clear to me that God wanted me to make a change.
Over a period of a few months, God took me from a place where I was looking to stay on my path of upward mobility, to a place where I was willing – reluctantly at first – to give up my path for His path. I found myself headed half way around the world to a place I never thought I’d ever visit, with a language I didn’t have the first clue about, and no one I knew to meet me when I got there. The next two years would be some of the most life-changing years of my life as I went from merely obeying God because it was the right thing to do to following Him and developing a passion for seeing lost people saved because God had put that in my heart. At the start of my two years overseas, my attitude had been, “God I’m giving you the next two years, and then I’m going back to my own plans for my life.” By the end of the two years, I knew God’s calling on my life was forever, and I was so excited about it!
On returning from overseas, I immediately started seminary, knowing it would prepare me for a lifetime of service to God. Along the way, I met my amazing wife, and made some friendships that I will cherish all of my life. In 2003 my wife and I moved back overseas to share God’s love with others. Once again God used that time to grow and stretch me. We (my wife, Shannon, and I) experienced great joys, and near tragedies. We learned to rely on God like never before. We saw God move in amazing ways in the people we were ministering to. Sometimes we were mere team members, at one point we were team leaders of 13 other teammates. At different times during our four-year assignment I was a pastor, mediator, confidant, encourager, facilitator, mentor, host, and so much more. While we were in Asia, God blessed us with our oldest daughter, Katelyn.
In 2007 we returned to the United States, fully expecting to be here only a year and then head back overseas. Once again, God had other plans. As we started to prepare to return to Asia, doors started to close. Opportunities that were available at one time were no longer there. Positions that were open at one point were filled. For one reason or another, we had no peace about some assignments that were available. God eventually showed us that He was leading us to stay in the United States, and this is how we ended up at The Church on Cypress in Carmichael, California.
From September of 2008 until November of 2013, our family was at Cypress. I was the Pastor of Administration and Youth there, and my responsibilities included everything from supervising different employees and leading different administrative teams, to ministering to the junior high and high school students at our church. God blessed us with great friends, an awesome ministry, and a loving church family at Cypress. Our second daughter, Jessica, was also born during this time.
But in the Fall of 2013 we sensed that God was leading us someplace new. As I started praying and seeking God’s direction for our family, I was contacted by the Pastor Search Team at NewLife Community Church. Through the process of learning about NewLife and letting them learn about me and my family, it was clear that God was leading us to move to Easton to be a part of the NewLife family, and I am really excited about the calling to be the Pastor here. God has given me a passion for preaching and teaching in ways that are faithful to the Bible and relevant to everyday life. I have a passion for helping others develop a better understanding of just how great and awe-inspiring our God is. I am excited to get the chance to lead a group of people as we partner together to reach our local community and the world with the hope and forgiveness that comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ.
The past has been awesome, I can hardly wait to see what lies ahead as we join the wonderful people of NewLife!