When I was just a young boy a wise old man on my paper route who fancied himself a wise elderly sage once told me that life was just an obstacle to getting from where we are now to where we are ultimately going. I know in my own life that has been true indeed. So how is it that I am here today, a Pastor on the outskirts of the most powerful city in the world?
I was born and for the most part, raised Catholic. Through an amazing turn of events that included teenage alcoholism, and other traumatic upsets in my life Jesus found me, and he changed everything about me! I entered the Seventh-day Adventist church at the mere young age of 19 years. Had you known me at that junction in my life you would understand why it was such a miracle. In fact had God not intervened in my life, the direction I was heading may well of lead to eventual self-destruction (but that is a story for another time).
Me (Vinnie) at 18. This is the day I quit drinking. My best drinking buddy Doug took this of me after he offered me a beer I turned down. He said, “We better take a picture because this won’t last long.”
There I found myself, 19 years of age, with a great new-found happiness and joy, that a could barely contain, yet still lost in the sea of the large congregation I had just joined. Faith was new to me and it was confusing, and I just did not get why people were so different. Have you ever heard it said that the loneliest place is in a crowd? There were so many people, and I knew none of them. And while in time they all would become my dearest friends at first they just seemed so strange. They ate funny compared to me; they dressed differently compared to me, and they talked different compared to me. I grew up in a word of leather jackets, junk food, and beer, but my new friends were into suits, tofu, and health food. All I knew is that I loved Jesus, and I wanted to follow Him all the way not matter how strange this experience was to me at first. One evening, after my baptism, both overjoyed with this new truth I had learned, yet perplexed about how it fit into my current-chaotic teenage and broken family life, I knelt by my bed and in earnest prayer inquired of the Lord what He would have me do now that I knew this great message. I even in anger cried out to Him mere hours from being baptized and ask why me?
Why Me God? Why tell me this Truth? Now what am I going to do?
Why give me this truth, when I was so unworthy, so unable, why not give it others in my family more capable? Just what did He expect me to do now with this great truth he has given me? The answer came impressed upon me so powerfully, it almost seemed audible, and it was like light passed before my closed eyes, and I was left with the impression, “Give my people my Word”.
It was that simple and that short, “Give my people my Word.” You may think it is simple but to a new babe in Christ who just happened to be an inner city poverty-stricken teenager, it was a task that seemed incomprehensible. I had no money, no education, I was shy and introverted, not to mention I looked like a reject from an 80’s MTV rock video with crazy hair and a wardrobe of Rock T-shirts and a leather jacket, who would listen to what I had to say about Jesus? I counseled with another wise sage in my path of life, this time a retired pastor I had come to know. He gave me some sound sober advice, “Vince, being a pastor is hard work, it is hard for the family, it has lots of stresses and burdens, I advise anyone who asks me this to avoid it at all cost. Do all you can to escape it, run if you can. But in the end if you can not avoid it and you can’t stay away from it, then you will know you are truly called and will be blessed in the work.”
This was my first ever Prophecy Seminar back in the days of church planting.
This is my story, no matter what I did in life, it was never enough unless it was working for Jesus. I studied and worked as a counselor, social worker, and mental health caseworker and a community developer. I was sure I was doing the work of God because I was able to help so many people. Yet, I was still not preaching the word of God but little did I know God was not done with me yet. When God asks you to do something He will provide a means. This is why the Apostle Paul was able to thank God, “being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” Philippians 1:6
Perhaps the best gift God has given me outside of the gift of salvation and fellowship with Him is the gift of my wonderful wife Tina who completes and complements me with her gifts in every way I have need. Eventually, her work as a nurse took us from our home in Canada to North Carolina. I went from being a full-time social worker and part-time church board member to Elder. From Elder, I went to lay-evangelist and from lay evangelist to new church planter and leader. After being a lay pastor /leader of a new Church plant for two years, I knew in my heart that I could never stop doing this work. It had become my passion, my awakening desire, my very oxygen.
I truly made some of the best friends of my life at SAU. They were and are family.
Now after two years at Southern Adventist University, and having completed my Theology degree, I have been called to obey that words of old, “Give my people my Word.” Not because I am gifted, or talented but because God called a confused, chaotic teenage who knelt by His bed and prayed with all his heart and imperfections all wrapped up into one flesh. I pledged my life to His service, and He has been working in my life all these years till this point, and I know He will even continue until the end.
But what I really want to say is preaching the Word, living the Word, giving the Word, modeling the Word, is not just the job of Pastors it is the job of all who read these words. God is calling you to set the captives free.
It is as the old hymn says;
“If you cannot sing like angels,
If you can’t preach like Paul,
You can tell the love of Jesus,
And say He died for all.
There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul.
Sometimes I feel discouraged,
And think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit
Revives my soul again.”
You don’t have to be a pastor; you don’t need to be a great evangelist, you don’t need a collection of letters behind your name (BA, M.Div., Ph.D.) you just need to honestly, and wholly surrender your life to Jesus. He will decide if you will be a pastor, teacher, elder, construction worker, artist, musician, president, CEO, celebrity, or janitor, but wherever He puts you, if you accept it He will have you, “give His people His Word.”
You may not be perfect, but I assure you that you have been perfectly called. You may never preach a sermon, but this world is limitless in ways you can give people His Word.
“Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.”
Be sent and give those is such need the love of God in any way they will permit you in their lives.