ABOUT ME

 
UPBRINGING

I was brought up in the mountains of North Carolina. My dad ensured that I knew the value of work. My earliest jobs included farming, raising Christmas trees, cutting grass...so much grass, building houses and working in a cabinet shop.

Our family’s life revolved around a small mountain church. Revivals and weekly prayer meetings gave consistent impetus to my spiritual formation. I recall a vivid awareness of my own sin…call it an over-burdened conscience if you like, but it was clear to me that I could never depend on my own good qualities to put me in good standing before God.

The Appalachian Mountains were the sanctuary of a developing relationship with God. I loved to hike and camp and I am persuaded that God had his hand on me despite my lack of readiness, at times, to hear him.

While in the mountains, I also learned to love bluegrass music, eventually taking up the guitar and banjo. I still enjoy that music today.

I attended Montreat College (Montreat, NC) for two years before transferring to Belhaven University (Jackson, MS). Both schools and their faculty played a role in shaping my understanding of God and God’s purposes for the world and for me. I graduated determined to pursue a calling to serve Jesus among those with least access to the gospel. I already had my sights set on the Muslim world.

While at Belhaven, I shared my dreams with a young woman, also from North Carolina. Stephanie became my confidant and friend before she became my fiancée.

ADULTHOOD 

After marrying Stephanie, we departed with the blessing and support of our families and many spiritual brothers and sisters. Our journey took us to France, Morocco, Egypt, Tennessee and Lebanon. In all those places we were met with loving and generous followers of Jesus. Some of them became my mentors and life-long friends. Those were rich years of language-learning and integration into cultures very different from those we grew up in.

I had the great privilege of studying theology (M.Div.), Arabic language and literature (M.A.) and finally obtaining a doctoral degree in the field of Muslim-Christian theological engagement. I am ordained as a teaching elder (pastor) in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Those privileges have brought me still more benefits including teaching, writing and public speaking. I'm grateful.

After being deported from Egypt in 2005, I returned to the US for a few years. By that time our three daughters were reaching critical stages in their education. We settled in Knoxville, Tennessee where I was honored to join the staff of Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church. I remained involved in cross cultural ministry in Knoxville and overseas through the church’s outreach programs.

Cedar Springs Church assisted Stephanie and me to return to the Middle East in 2012, this time to Beirut Lebanon. We went to the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary where I helped launch an online program and served as professor of discipleship and Biblical theology. Our time at ABTS was rich in relationships and learning about the church and its ministry in the Middle East.  Resurrection Church Beirut considered me part of their pastoral staff.

After a six-year stint in Lebanon, Steph and I returned to the US. I continue to travel to many Muslim-world locations to teach and watch and learn. I serve under the International Theological Education Network (ITEN) of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. ITEN exists to strengthen servant-leaders of the church where the church is most vulnerable. I especially enjoy reconnecting with former students and friends who studied at ABTS.

 
INTERESTS

The things I write and speak about usually touch on how following Jesus intersects with and impacts our lives. Since I’ve lived internationally, I’m very interested in the global church and the necessity of various cultures to complete the all-nations body of Christ. Some refer to this as “missions” which works for me as long as it is seen as a mission of relationality rather than conquest. For some, "mission" is tragically linked with colonialism--a means of exploitation. For that reason, I prefer to identify myself as a teacher or pastor. Recently, I've re-discovered the Greek word philoxenia--literally "love of the other." That comes very close to expressing the "mission" of Jesus as I understand it.

My heart is for discipleship—learning in the Jesus way. I’m convinced that following Jesus implicates us in transformation at every level. It impacts our relationships (starting with our marriages and children) and permeates every sphere of our lives—intellectual, social, emotional, political, etc. Our sensitivity to other peoples and cultures, especially the disenfranchised, will deepen. Perhaps most of all, we become more self-aware as our conscience awakens to God’s love and grace which enfolds us and invites us to deep and lasting change. The Trinity—the Father-Son-Spirit God—is foundational to the way I understand God. Because he exists in an eternal love relationship, our life with him is a summons to join in and spread that love through our relationships.

For most of my adult life, I’ve lived in majority Muslim settings. So I’ve learned about Islam but my main concern has been how the community of Jesus’ people expresses their faith and love for Jesus to Muslims and others. I’m grateful that I’ve crossed paths with many Muslims who are sincere lovers of God. I find that they usually have a profound respect for Jesus which gives us a lot to talk about.  

 
 
FAMILY

Stephanie and I are approaching four decades of marriage. Words can’t express my deep love and appreciation for her gentle companionship through the long journey of life. Two of our three daughters have married so we enjoy two sons-in-law and seven grandchildren. For various reasons, the daughters and their families have all landed in the Pacific Northwest (Seattle, WA and British Columbia, Canada). When we returned from Beirut (2018), we chose to settle near them in Bellingham, WA. Now we get to bask in the joys of grandparenting and I get to explore a new mountain range . 

 

If you find anything of interest on this website, drop me a line at eastwestconnect2@gmail.com or contact me via the contact form on the home page.

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