Beginnings...

Posted by Randy | Labels: , , | Posted On Wednesday, January 7, 2009 at 4:44 PM

It's a new year and a new beginning for me, as I start my first blog. I have the privilege of serving as the senior pastor of a really cool church - Gateway Community Church. A lot of folks are coming here, more than I can meet or get to know. I thought this might be a great opportunity to share with these great folks some of the things I'm thinking about or doing.

I definitely don't claim any great wisdom or insight here. And my thoughts don't necessarily always completely reflect Gateway. But it's a chance for me to just be myself and talk about things that I'm passionate about or interested in. A lot of it will be related to Gateway, but not all.

I look at this as a journey, an adventure, and I'm not quite sure where we'll end up, but you're welcome to come along for the ride.

Let me tell you a little about myself. I was born in Alexandria, LA, and grew up there. I had a good time growing up there. Besides school and band, I did a fair amount of hunting and fishing with my dad. I graduated from Bolton High School in 1975 (wow - that seems like a long time ago, now). I majored in mechanical engineering at LA Tech University, and graduated in 1979.

I went to work for Trane, working in the air-conditioning industry. They sent me for training at their corporate headquarters in LaCrosse, WI. It's a beautiful place, but I kept hoping for snow. We got hardly any while I was there, so this southern boy was really disappointed. I finished there in December of 1979 and moved to Houston (SW side of town) to start working here in January 1980.

Houston was a whole new experience for this young guy, on his own, making pretty decent money. But I also found it kind of lonely, and eventually in mid-1981 visited a singles class at Memorial Drive United Methodist Church (UMC) after being invited by an acquaintance. I met some great folks and started going regularly. I started helping with the junior high youth group (loved those guys!). I had gone to church a lot growing up, but I eventually figured out that Jesus Christ was missing from the center of my life. I had played a lot of religious games, but nothing substituted for a real relationship with Christ (and I'm still working on that today!). I still remember committing my life to him in my car (1979 Pontiac Formula Firebird - loved it!) at the intersection of Wilcrest and Kirkwood. I knew Christ had to have all of me, not 50% or 75% or even 90%. Those didn't work - Christ needed my full devotion, and I needed to give it!

In the months that followed I started really reading my Bible for the first time in my life, attending a Bible study (boy, I sure didn't know much), and doing more with the youth. At a youth conference (at the old Adams Mark Hotel just off Westheimer and the Beltway) in early 1984 I felt this strange sense that God might be calling me to be a pastor. That really scared me and didn't at all fit my plans (which included making a lot of money). But, God wouldn't let me go, and later that year, on a backpacking trip in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho, I finally told God, "Yes!"

In June of 1985 I moved up to Tyler, TX, to attend seminary full-time at SMU (Perkins School of Theology) in Dallas and work part-time at Marvin UMC as their pastor with single adults, a new position at that church. While there, I met Susan Andrews, and I couldn't get her off my mind. She left the day after I met her for a Baylor University trip (where she had just graduated) to Europe for a month. We started dating not long after she got back, and were married in June, 1986.

Susan would eventually join me in seminary, and we both graduated in 1989. From there I served three years as an associate pastor at First UMC in Lufkin, followed by three years as pastor of First UMC in Grand Saline. We then moved to Hallsville (a bedroom community of Longview, halfway between Longview and Marshall), where I served as pastor of First UMC for nine years. Susan served as one of the early executive directors of U.M.-ARMY, a ministry that set up mission trips for senior high youth around East Texas (at that time, though today they have spread much farther, involving thousands of students every summer). She also served as an interim pastor in a church near Nacogdoches and for a couple of churches in Kilgore. She eventually served as my associate pastor in the Hallsville church.

We really enjoyed East Texas. It was close to family for both of us (her parents lived in Tyler, and she had grandparents in Longview; my parents lived in Alexandria, LA). We had a lot of friends, and found it was a great place to live and raise kids. I also enjoyed being so close to great bass fishing, which I love to do, and find it very therapeutic. Our daughter Kathryn was born just before we left Lufkin, and our son William was born while we were in Hallsville.

When God opened a door for us to come to Clear Lake, we were surprised, but as we investigated and prayed, we felt God's leading. We have really enjoyed being here, though it's definitely been a challenge - at least for me. I need all of God's help that I can get! Our kids are well settled and like it here, too. I've done some salt-water fishing and like it, but I really do miss the bass fishing. Otherwise, it's been great here, and I can't wait to see what God has in store for us.

I've tried to let God guide me through every step of this adventure. I won't say I've listened perfectly to Him, or obeyed perfectly, but that's been my goal. He has grown me more in these last few years than any time I can remember. It's been amazing to see what He's doing here, the lives that are being transformed, the wonderful staff I get to work with, and the incredible future I believe God has ahead of us. None of this would be possible if God's Spirit weren't at work in all this.

I believe God has uniquely positioned Gateway and the great people of this church to help connect people to God. He's set us up to be a "gateway" to faith for folks who have been disconnected from Him. We have the privilege of walking alongside folks and helping them discover the incredible Good News of Jesus Christ. Here at the beginning of 2009, as the economy gyrates all over the place and this area is still recovering from Hurricane Ike, I believe God has given us an incredible opportunity to change our community and our world. I'm excited about all God is doing, and I'm grateful He's allowed me to have a part in this. I hope you feel it, too. Don't miss this incredible journey!