I was born and raised in a middle class family – my father drove an 18-wheeler, and my mother was a nursing assistant both having left farming families in Hardy Country, WV., to move to Cumberland, MD. The oldest of three siblings, I was raised in a denominational church, participated in Christmas plays, V.B.S., and Christian youth organizations, and joined the church when I was 12 years of age.
After graduating High School in 1969, I enlisted in the Army spending 3 years in the Communications field, mostly at R.A.F. Burtonwood, England, from 1970-72. I returned to the U.S., and on the G.I. Bill I trained to become an R.N., and then a C.R.N.A. (Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist), and began a 30+year career as a Nurse Anesthetist with the health system in Cumberland, MD. I became an instructor in A.C.L.S. (Advanced Cardiac Life Support), as well as a guest lecturer at Allegany College, Cumberland, MD., in the Nursing and Respiratory Therapy departments. By worldly standards, I had accomplished much, but there was something missing in my life. I attended church infrequently, but never seemed to fit in or feel at ease. And then, during a particularly difficult time in my life at age 41, I had a Saul of Tarsus-like conversion, and if I didn’t know before whether I was saved, I did then and also knew that God had a purpose for me. Although I had always had an interest and aptitude for teaching, I knew nothing of the Bible, but knew immediately that God had called me to teach His Word. I began studying the Bible with a fervor that could only come from God, and everything I learned I felt compelled to share with others. Like most beginners, I started in the gospels (Mt., Mk., Lk, Jn.), and began teaching the elementary things of God which slowly developed into a large Sunday School class in the church. But then I began to come up against barriers I could not get around –
“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom…” (Mt.4:23); “These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt.10:5,6).
And,“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Mt.6:14).
In my beginner’s mind I thought that Jesus had come to save me, but I wasn’t a Jew or had anything to do with Israel. I thought we were to believe in the preaching of the cross, but that didn’t seem to agree with what Jesus said in His earthly ministry. I also thought that we were saved by faith alone, but here Jesus said that faith alone wasn’t enough, that without forgiving others we couldn’t be saved, so I became thoroughly confused and didn’t know where to turn.
And then God sent a man into my life by the name of Robert Johnson, an attendee of the same church, who had only recently returned from a trip to Florida where he had attended a Grace Church and was on fire for what he had learned. He had two verses written down and the inside cover of his Bible (2Tim.2:15; Rom.16:25), and two books, both written by C.R. Stam, Things That Differ, and, Our Great Commission – What is it?
After my salvation, this was the most important and exciting time in my spiritual life, and I began to read everything that men of God like Stam, Charles Baker, J.C. O’Hair, Paul Sadler, etc., wrote, and a floodlight of truth poured into my soul and immediately I knew this was for me. It answered the apparent contradictions in the Bible, and more importantly, it showed me where I fit into God’s truly marvelous program of grace. At that point, I was even more zealous to teach and many came to hear what God had to say through me. Our class had to move into the sanctuary to make room for all those who wanted to listen, and I naively believed that the whole church would want to follow this dispensational Bible approach. But tradition won out over truth, and eventually the leadership opposed us, and when one elder during a board meeting prayed that God would strike down the false teachers as He had Ananias & Sapphira, we knew it was time for us to leave.
On the wise counsel of Pastors Paul Sadler and Roger Anderson, we left that church and for the next two years began several home Bible Studies. It was very difficult to leave Christian friends behind, but we knew how important this new Grace teaching was, and we trusted that God had something better in store for us, so we boldly followed His leading. During that time I began a long distance seminary program and earned a M.A.R. (Master of Arts in Religion) from Liberty University, which helped broaden my understanding of pastoral ministry.
In 2000 we received our 501 (c) 3 tax-exempt status, and formed Grace Bible Fellowship, and in 2002 moved into Hunt Club Plaza, Ridgeley, WV. 26753. I felt the call to become the founding pastor, and did so on Easter Sunday 2000. Many have assisted us along the way—Paul Sadler, Roger Anderson, Lee Homoki, Joel McGarvey, Ed Bedore, Don Sommer, John Hollis, Dave Hobbs, Ricky Kurth, Curt Crist, etc., to name a few. We have seen many come to salvation while gaining a better understanding of God’s Word, rightly divided. Our V.B.S., and a prison ministry at the F.C.I., Cumberland, MD, have been two of our most productive ministries in seeing souls saved. Our church has grown to include satellite Bible Studies in Martinsburg & Berkeley Springs, WV., and our prison ministry, to which we are reaching people with Mid-Acts dispensational truth. We are also blessed with about 20-25 children in our Sunday morning service. We believe God has placed us in eastern West Virginia for good reason, and we believe if we continue to be faithful to Him and His Word rightly divided, that He will continue to bless us until He comes!