Over the last few years the Lord has taken me on the most incredible journey of my life. Much of this journey has been to the places I didn’t want to go, where my darkest fears reside. I was also instructed by the Lord to discontinue my writing until such time as my story was complete….or I was instructed to write again.
It is my hope to give you some insight into the long gap you’ve seen in my writings and the path the Lord has taken me on.
In December of 2009, Carol and I learned that we would no longer be able to stay in the home we had been living in. We would later find out that the home was the center of an estate battle that had been kept from us. The decision not to take the corporate positions and continue with the internet marketing business in August of 2009 had been a decision of faith, but it was also a decision of financial ruin.
In March of 2009, the Lord had pressed me with the question of whether I would still follow Him, even if it meant losing everything. I knew at that moment that the question was more of a preview of the journey than it was a question. Our home in Pennsylvania had still remained unsold and was now in pre-foreclosure and since leaving Parkdale my income had dropped from nearly $6,000 per month to $2,000 per month.
In May of 2009, I made my first journey to Africa to work with Apostle Adams Sabila as the overseer of Redeemer Bible College. This was a life changing experience for me as the Lord showed me so many things about his work in our day and more importantly, the work that He desires to do through each of us. When I returned from Africa, I was informed by the man I had been working for that the Lord had told him to quit paying me. Immediately my income dropped to $0. A few weeks later this same man and another Christian brother would sit me down and proceed to tell me that I had not heard God correctly and that I was acting like an unbeliever by not going out to get a job. I was devastated by these words and even though deep in my heart I knew God had told me to trust him, I went out in search of work anyway. In August I had 2 corporate offers on the table, but as Carol and I prayed we knew God was telling us to turn them away.
In October of 2009, I was scheduled to take my third trip to India. This was especially exciting, because I was going to be joined by Tom Blackaby. Tom and I had struck up a relationship after I had responded to an article he had written on a pastor’s resource website. Tom was intrigued by ministry and asked if he could join me on my next trip. As we approached the final days leading up to the trip, I had not even been able to come up with my airfare. I began receiving emails from my Indian pastors inquiring as to whether I was still coming. I continued to reassure them, but I had no clue how I would get there. 7 days out from my scheduled departure, my closest intercessor shared with me that she felt the Lord was telling me not to go. As Carol and I prayed through this message, the Lord directed us to Acts 21 and showed us that we needed to be praying for my physical well being, but that I still needed to go. 5 days out from my departure date, I still had no airline ticket and the prices had gone up. Starting around mid day different individuals showed up at the house, telling me that they were supposed “to give this” to me. Each time I would be handed handful of cash. More amazingly I had only met one of these individuals in passing at a neighbor’s house. By 10PM that night, I had sufficient funds to purchase my airfare the following morning. By the time I put the money in the bank, the airline tickets dropped $200 and I made my way to India. While I was in India, we received word that Mike’s brother in law had been killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. He was weeks way from returning home and left behind a wife and two young daughters.
As December came to an end, we knew that we would be forced to leave our home. As a final nail in our financial coffin, the man I had worked for earlier in the year abruptly terminated his bookkeeping contract with Carol, after I rebuffed his advances to join my team of overseers. On the 31st we began to pack, completely hysterical over the uncertainty that was before us.
As we were packing my daughter approached me with a note and said “Collin asked me to give this to you.” As I began reading, I was shaken to the very core…. The note read:
“Do not panic you fools. Was I not there for you before? Was I not there for you in the time of need? Was I not there for the Israelites or Shadrack, Meshcack and Abednego? Do not doubt me. The Lord has spoken.”
Needless to say, I knew these were not the words of my 12 year old son even if it was his hand writing. I asked Caitlyn to go get Collin. He came out of his room crying and I asked him to tell me about the note. He said he was getting ready to listen to a Michael W. Smith CD and God told him “no.” God instructed him to write the words of the note and told him that we needed to hear the words of the songs coming on the radio. Every song was about deliverance and faith.
