I was raised in the small town of Willard, Missouri
I grew up in what is now my sending church Park Crest Baptist Church in Springfield, Missouri. I spent every week as a part of the children’s ministry. To this day, I remember that I was enamored with missions. My favorite days in AWANA were days we got to hear from missionaries, namely my long-time family friend Shelly Henderson Mwamakula, and I loved every second of our missions conferences each year.
The Late Shelly Henderson-Mwamakula, Missionary to Tanzania
I was always told that I started by relationship Jesus as a 6 year old, but that memory never seemed very real to me. I simply continued living my life with the knowledge that everyone told me I had asked Jesus to save me, and I tried not to think about it too much. My knowledge of Jesus and the Bible continued to grow, but it is clear to me now in hindsight that spiritually I was still dead. Throughout middle school and high school I just kept up the same routine: being the smart kid who knew all the answers at church, while living my life however I wanted at home. During this I always felt God stirring my heart towards missions. As a thirteen year old, still spiritually dead (and hygienically gross), I made a commitment to give my life to missions. But it wasn’t until I was 16 that I truly understood the weight of that commitment and the weight of the sin that I was just ignoring.
While on a missions trip with my youth group to inner-city St. Louis, I was confronted with a startling realization: I was headed for the same eternity as the kids and families we were working to love and share the Gospel with because I had never actually made the decision to give my life to Jesus. So, I grabbed my youth pastor and that night while sitting in a rocking chair in the nursery of Lighthouse Baptist Church, my toenails painted (long story, it was high school), I prayed and asked Jesus to forgive my sins and to be the Lord of my life. That was also the day I understood what I had really committed my life to when I was 13, because that trip was just a taste of what I knew God was calling me to do.
While I can’t say that from that day on I did everything exactly how God wanted me to do it, I can say that over the next few years God laid out His plans for my life in some pretty incredible ways.
After spending my high school years being very interested in Latin America, I was able to go on my first international missions trip just days after my high school graduation to, you guessed it, Nicaragua. The fact that an 18 year old working as a customer service rep at a pharmacy was able to afford to go on an international missions trip is a small miracle itself, but God was also working some things out in the background that I didn’t find out about until much later.
I was part of a group from Park Crest heading to Nicaragua to work with Brian Weed and the Familia Avance network, and before I ever even stepped foot into the country, family friends of mine were already in contact with Brian, telling him of my interest in Latin American missions and pointing him in my direction as someone with a potential future in Nicaragua. Brian and I hit it off quickly on that trip, became immediate best friends (no need to contact him for confirmation, just trust me) and from the first day of that trip I have known God had a plan for me to be in Nicaragua.
I returned home from that trip with a plan, which promptly failed. After a disastrous year studying Spanish at Missouri State University (it was bad) I transferred to Baptist Bible College where I finally graduated in May of 2019 with a degree in Intercultural Studies. During my time in college, God allowed me to be a part of some amazing things. I led BBC’s traveling worship band, Breakaway. I served on multiple short-term missions trips to Nicaragua, as well as Guatemala, the United Kingdom, the Middle East, and the Philippines, and most recently came on staff as the Children’s Pastor at my home church.
The opportunity to lead the kids ministry that I actually grew up in has proven to be instrumental in my call to missions and my desire to be FOR KIDS. I started volunteering in kids ministry as a freshman in high school as a favor to a friend of mine who needed someone to help her run games for preschoolers. What I thought would be a one time favor (what 14 year old boy thinks kids ministry is cool?) God turned into a passion that has helped shape what I want to do on the mission field.
I have worked in just about every area of kids ministry possible, from changing some horrific diapers in the nursery all the way to dealing with sassy 6th graders who think they have love and life all figured out. What I've learned along the way is that kids are not just the future of the Church, they ARE the Church, just as much as any high schooler or adult is. Kids, more than any other group of people, just need someone who can come alongside them and show them what it means to follow Christ, even if it means looking kinda dumb and getting a little dirty to do it. I believe that God has specifically called me to be that person to the kids of Nicaragua. I also believe that if you’re reading this God might be calling you to partner with me in doing just that.
It hasn’t been the cleanest path, but it is clear to me that everything that has happened to me happened because God was shaping me for my future ministry. As I officially start my journey to get to Nicaragua, I am looking for churches, people, and businesses who want to be a part of what God is and will be doing there. Let’s do this together.