I was born into an awesome Christian family. Which is great, but it makes it harder to realize the problems in your life, because you think “well I come from a good family and we’ve given everything for God.” It took me a while to learn how to make my parents’ faith in God my own.
When I turned five we sold everything and packed up from our family home in New Zealand and moved to China to be missionaries. Looking back now I realize how significant this was, when you’re five you just assume it’s normal, because it’s all you know. My dad, formerly a dairy farmer, was now an English professor at a State run college. We bought our first computer in China so my Dad could use spell check, because the students kept correcting his spelling. I seem to have inherited both gifts from my dad, a love for technology and bad spelling. That first computer grew a love for technology in me.
After a year in China my dad got a call from an Australian friend who was working in the USA at a drug and alcohol rehab located in rural Missouri. They wanted to switch the farm from beef to dairy to provide more jobs. My dad had been a dairy farmer all his life. So we moved out to this new ministry named Heartland in 1996.
There wasn’t much to look at when we got here. There were a few buildings and a couple of houses linked by gravel roads. I remember the first day of school. Our school was just a big house the first year. They were just starting to build the school/church.
Growing up in Heartland was great. I had a few close friends. There are always lots of people around, but a lot of them didn’t stay long. Sometimes people come ready to change, but then find out how hard it is. Sometimes people come to help others and realize that they don’t quite have it together. Spiritually Heartland can be quite challenging.
When I turned thirteen I began to dabble in sin. Before I knew it I realized that I was in serious trouble. It was then I decided I was going to serve God with everything that was in me, just like my parents and the people around me. I would be lying if I said everything was easy after that. My friends started to turn their backs on God around that time and were encouraging me to do the same, but I loved God. I knew that serving Him was the only thing worth while. Sex, drugs, parties… they are only temporary highs compared with the peace that God brings. I knew that from my own minor experiences, but I had also heard that over a thousand times from men and women graduating from the recovery program. Seemed to me it would be wise to listen to those people.
High school was rough. I was thirteen and had three eighteen year old guys in my class. I learned pretty quick everything I never wanted to know from my classmates; they had come from broken homes and rough places. I learned though, how to get along with these people — the kind of people church kids don’t usually hang around. Kids out of gangs in New York. Kids with major anger problems and drug problems. It was rough, but I learned a lot about people and how much friendship can change people for the good and the bad.
By the end of high school, I was working long hours at the Church in our TV production department. My senior year in high school I was editing every episode of our weekly show, Straight From The Heart. My love of technology had meet my passion for God. I had been volunteering on the camera crew on Sundays since I was fourteen. Which led me from working on the farm to working in an office on very expensive computers.
Heartland has a very active missions department. Pastor Charlie has a passion to see the gospel spread over all the world. Towards the end of my senior year in high school, I went on my first missions trip to Egypt. I went along as a cameraman to film the events and to send back updates to our Church, and after the trip put together a trip report video for our Church and television audience to see. Little did I know then that I’d be doing that five or six times a year for the next several years.
After high school I attended Heartland Christian College. It’s a small college. Most people have never heard of it, but that really doesn’t matter, because the things I got out of it continue to guide my walk with God today. It was in college that I began to find God for myself. I began to learn about who I was and the callings God had put in my life. My relationship with God was built on a firm foundation and I received confidence in that relationship. My faith in God is my own.
During college I traveled on lots of trips to Egypt again, to Moldova, to the Philippines, to India, to Mexico. It was amazing to be 19 and see so much of the world. I did all of this while still editing an hour long weekly TV show and going to college full time. I continued to hone my camera skills and editing skills. I always travel with my photographer friend, Jaymes Schrock. A couple of times we’ve been asked to speak to people our age at pastor’s conferences. I’m always grateful to my college training — always have to be ready to speak, no matter who you are.
Two years after college in Brazil on a missions trip, I got my eye on a girl. Up to that time I had given everything to God. Not that I didn’t ever get distracted, but I put the idea of a relationship firmly in His hands. My friends and leaders kept saying, “Hey what about Melissa? You should ask her out.” Two months later I just happened to be on a trip with her. And I quickly fell in love (although she had no idea at the time that I was interested). Another two months later we started courting. Yes, I’m a little slow. Courting is like dating, just very structured and sometimes frustrating. But it’s all with the intent of helping you stay pure.
I learned a lot in that time about what it is to love someone. It was hard at times with me being gone for a week or two every couple of months, but I always looked forward to coming home. Less than a year later we got married!
We’ve been married for not quite three months now. I love my wife so much and I’m so grateful for her. I really appreciate the solid foundation I have through my Church and community. It makes leading my new home much easier. I still travel on missions trips. We just got back from Colombia, South America (not to be confused with Columbia, Missouri). I love working at the Church in the TV department. It’s my desire to make great quality videos that encourage people to go after God. I’m looking forward to the future. Can’t wait to see what God has planned. He has things in store for you that will blow your mind.