Carol and I were shaken by these events and we confessed our unbelief to the Lord. We slowed down the pace of packing, expecting an amazing miracle; however, that miracle did not come. On January 7, 2010 our 21st wedding anniversary, Carol and I loaded finished loading the U-haul truck while the kids were at school and pulled out of the driveway. We had no place to live, no money to our name and were not sure of where we would spend the night. We drove to the Wal-Mart parking lot in Flour Bluff and wept. Like so many we were ministering to, we were now homeless.
I began calling those closest to me asking for them to lift us up in prayer. When I spoke to Mike, he informed me that God had been preparing both he and Kim that we would be living with their family. He told me to plan on moving in with them. A few minutes later, one of my overseers called me to let me know that a man in his church owned a self-storage facility and was willing to give us a storage unit at no charge. He also told me that his church was going to pay for a hotel for my family through the weekend, so Carol and I could celebrate our wedding anniversary.
We unloaded everything we owned into the storage unit and the rest of our possessions filled one side of Mike and Kim’s garage. All of us believing that there would be a tremendous miracle of deliverance right around the corner. Within a few days of us moving in, Mike and Kim received a clear word from the Lord that Mike was supposed to quit his managerial job at Coca-Cola to focus on the ministry full-time. That same week, the kids were playing hide and seek and broke the sliding door to the spare bedroom that Carol and I were staying in, from that point on our only doorway was a curtain.
The days turned into weeks and the weeks began to turn into months. The adjustments of having 8 people living under one roof in a 1300 square foot home came with all of the emotional strain you might imagine.
As we moved towards May, I had a second journey to Africa scheduled. I was unsure how this was going to happen, especially in light of our current circumstance. Not only were we living with Mike and Kim, but they were even buying all of our groceries. We were destitute in every sense of the word.
When I had first come to Corpus Christi, I took out a Craigslist ad that said something along these lines: “I am a local church pastor who is interested in meeting on a weekly basis with others who do not attend church. I would like to use these times to discuss life and share ideas. I am not interested in debating religion or politics….” Within a few days, I had a response from “Gregorio Koblinski” who I would later find out was actually named Darrell. “Greg” as he became known to me, was a retired Coast Guard pilot in his late 60’s who had survived a bout with 3 variations of cancer simultaneously. He had died on the operating table and been revived. Greg had many reasons for rejecting God including his not having seen a white light when he was clinically dead. Greg and I met every week at a local coffee shop until I left Corpus Christi in late May of 2012.
In the spring of 2010 Greg approached me with an interesting offer. Being as much of a technology junkie as I am, Greg was always out to have the newest, fastest and most advanced technology on the market. One day as we were having coffee, he asked me if I would like some of the computers he had lying around, with the understanding that he would wipe all of the porn off of them. I laughed and gladly took him up on his offer. Little did I realize that this would end up being nearly 20 computers most being less than a year old. The sale of the first round of computers purchased my plane ticket and also provided new laptops for myself, our business and Pastor Adams in East Africa.
A few days before my departure in April, the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland erupted. The volcanic ash shut down air travel over Northern Europe for several days. My flight to Africa was scheduled on the first day of the shutdown. 5 days later I received word that I would be able to fly out and so I left. Upon arriving in Africa I found myself being overcharged for the services of a driver and out of travel funds. I had already missed the first conference I was supposed to lead, but the attendees were gracious enough to stay an extra day just to see me. I called Carol and shared with her my financial dilemma and questioned whether I shouldn’t just find a way back to Nairobi and fly home. Carol reminded me that I needed to trust the Lord to guide and provide. Over the next 2 weeks, I would call her and tell her I need to get from point A to point B. Adams and I would then wait for God to move. One leg from Kitale, Kenya to Chesower, Uganda was paid for when a friend showed up at Mike and Kim’s door prompted to bring $100 by. Carol sent the money Western Union and we were able to proceed. The next leg from Chesower to Bukwo and back to Kitale was paid for by a collection taken up among the attendees of the conference I led in Chesower. My trip back to Nairobi from Kitale was paid for when Mike and Kim sold a vehicle and sent the funds via Western Union.
