Monday, March 20, 2017

A New Chapter in My Life is Beginning

I never wanted to be anything but a journalist growing up. I guess that’s not 100% true. At first, I wanted to be a super hero, but that radioactive spider never bit me. Then I wanted to be a professional baseball player, but I soon found out major league teams were not in the market for a pitcher with a 65-mile per hour curveball.  So being a journalist was my first real career dream. I remember when my dad bought our first camcorder – I was probably 10 at the time. My sisters and I set it up and did a pretend newscast. I was a voracious reader of the newspaper. I grew up watching people like Bob Holland, Lisa Kittrell, John Johnson, and yes, even Lindsey Hall, thinking one day I wanted to be like them.

So to get to work at WTOK-TV, along with many of the same people I’d grown up watching, was literally a dream come true for me. I was a fresh-faced country boy from Sebastopol, a recent graduate of Southern Miss, and I was on top of the world. That great feeling of getting to come in and work in the TV business, telling people’s stories, sharing what’s happening in the community, keeping people informed about important events, it’s never gone away. I still get a rush every time there is a big story. But apparently the Lord has other plans.

It’s interesting how God works, and often very easy to see his plans – but only in hindsight. The first story I went on 20 years ago when I started here at the station was as part of a series called “Holy Growth,” looking at churches that were expanding because of their growth. That day, we traveled to Northcrest Baptist Church to see the new sanctuary that was being built. I met the pastor Malcolm Lewis that day, and I can remember thinking, “I need to come to this church.” I wasn’t even a believer at the time – I don’t think I knew what I believed about God. But something attracted me to the church. It took me two and a half years, but I finally worked up the courage to go, and I’ve been going almost ever since – save a 2-year hiatus when we lived and worked in Augusta, Georgia. During that time, I have served as a teacher, and usher, a deacon, and for the last year as the part-time Associate Pastor.

The path to being in the ministry has been a long one. It’s a calling I began to sense almost a decade ago. Discerning exactly what to do with has been a process. I started seminary 4 years ago, and finished up my Masters Degree last year – I’m now working toward my doctorate. During that time, my wife and I have spent an awful lot of time in prayer, trying to figure out exactly what God wants. We believe we now know that, and last night Northcrest voted to make move me to full-time Associate Pastor. My last day at WTOK will be March 31st, and I will begin work there on a full-time basis in April. I couldn’t be more excited about this move – I feel a great deal of comfort and confidence that it is the right one. Our church has experienced major growth in recent years, and there is a great need for more pastoral help. I believe God has called me to be just that, and I look forward to being a part of a great team there; focusing on teaching, preaching, ministering to people, and most importantly – making disciples in our community.

For years, I had one goal, and that was to take John Johnson’s place when he retired as News Director. So it was ironic that when John did announce his retirement last year, the first thing I had to tell my General Manager Tim Walker was that I was not interested in taking his place, at least not permanently. He has been incredibly supportive of me in this journey, and has allowed me to run the newsroom for three months while we found a replacement for John. It allowed me to reach my longtime goal, while moving to the next one.

Let me just end this by saying thanks to everyone here at WTOK. There are too many people to name at this station who have influenced me in more ways that I can count. It has been a great joy to spend the vast majority of my adult life so far working at such a wonderful TV station. It was a dream that came true. Now, I move on to the next chapter of my life. If it is nearly as satisfying as the first chapter has been, it will be satisfying indeed. Finally, I want to thank you, the viewers. I’ve grown up with you, and it has been a great joy to come into your homes every night. Thank you for allowing me to do that.