[Warning, this post is a bit on the long side—about 50% longer than our normal target length…read accordingly.]
I’ve sat down many times over the last week or so to write the post we last promised you guys—the story of the “when” of our departure coming later this year. However, every time I did so, I couldn’t seem to write that part of the story without first telling you about how I, myself got here, as Miranda did late last year. But my (back)story is sufficiently long that it seemed best to tell it in its own post, so here goes…
There are two streams which have defined my passions—my avocation, if you will—over the last two decades in varying ways: photography and missions. Each has had a profound impact regarding how God has formed my paths during this time.
I found photography when I was very young, before I was even in junior high. When I was in elementary school, Dad took a few photography classes at the local community college but soon lost interest. His camera, once proud, languished in a corner of his room collecting dust. I appropriated his camera (whether or not I actually had permission to do so continues to be shrouded in deep, impenetrable mystery), and soon that camera and I were inseparable.
I brought it everywhere I went, shot hundreds of rolls of film, and took thousands of horrible photos. Amazingly, though, I did get better. I even was able to turn my passion for photography into a job shooting for my junior high school paper, my first real photography gig. Later, in high school, I continued to pursue photography, learning what I could about how to make more interesting photographs. No matter how long I used that camera, I could never get enough—it was becoming a part of who I was, a way that I interacted with and made sense of the world—I was a photographer.
I became a believer when I was still in elementary school, around third grade or so. I still remember the events of the day (during the service at FBC Anahuac with Brother Hardy preaching, and that horribly ugly, I-can’t-believe-a-committee-actually-approved-this-color-even-during-the-seventies sea foam green carpet they had) and the overwhelming sense that I had to respond to the Gospel.
Our home wasn’t really a home of faith—Mom brought us to church, and Dad worked on projects in the garage while we were there—but we were able to grow spiritually within the church. I was a fairly typical small-town, Southern Baptist youth group kid for a while during junior high and early high school (that is, somewhat well-informed about the Gospel and biblical stuff, but quite ambivalent regarding the day-to-day living out of my faith), but I found myself getting more serious about my faith in high school.
It was during this time, in the summer before my senior year of high school, that I felt God was calling me into full-time, vocational ministry. Remember, though, that I was a small-town-Texas kid, still—the only models I had for what it meant to be “in the ministry” were the big three: youth minister, minister of music, or pastor. I wasn’t quite sure what God had in store for me, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t one of those three.
I was sure, however, that if I was called to serve Him vocationally, I needed to get trained, which meant going to a university where I could get the right training. For me, this meant Houston Baptist University. It was the only school I applied to, and God provided financially for me to be able to attend without going into debt. While I was there at HBU, God led me to Wilcrest Baptist Church, where He showed me how my calling to vocational ministry aligned nicely with His mission to bring the Gospel message to His creation.
Photography AND Missions
While I was at HBU, preparing for whatever mission God would lay out for me, I discovered that I was required to declare two majors—I had always assumed I’d major in theology or Christianity and that would be the end of it. Given this new decision, I took it as an opportunity to pursue my interest in photography, and studied photojournalism as part of my second major. I grew incredibly as a photographer at HBU, through four years on staff at The Collegian, in mentoring others who came after me, and through photography internships—one of which was with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Orlando.
This was one of the first times that I got a glimpse of what it might mean to be able to combine my passion for photography with my calling to serve God vocationally as a missionary…and it was pretty darn cool. Finally, I had a roadmap for how the two streams which had defined my passions—photography and missions—could come together in an amazing way to honor God and bring glory to His name.
While at HBU, God also allowed me to meet a beautiful little red-haired girl of my own, and she later became my wife. One of the amazing things about about her was that God had given her a similar calling to missions, and she was totally committed to following that calling in her life, too. We graduated, got married, had a few kids, have have been working for the last few years to prepare our family for the calling we knew God had for us. He’s also used the intervening years to smooth off some rough edges—something that was good for us.
Now we’ve come back full-circle, it seems. God has brought us to a place where we can finally follow the calling He gave each of us more than 15 years ago, in the summer of ’97—her standing in a plaza in San Luis Potosí, me standing in a meeting hall at the Lake Tomahawk campgrounds in East Texas.
We stand on the cusp of a new journey, with five little Peacocks in tow. After more than a decade of preparation, this new step is imminent. We are excited to share with you soon the details of this new move.