As I returned home, I quickly found myself discouraged. May 27, 2010 I turned 40 years old. It was a humbling experience to turn 40 years old as a homeless man who was being provided for by someone else. Thank God for Mike and Kim. Every time I would start into my pity party they would quickly remind me that God had placed our family in their care for this season.
This was also a difficult time in the ministry. We had seen our original core group leave. When most realized the challenge of the environment we were ministering in, they decided it was not for them. This meant that on top of everything else, the financial burdens of the ministry were falling on the shoulders of our two families as well. We began praying about what our course of action should be. The Lord’s instruction to us was to meet 7 days a week and preach the gospel, even if no one was there. Many nights Mike, myself and a few others that had offered to help would preach to a room full of empty chairs.
That summer I was invited to speak in a large church in Corpus Christi and another congregation decided to come and do a “field trip” to see our ministry. I invited these congregations to take a night at Simplicity each week and to partner with us financially. In the end neither of those things took place, but God was working. From each of those churches, God brought one person to us who walked with us during this time. Their presence was a breath of wind into our sales.
We continued meeting 7 days a week for 9 months. During this time we encountered many who were in deep bondage to drugs and alcohol. We encountered men who were demon possessed and on a number of occasions we had to just worship to remove the demonic presence that had entered in. As we approached the end of 2010 we felt the Lord telling us it was time stop and resume meeting a few times per week.
Almost immediately, the Lord sent us a handful of people who by their own explanation had been inexplicably guided through our door. Most of them did not even realize we were a church initially. Another interesting transition took place as well, God began to elevate Mike into the role of primary shepherd to the people. This was something I had seen God preparing Mike for over the past 3 years and I knew it was time for me to step back and let him lead. In January of 2011, Mike took over the leadership of Simplicity Church while Carol and I began to seek out God’s direction for us.
During our time on Padre Island, we had developed a heart for the people. While there was some ministry work happening on the Island it was not widespread and the laid back “hang out on the deck” atmosphere of the island seemed to lend itself to a house church approach. It was not long before the Lord opened a door for us. We had participated in a small business fair at our children’s school and had struck up a conversation with the family working the table next to ours. Within a few weeks we had begun a home group with this family and another family. This group was short lived, only lasting a few months as the other families were looking for “more” than just a simple house group.
Mike also started a new group in his hometown of Yorktown, TX. in the spring of 2011. The group was made up of mostly family and friends. Mike and Kim would drive to Yorktown every Sunday afternoon (2 hours each way), returning home late in the evening.
I began preliminary preparations to return to India in March of 2011, but no financial provisions ever manifested and the trip was cancelled. During the same period of time, Carol learned that her company was eliminating their presence in Texas and she found herself unemployed. This was especially unnerving, as Carol’s income was our only stable source of income. I was beginning to see commissions come in every month, but only for a few hundred dollars. A friend of mine called me up for coffee one day and asked if I thought Carol would be interested in managing his janitorial company while he was away on military deployment for 6 weeks. God’s provision was realized at just the right time. This temporary assignment turned into a long term relationship and even today, Carol still manages his office.
As we moved into summer our marketing business began to pick up steam. We were beginning to see checks coming in each month and while they were not sufficient to support our entire household, they were enough to keep the bills paid and encouragement that we truly had made the right choice.
The summer of 2011 brought another breakthrough into our lives. Early in the year we received notice from our mortgage company of a government program that would pay homeowners to short sell their homes in cooperation with the lender. We had applied to the program and had been accepted. Our home in Pennsylvania had now been for sale for over 4 years. During that time the plumbing had been stolen twice, the oil tank had to be replaced and the roof began leaking. We had spent over $25,000 on the house since we left and it had completely wiped out our life’s savings. In August we learned of a $20,000 cash offer on the house (it was listed for $132,000 when we first put it on the market in 2006). Our first and second mortgage lender accepted the offer and we were forgiven of nearly $100,000 in debt. We were 2 weeks away from foreclosure when the house finally sold.
