Sheri and I met in 1974. She was 14 and I was 16. We dated all through High School. She was one year behind me in school, so we waited until she graduated and then that summer we were married (1980). Here we are in, in the picture, 1981-82 at our first church I pastored. I was still in Bible College but moved into the parsonage of the church in Browning, Illinois. Folks, that's a picture of us 30 years ago! I was 21 years old.
Sheri and I were both raised by Christian parents. Though I was raised by Godly parents, when I met Sheri, I had not made my own step of faith to follow Jesus. I was doing the "church thing" but church bored me. I only knew about a church service, but not of a loving Savior who was crucified and raised again for me, to wash away my sins and give me eternal life.
Sheri was strong in her faith even at 14 years old. When I began showing an interest in her, she questioned me to make sure I was a Christian. I felt that I was, based on all I knew at the time, but later I found out that I needed to truly repent and trust in Jesus.
Sheri invited me to her church, a brand new congregation. In fact, I attended their very first Sunday. It was not intimidating, because though it was my first time there, it was everyone's first time there too. Her church wasn't boring. And no it was not because I had Sheri to look at. It was because I met authentic Christ followers, men and women who followed the Bible and who were true servants of the LORD. After a few years, I made the decision. I repented of my sins and ask the LORD to forgive me, confessed Jesus as LORD of my life, and I acknowledged that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I immediately was immersed in Christian baptism and have since made it my desire to live for Christ, with the help of the Holy Spirit. I'm not perfect but I serve a God who is. Through His grace He covers my imperfections.
Prior to our marriage I was called by God to enter into preaching the Gospel. I enrolled in Bible College and crammed 4 years into 5. I received my degree in Christian ministries. Over the next few years the LORD called us to minister to churches in Illinois, Missouri and Ohio. In 1993, while pastoring in Ohio, an elder at the church introduced me into beekeeping. He and I took a hive out of a fallen tree and I was off and running as a beekeeper. Surprisingly, back in 1993 the Internet was not available to the public to Google beekeeping. So I learn the hard way--self taught. The elder soon took a dislike to me, and it became very hard to minister without the support of he and his family. Though I was not forced out nor fired, the LORD opened up the invitation to serve where I am now. Though Ohio was difficult, had I not gone, I would never have learned about keeping bees. And though this man made it most difficult and hard for me, he actually was used by the LORD to drive me into a final beekeeping business. God works that way. Victory through suffering!
Over the last 30 years I've served in 5 churches. Most were great, some were difficult and two the LORD used to show me how committed I must be to truly serve His people. Unlike many who enter the ministry, my passion was always to serve a Body of Christ where the people were Spirit-led and Bible based. I've never belonged to a denomination because I believe Christ prayed for His people to be one, not divided (John 17). I've never bought in to playing church or being a "politically correct" pastor just to keep the treasure happy so I can get a pay check. No one ever ran me out on a rail, though some tried. I quit a church when most wanted me to stay, but all in all I've stayed true to my calling to preach the Word. Some have called me a brick wall and when it comes to the Sound Doctrine of the Word of God, I accept that accusation. I speak the Truth in Love and I'm committed to leading people to Christ and making disciples.
Through the last 30 years, Sheri and I have had 6 children. Our oldest is 29 and our youngest is 2...almost 3 now. We homeschool our children and we are truly farmers at heart. The church that I am at now, Victory Christian Center, is a beautiful Body of Christ. One worth visiting if you are even in central Illinois. I've served the LORD as their pastor now for 15 years. This church went through a radical move to become more Biblical and to truly be a congregation as prescribed in the New Testament. We do not play church, we do not make false converts and we do not operate the church like a business. Instead, we are led by the Holy Spirit and we meet in homes. Shortly after I started here, we built a huge, new building. Took out a $400,000.00 church loan. But over time, and due to division in the church the LORD turned us into a Gideon church, smaller in number but stronger in many ways. So we sold our church, paid off the loan and had some funds to invest in mission work. We immediately put that money to work in Liberia, Africa rescuing orphans from the 14 year civil war in Liberia that left the streets full of helpless children. I've been to Africa twice to minister and though the country of Liberia is hurting, the need for the Good News is great. Now, our congregation believes we are most Biblical when we meet in homes. That's what the Bible says, that they met in homes. So without the expense of the building, we have more money to invest in direct ministry work. And, that's why I'm running a bee business. It's my desire that soon, I will not have to receive any salary from my congregation and that God can sustain us through our bee business, freeing up more funds for direct ministry. Though the Bible says a worker (pastor) is worthy of receiving a living from preaching, it's just a desire I have not to exercise that right.
I've preached in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, India, Israel (6 trips) and Africa. Sheri and our oldest son have traveled to Haiti doing mission work. My oldest daughter has traveled to Indonesia, Mexico and Canada in mission work. Karee and my son David have traveled with me to Liberia, Africa. So we all have a heart to go into all nations.
I met a pastor/beekeeper in Florida who impacted my life. Once he said something like this to me, "David, I've always earned my living from my bees. That-a-way I can preach whatever the LORD tells me to preach and if the people fire me, my bees will still pay the bills. So I don't have to let a church pay check influence what I preach." That resonated in my soul and so that became my desire too. To be like Paul, having a tent-ministry. So I hope that if you are a Christian you'll join me in prayer that I can one day reach that goal of being self-sufficient through our bee business while preaching the Gospel. To be honest, it's not easy. We've poured a lot of blood , sweat and tears into trying to established our bee business in the midst of CCD and a relentless recession. But the LORD is faithful! He will do it for us. Amen!
Thanks for allowing me to share a brief testimony about who we are and why we have a compassion for people and a passion for Christ.
Re-arranging my life for Christ,