After high school, I started college at Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO) in Cape Girardeau, MO. I went there thinking I was going to major in historic preservation. After a couple of semesters, though, I knew this degree was not for me. But during my time there, I met a beautiful young lady by the name of Beth Hancock. I stayed for another three semesters before taking a semester off and changing directions in a whole different thought. I transferred to Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) in Waxahachie, TX.
Some of you may wonder how in the world can someone go from historic preservation to a Bible College. Well, that in itself is a story. So here is Jonathan’s revised version (hopefully it is a short version, right?).
I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I grew up in an Assemblies of God pastor’s home. When I was 12 years old, while at a youth conference, I felt God directed me to go into missions. You might ask, God directed you? How? Well, here is what happened. During the service, there was an call to go forward if you felt God was “calling” you. I went forward because I felt a tugging in my heart to go forward. While at the front, I was prayed for by some of the workers there. While they were praying for me, I had a vision. It was a picture of a map, a map of the Mediterranean area with both Southern Europe and North Africa. But in the vision, the coast line and inward all around the Mediterranean Sea were on fire. I got out of this, that God was calling me to go to this area.
Well, that was when I was 12, so you may be thinking why didn’t I just go to SAGU to begin with? Well, things happen when you are a teenager and I didn’t really think about that vision or what God had called me to do. I was still following him and went to church. So when I was a senior and thinking about when college to go to, I did pray about things and even considered going to a Bible school in California but I just didn’t feel peace about it. I did feel peace about SEMO so I applied and was accepted.
After starting school, I got plugged in to a good church in Cape Girardeau, Bethel Assembly of God. It was here, that God began to challenge me. You see, when God challenges us, it can be difficult when we don’t submit. This is something I have learned over time. It was not easy. So what happened was God began dealing with me about my calling into missions. My hangup was fear. In fact it was the fear of death. I was afraid that if I obeyed God and went, I would die over in Africa. Some of you may be in the same boat in a sense. You may have a fear that is holding you back. Just give in, it is easier, trust me. So for a year and half, every time I would attempt to talk to God, all I heard from Him was “GO”. Not something that was very fun, when I was trying to tell him all of my troubles or someone else’s troubles. It was a continuous nag that I don’t regret now but at the time, it was frustrating.
Finally, after my sophomore year at SEMO, at a Family Camp back with my family in Colorado, I finally said to God, “Okay, I’ll go.” I cannot tell you the relief I felt when I finally said those word and truly gave it, including the fear, to God. So I went back to SEMO for one more semester, asked that beautiful young lady to marry me and then took a semester off and transferred to SAGU.
I spent a year at SAGU, after transferring and losing 75 credits, before Beth and I were married in 1997. In the fall of 1997, Beth and I along with 15 other SAGU students started a church in downtown Dallas. It was called All Peoples Church. Beth and I lived just south of Fort Worth in a town called Crowley and she was teaching in Burleson while I was finishing my degree in Waxahachie. At All Peoples, we assisted in what we could. We were the only married couple of the initial group and the lead pastor, Dr. Gary Royer, asked me to be part of the original board and serve as the Outreach Director. As Outreach Director, I made sure that our team would follow-up with visitors and do any outreach as needed. I served in this role for six months before taking over as the church administrator. As the church administrator, I oversaw all the finances and other administrative tasks of the church. I did this while I was still going to school.
Then one Sunday right around summer of 1999, at one of the services, I had another one of those God moments. Just as when I was 12, I felt a tugging. This time, though, it was an audible voice saying, “Burleson.” I didn’t know what that meant during the service but that was all I was hearing throughout the whole service. After the service, I talked to Beth and since we were having a board meeting that week, an interesting thing happened. At the board meeting, the new lead pastor asked for a two-year commitment. I actually had a resignation letter typed up and so I knew that God was behind the move. Now just to figure out what God wanted.
So after resigning, Beth and I began to check out churches that were much closer to were we were living in Crowley. We felt that the church that we were supposed to go to was First Assembly of God in Burleson. We tried to visit them on a weeknight but instead of Wednesday night services they had Tuesday night services.
To be continued….