During the summer we found ourselves needing to go to the storage unit for the first time in a year and a half. It was the first time we had seen our household belongings since we became homeless in January of the previous year. While we were there that day, the Lord instructed me to prophesy to our furnishings. He prompted me with Ezekiel 37 and the valley of dry bones. Over the next 9 months we would return numerous times prompted to pray and speak over our household furnishings each time.
In late August we received a phone call from a friend of ours who managed a one bedroom condominium across from the beach for a friend of hers. The condo was not scheduled to be rented out for a while and so our friend invited us to stay there free of charge. This was one of those truly wonderful unexpected reminders of God’s love. For the next 6 weeks we had the pleasure of sitting at the dining room table and watching the waves. At night and in the morning Carol and I would sit out on the deck and enjoy the sites and sounds of the Gulf of Mexico across from us.
The sale of the house in Pennsylvania allowed me to finally attend a marketing conference I had been trying to attend since early 2010. This conference ended up being one of the most pivotal points in my business as I was brought in on the launch of a new company that would end up being one of the major pieces of our income moving forward.
Once I returned from the conference, I felt prompted to go spend time with my parents in Wichita, KS. I had enough frequent flier miles to pay for the trip, so I contacted my folks and scheduled our time together for late October/early November. While I was in Wichita, my dad shared with me his fears of turning 70 in January. The men in his family had all died young and he feared that his days would be cut short as well. I tried to reassure him in this area, but also asked him to begin putting together instructions in case that were to be true.
While I was in Wichita, I received a frantic call from Carol. The condo was scheduled to be rented and we could no longer stay there. During our time at the condo, Mike and Kim had taken in a man from the church, so returning to their house was no longer an option. When I returned to Corpus Christi, Carol picked me up at the airport and for the next couple of nights we stayed in a hotel praying through our steps. After a few days we still had no answers, but we knew that we needed to check out of the hotel. As we sat in a parking lot praying for direction, I was reminded of the previous year when we had sat in the Wal-Mart parking lot wondering where we would live. As we sat, the thought occurred to me that the manager of one of the local condominium complexes was one of Carol’s Avon customers. Carol went in and asked about any vacant condos for rent. On the list was a studio apartment owned by another customer of Carol’s. We called Carol’s customer and she met us there. We wrote her a check and this studio apartment became our home. For the next four months we would all live in this single room. The kids slept on air mattresses at night in front of our bed. While we were there Christopher got his boot camp orders from the Navy. For his final week, he stayed with us sleeping on one of the recliners in the room. The memory of all 5 of us in this little studio apartment will be one of my cherished memories for the rest of my life.
In November, I received a call from Mike. He informed me that the congregation was moving. When I questioned further I learned that the entire congregation of our chruch was relocating to different parts of the world, with the exception of one family. At the same time we found ourselves short for December’s rent for the first time in 3 years and we did not have the money for our liability insurance. We decided we would put this matter to prayer to discern the Lord’s leading.
Over Thanksgiving we headed North, spending the holiday with Carol’s mother and sister in Joplin, MO and then a few days with my parents before we headed back to Texas. Upon returning we began to discuss the future of our Simplicity work in downtown Corpus Christi and found ourselves in agreement that the Lord was closing it down.
Over the next few weeks our table conversations revolved around “what next?” Neither Mike and Kim or Carol and I had a clue of what our next steps were to be. The ministry in downtown Corpus Christi had been our focal point for so long. Mike and Kim had decided to return to Yorktown for Christmas and invited us to house sit for them while they were away. On December 26, Carol and I were talking late into the evening about the direction the ministry on the island needed to take. As we were discussing possible venues for forming a new core group, I heard very audibly in my spirit the words: “go back to Wichita.” Carol and I had left Wichita in the summer of 1990 and God had brought us to Corpus Christi instead of Wichita in 2006, so I was unsure of what I was hearing. I began to form the prayer: “Lord if this is you, please affirm this word through Carol.” Before I could even form the prayer, Carol asked me this question: “You know we were up in Joplin and at your folks last month. Do you think God would ever want us to go back to Wichita?” That was all I needed to hear. I stopped her and shared what had been in my spirit and we began to pray for direction and clarity.
