Of course if you are a young teen-ager, you should at least finish High School. A College degree is required by most mission sending agencies if you plan to become a career missionary. Having a Master’s Degree in Religious studies is better and a Doctor's Degree is even more valuable. The more formal education you have, the easier it is to obtain a work-permit type of visa. Foreign government leaders do look for those who can perform tasks that their own people are not qualified for. I was asked once by an African government official, “Why should I give you this work-permit if there is someone in your church from our own country who can do the job you are doing?” No, our calling is not to be compared with a secular job – but his question did make sense to me.
I don't think I was at any time consciously preparing to go to Africa. Looking back from this vantage point, I can see how God was preparing me in many ways; some little some larger. As best I can understand it - the preparation started when I was 8 years of age and had that dramatic conversion experience which I have blogged about previously. As I explained in that blog, my Dad felt “called” to preach at the age of 20 and started pasturing small churches near where he lived. As a result, he soon realized that he needed more education so moved to Seveirville, Tennessee so he could attend our Church’s Bible Training School (now Lee University). After much experience I believe that when anyone has the opportunity to preach from the pulpit he/she soon recognizes the need to be a better communicator. There is a verse in Ecclesiastes 10:10 that says, “If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct.” One translations says, “Be wise therefore and sharpen the blade.” If you have ever cut wood for burning in a wood stove, you have a better understanding of that principle than others.
At the age of 11 years, I felt in my own heart that someday I would be a preacher. Dad was now pasturing a church in Jellico, Tennessee. Jellico, on the border with Kentucky, was a small mountain town with it’s own unique culture. I did not make a public announcement about that call but did share it with Mom and Dad. They were very wise and did not push me out front but chose to allow me to be the first to say anything publicly about that call. I attended the 6th grade here, and entered the local spelling bee, won the county reading contest, and sung in a school choir. All of these things were shaping my future.
|This is my High School Graduation picture|
At 16 years old, while Dad was pastoring the church Spain Street Church of God in New Orleans, Louisiana, we had a visitor from South Africa who shared his slides with us about some of his work among the Bantu tribes in Southern Africa - and that started an awareness that I should try and help those who were less fortunate than me and who had never heard the gospel of Jesus. In New Orleans, I learned how to adapt to a foreign culture. I learned from the “Swamp People” and from the Cajuns of the big city. While I had been very popular in the small school in Jellico and Campaign, Tennessee where my Dad was well known by most folks in those little towns, we were now in a town of a half million people. My school (Francis T. Nichols High School) alone had more than 300 students. That was as many as the whole town of Campaign, TN where I had been in the 7th and 8th grades. God was preparing me for diversity. In New Orleans, I was able to study French as a regular school subject. This would not have been possible in the country churches we had just come from. Little did I know at the time that I would be able to use that French in Africa while serving our Church as Field Director for 32 countries. Twenty two of my countries officially spoke French. No – I was not fluent in French but was able to understand much more than I could speak.
Thank you for taking your time to come by and visit with me today. I realize this blog may have been a little lengthy but thanks for enduring to the end! Well - really there is more to the story which I hope to share with you on another day.