“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”
(1 Peter 5:6–7 NAS95)
Every spring graduating seniors at The Master’s Seminary are honored with the opportunity to give their senior testimony during chapel. Through the years these testimonies have been a great source of encouragement for the student body, and for men who are contemplating attending seminary. I have been encouraged by the witness of those who have tread the difficult road before me. I was looking forward to giving my testimony, but Providence has brought me to Gainesville, Florida to plant Grace Bible Church making it impossible to give mine in person. Therefore, I will share it in a slightly different way. I pray these words will be a blessing to those who read it.
The road through seminary can look vastly different depending upon one’s situation. Having spent much time with Master’s men, I know most of them face great difficulties in moving their families to Los Angeles from all parts of the world to attend TMS. The published curriculum is rigorous while the ‘unpublished” one can be downright painful. My own story is just one of many, yet I hope it to be a story of God’s provision and His goodness.
In my early forties, I was one of the older men at TMS—though not the oldest. My path to seminary was different, in large part because I brought in a few more years of life experience than many of the men. I am a father of four—three of them teenagers. I had been in the business world for many years, so the decision to leave my career was a difficult one that I had wrestled with for a long time. And, I have some unique challenges with my health.
The calling into the ministry has been compared to being called as a Christian. There is a lot of truth in this. Christ’s call to salvation is irresistible, and as I found out, so is the call to ministry. When God calls a man into His service, he has no other choice but obey. I was dragged kicking and screaming to TMS, but once the decision had been made, I embraced the challenge and was thankful for God’s provision.
My time at TMS began with fighting the daily traffic to attend summer Greek class—affectionately known as “Gladiator Greek.” I will never forget those grueling days of memorizing Greek and listening to Dr. Farnell challenge our worldview. I also met many men in this class including Chazz Anderson who encouraged me to take Dr. Felix’s Greek Exegesis class which proved to be a completely different experience from Dr. Farnell. Through those two classes, I was baptized by fire and uniquely exposed to TMS’s distinctive culture.
We experienced many incredible memories at TMS, and many trials and difficulties, but through all of it, God has sustained my family. I will never forget the time my son, Andrew, came in and asked where we parked the car…it had been stolen. Or, after my first year, when I spent a couple of days in the hospital because of my heart condition. I can’t forget the day I was readying to take a theology test for Dr. Mook and began to experience a neurological issue that caused me to lose my ability to speak or reason. I was later diagnosed with migraines after I had spent couple of days in the local hospital.
During our time at TMS, God provided for our family in remarkable ways. I worked for Only Hope Prison Ministries during my last two years in seminary. Words cannot describe how good they were to my family. I am forever grateful to those men. I also coached football at Santa Clarita Christian School which was an unbelievable opportunity to influence young athletes and spend time working alongside great men. I was also honored to lead a men’s bible study at Santa Clarita Baptist Church. I am forever grateful for my time with the amazing men of SCBC and for my Pastor, Vaughn Park. Along the way, I was also able to develop many lifelong friendships at TMS. The first was Keith Kemp. We were of similar age and sat together at orientation. I will always remember our long conversations about seminary and our lives afterward.
I could go on about how God sustained and provided for us during our time at TMS, but I need to mention my family. My kids, Brandon Jr., Andrew, Chloe, and Cayla have been a blessing from God. They have been through more than most and have shown great maturity. My wife, Angie has been my greatest helper and encourager. She has been with me through thick and thin and has been the glue that held our family together through difficult times. I can say without reservation that I would not have made it through seminary without her by my side. She has loved me through trying circumstances and never wavered. She was there for me when I was at my lowest in Mission Community Hospital suffering through what turned out to be a gross misdiagnosis, and during those times when I wanted to quit because of the great difficulty. She worked two jobs—sometimes sixty hours per week—trying to sustain us. She worked hard outside the home and worked even harder at home caring for our family. She persevered through it all when she could have said enough is enough. I love her with all my heart and am grateful to God for her.
I am forever thankful for my time at TMS. I have only given a glimpse of all that has occurred and all the ways God has sustained us. I want to finish with these closing thoughts. If you are currently in seminary or contemplating going, please understand the difficulty you are facing. The coming years are likely to be the most demanding of your life. I don’t say this to discourage, but to encourage. God grows His people through trials and suffering, and if He has marked you out to shepherd His people, He will prepare you. He will send you through every experience required to ready you for the battle! You will be tested!
I want to say to those who are not going to seminary, but are facing great difficulty in life. Embrace the hard times, because God is faithful, and remember that “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (James 1:17 NAS95). God is faithful and He knows exactly what He is doing! Humble yourselves under His mighty hand and casting your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you. And, you will not be disappointed!