Over the next few days, the Lord gave Carol the following verses from Isaiah 58:11-12:
The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
At the same time the Lord was showing me the lack of spiritual fathers in the city of Wichita. As a young boy growing up, there had been several very influential men of God who had influenced the spiritual direction of the city. Most of these men disappeared from the landscape in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Since that time, no one has really stepped forward to take their place. There have been some who have tried to ascend to that role; however, it was not a God given assignment and so they were unable to remain.
Within a few days I found myself being awakened one night and directed to go to my Facebook account. One of my connections was a man named Rodney DuCroq, who was a pastor in Wichita. I had never met Rodney and was only aware of his presence on my Facebook account, because of a request a few months earlier of anyone who knew a good accountant in Wichita. The Lord directed me to look at Rodney’s profile and I learned that he was a South African who had come to the U.S. and planted a church called 4CI (4 Corners International). The Lord prompted me to look at the church website and I began to read the very principles that Simplicity had been founded on. I sent Rodney a message and asked if we could speak by phone. The next day Rodney, Carol and I spoke by phone. As we spoke he began to talk of the fatherless generation of pastors and shared his heart cry for the nations. The Lord confirmed through that conversation our call to return to Wichita and I began making preparations to scout out the land.
I would make my first trip to Wichita in Mid January of 2012. During this journey I met Rodney DuCroq and attended 4CI over the next few weeks. I also took time to meet with a man who had been my youth pastor in Jr. High and early high school who is now one of the longest tenured pastors in the city. During these conversations the discussion of a fatherless generation of leaders continued to emerge. It was also clear that most of the churches being planted in the city were being planted with the goal of becoming a mega church, with a focus on numerical growth as opposed to kingdom impact. I drove the city limits and found multiple Buddhist temples on the city boundaries and I recognized that many things that had once been hidden in Wichita were now plainly out in the open. During that time, my dad continued to talk with me about his struggles with turning 70. My parents celebrated their 46th wedding anniversary while I was with them and I tried to reassure him that he had plenty of life to live.
I returned to Corpus Christi in February and prepared for my first speaking engagement in a number of months. I had been asked to speak at a Spiritual Warfare conference led by Shammah Prayer Ministries and was looking forward to the opportunity. When the conference rolled around the Lord gave me a message about being willing to go to very uncomfortable places in the coming days. Those in attendance seemed to respond to what the Lord was speaking through each speaker. While I was there a homeless man entered into the meeting, someone I had ministered to earlier. In fact this was the same man that told us to get out of town. He gave me a big hug, told me his story (he was back on the streets and using heavily), but he also told me “you guys did a good job.” I felt the Lord saying through him “well done” to both Mike and I for the 3 years that had seemed so fruitless and difficult. I left the conference with a sense of peace.
I was going to return to Wichita in early March, but my dad had initiated a dialogue with my mom about needing to prepare should he die before her. This upset my mom greatly and she went into a deep depression. She spent most of her days crying and working out in the garage. The thought of letting go of my dad’s hand was just to painful. The Lord prompted me to go into a time of deep prayer and battle on my mother’s behalf. This was a journey of repenting for generational sins within my mom’s family and declaring peace over her. It took many weeks for them to work through these issues and in late March they invited me to return.
The week before I returned to Wichita, I received a message from the man who had discontinued paying Carol and I in 2009. He asked us if we could come by his house. When we arrived, he shared that he believed there had been an offense on his part towards us. He asked us to share our pain and then he asked for our forgiveness. Over the previous 2 years many had been praying for this to take place and Carol had felt strongly that the Lord was going to bring it about before we left. We were blessed to share with him that even though it had caused us much pain, we also realized that it was the Lord who had taken us there, preparing our hearts for the journey ahead. As we reconciled our relationship, we rejoiced together.
