In a couple of months, by the grace of God, I will officially begin my tenure as the National Coordinator for Generations Ministry (GenMin). My friend Jeff Broadnax and others blazed a trail that I am grateful to follow. It is humbling to be placed in a position to assist in the spiritual care for the young people of our denomination in the US. Fortunately, God has proven himself to be a God who can do big things with small things. I would like to share a bit of my story with you, so you understand my confidence in God.
I was 5 years old when I last saw my father, and I emotionally struggled with never knowing the man that made me. My mother was always enough, but there were times when the dad-sized hole in me ached. At those times she would say, “Don’t ever think that you don’t have a father. You have a heavenly Father who loves you.” It took me a very long time for me to believe her. I was born into the Worldwide Church of God, and I struggled under legalism and people who did not treat me with kindness. One adult charged with caring for the youth in a neighboring congregation told me that I likely would not amount to much. Encounters like this made God seem unloving and cruel. On top of that, I grew up in a community where many did not value little brown boys. My family was one of few black families in my town, and I suffered under persistent racism. In high school, my guidance counselor refused to help me apply to colleges because he did not believe I was college material. With a backstory like this, you would expect me to become a statistic, but we serve a God who can do big things with small things.
Miraculously, God did not allow the hatred and dehumanization of others to derail his plan for me. By God’s grace, he decided that I would go to Harvard University, where I studied sociology and African American studies. While in school, he introduced me to my wife Afrika, and our union produced Serena and Cairo, our wonderful children. At Harvard, God also gave me my first career through my work-study job. I became the first African American to serve on the adult staff of the South Boston Boys and Girls Club. It was there that I realized how much I loved working with children. For the next twenty years, every job I had was working either with or for young people. For ten years I worked for the Boston Public Schools, where I headed the office that coordinated afterschool programs and student services. At one point, my office supported 8,000 children and youth across the city of Boston. The kid that “would not amount to much” helped thousands of children learn, grow, and realize there were no limits on what they could accomplish. Our God can do big things with small things.
During this time, God was drawing me to himself and towards my calling in Christ. While in college I decided to stop following God. I believed he existed, but I was angry at him and doubted his love for me. That went on for over a year until, like the prodigal son, I remembered my Father and longed to be with him again. Because God is full of grace, he began to reveal himself in different ways and in different places. My wife and I attended a progressive Baptist church, a megachurch, a traditional Baptist church, and a Pentecostal church. At each church except the megachurch, I was invited to lead in ministry — youth minister, associate pastor, and youth pastor, respectively. It was through these experiences that I came to learn that God is a good God, and in him, there is no shadow or darkness. I came to fall in love with the church and wanted to participate in the work Jesus was doing. God took the kid that hated church and was not taught about Christ to share the gospel with scores of youth and adults. Our God can do big things with small things.
God brought my story full circle and returned me to Grace Communion International. God used the denomination that placed burdens on me as a child to spiritually liberate me and finally give me a theology that felt right. After serving as a church planter in Randolph, MA, the Lord led me to shepherd Grace Christian Church, the same church I occasionally attended in college. God blessed me with a truly beautiful church family. When Greg Williams approached me about the GenMin role, my mind flashed back through the journey I just shared with you, seeing God’s hand in every moment. Of course, I prayed and sought wise counsel from those led by the Spirit, but through the circumstances of my life, God showed me the extent to which he had been equipping and preparing me for this moment before I even knew to call on him. My God can do big things with small things. I pray that God will use me, in partnership with parents, pastors, and congregations, to bring the same message to the young people of our denomination.