As I returned to Wichita in late March I once again spent time with Rodney and the church family at 4CI. The more I spent time around this congregation I marveled over 2 things. First of all this was a very young congregation, with the average age being around 28 years old. Second, this was one of the most on fire groups of people I had ever met. Their testimonies were absolutely incredible. I spent much of this trip looking for housing and found that there was not much available other than duplexes and apartments. I was discouraged by this, but continued the search, knowing that God had something else in store for us. One Saturday afternoon, my mom came home and told me about a house 2 blocks from theirs. She had seen the house when she happened to take a different route home from the store. I had been by that house earlier, but there had not been a sign in the yard (I would later find out that the sign had been put up an hour or two before she had seen it). I contacted the number and met the owner a few minutes later. I explained that I was moving at the end of May and asked if it would be possible to make a deposit and pay the rent for May and June when I arrived. I also mentioned that we had a German Shepherd and asked if that would be a problem. The owner agreed to my offer and was unconcerned about the dog, not even requiring a pet deposit. When I returned to my parents house an hour later, they were stunned at how the Lord had provided for us (even thought they admitted they shouldn’t be, since they have seen such things in our lives before).
In the midst of this joy we also ran into a crisis. Carol called me one afternoon, because her van had broken down on the highway. When her boss arrived, the van had lost all of its oil and it appeared there was a computer problem. We had the van towed and put it in the shop. The mechanic called me a few days later with an estimate of $1,000. Fortunately our tax return was enough to cover this amount and still have enough left over to move and pay our first 2 months of rent.
I flew home to Corpus Christi in mid April excited about all that had come together in Wichita. My parents were in the process of putting together wills and were working through their discussions, but my mom seemed to be doing better with it.
After arriving back in Corpus Christi, we got a call that the van was finished. Carol and I went to pick it up and headed towards our house. Less than 2 miles away the oil pressure light came on and the van began to make a terrible racket. I asked Carol to call our friend, whom we had reconciled with in March, to see if we could borrow his car since he lived around the corner from where we were. We got to his house and picked up his car, I made it another mile and the engine went out. The van had to be towed back to the shop I had just picked it up at. After a days diagnosis we received word that the the engine needed to be replaced. The new estimate was another $2,000. It was time for some serious prayer once again. We had enough to either move or pay the repairs, but not for both.
Over the next several weeks we were blessed to have use of our friend’s car. This was a real God send as we drover 40 miles round trip to get our kids to school each day. We spent the time boxing up our household goods and prepared for the move. One of Carol’s bookkeeping clients surprised us by paying her 6 months in advance for her work. That left us only $1100 short of making the move and paying the van off. As we moved closer to moving day, an intercessor gave Carol some money and a few days later another intercessor did the same thing. I attended my last pastor’s prayer breakfast and was blessed as the men who had spent so much time with me in prayer, prayed a blessing over me and sent me out.
Moving day came and I was joined by my former Associate at Parkdale and his sons. We were able to clear out the storage shed and load the truck in less than 3 hours. Early the next morning I made my way to Wichita with my dog in the passenger seat. I arrived in Wichita that evening and pulled into the driveway of what would be my new home, what a milestone this was. I called Carol to find she had made a deposit and there was just enough money to cover rent for the remainder of May and all of June. I took the check to our landlord and got the keys.
Carol and the kids were scheduled to move up the next Friday, but the van was not yet finished. The day before they were supposed to leave we got a call that the van was ready, unfortunately we did not have the $680 still needed to pay for the repairs. Carol called the mechanic and offered him $100 and $100 per week until it was paid. He reluctantly agreed. About an hour later she talked to the friend whose car we were borrowing. He instructed Carol to have the mechanic come by the house and he would pay the remaining balance. Carol picked up the van and we all rejoiced. The next morning Carol, Collin and Caitlyn loaded the van with the cat and the hermit crabs and headed north. Our time in Corpus Christi had officially come to an end.