Pastor Stephen's Blog
Thursday, November 10 2022
THE PASTOR IN ME
I have been working in the medical field for over thirty years now, and I have also been working in ministry (bivocational) since 2006. Other than working as a Registered Nurse, my second career has been serving as a Pastor and Pastoral Care Minister. In 2003, my family and I began attending Live Oak Church in Watson, Louisiana. Spiritually, things began changing for me fairly rapidly. I felt a strong calling in my heart to get involved in ministry, but I was unsure exactly how to do that. I had three very special mentors that helped sharpen me and led the way: Dr. Mark Crosby, Rev. Tommy Bergeron, and Rev. Jarrod Hegwood. I am so very grateful for the time, knowledge, and skills they invested in me over the years. This prepared me for another journey God had in store that seemed to parallel well with my nursing career. The stick that broke the camel’s back was a traumatic event that occurred which sent me on a path in pursuit of becoming a Pastor. This encounter occurred when I was thirty-three years old. It happened on a Friday night, November 10, 2006, at 8:46 p.m. Tonight marks the sixteenth year anniversary.
My wife, Stephanie, and I went to a wedding for one of my cousins in Lafayette, Louisiana. That night, after the wedding had ended, we did not know how to get to the reception. There were a multitude of cars pulling out of the parking lot at the church, and some were turning left; others were going straight, and still others were turning right. We did not know anyone there we could follow, and my family was inside the church taking pictures, so after a time of some friendly arguing, my wife Stephanie finally hollered at me, “Just pick a car and follow it!” Although it was a funny gesture at the time, who would have thought that my reaction and this decision would change the course of our lives forever?
A good friend of mine named Jarrod Hegwood (one of my mentors mentioned above) lived in Livingston, Louisiana, and he drove a black Nissan Xterra. He was the youth pastor at Live Oak Church where I was attending and serving before becoming a pastor. I helped out frequently with the youth, and I spent a lot of time following Jarrod around. When my wife hollered at me, I made a mental connection to this and picked a random black Nissan Xterra that drove by. (It was not Jarrod, just a Nissan Xterra that looked like his in the parking lot at the church in Lafayette.) I made the choice to follow the black Nissan Xterra after the wedding, not knowing where we were going, but I was hoping it would take us to the country club where the reception was being held. My wife and I were laughing because following this vehicle was just plain crazy, but the laughing helped ease the tension of the overall situation we were in at the moment. I even told Stephanie she better pay attention because we may have to get back to the church if the lady driving the Xterra decided to go home! This was well before we had Waze or Google Maps on our cell phones, so we were counting on this lady (whom we did not know) to get us to the reception efficiently and safely.
While in route, we were stopped at a stoplight when there was a huge crash! Two brothers on motorcycles were driving down the road side by side when a car turned left in front of them, which was right in front of us. One of the brothers was able to avoid the car, but the other brother struck the side and back fender of the car, which sent him flying over the car and nearly twenty feet down the road from the site of the collision. He hit the pavement in the middle of the intersection and was bleeding profusely onto the road. I could not see very well from the driver seat of my wife’s vehicle because the Nissan Xterra was in front of me obstructing my view, but Stephanie was hollering for me to get out and go help the guy who was lying in the road and obviously injured. I ran out there dressed for a wedding, in my sports coat and tie, and the whole intersection was getting increasingly chaotic. The other brother was screaming at the couple in the car and banging on their window with his fists in anger. As this altercation was taking place, a very tall, large muscular man got out of his car and came to the site to intervene. He was definitely big enough to handle the irate brother, so I focused my attention on the injured one. This brother was lying in the street, and he was in bad shape. I assessed him and knew the situation was grim. I could not do anything to help him; my hands were tied. I was highly trained as a fifteen-year trauma surgery scrub nurse, but I had no equipment, no supplies, and no additional help from other health-care workers. All of this left me nearly useless. It was obvious he had broken his neck and was paralyzed from the neck down. He was bleeding from underneath his head and out of his mouth. He landed on his side in a good position for his airway and breathing, and he had a bounding pulse. He was moving his head around and very anxious, so I spent some time talking to him for a few minutes to help settle him down while waiting on the ambulance. By then, a crowd of people surrounded us, including a few police officers who had arrived to the scene and were holding the crowd back. Immediately after this, I noticed his level of consciousness was changing, his pulse became rapid and thready, and I knew he was dying. I could see some stationary fire trucks and an ambulance with their lights on about a mile or so down the boulevard, and it seemed that they were having trouble finding us. There was really nothing I could do. The situation was beyond me and out of my control. After thinking it through, the only thing I could do was pray for him. I laid my hands on him and prayed, emptying my heart out. His name was Corey, and he died at the end of my prayer. (The above picture was from his obituary.)
This night was a life-changing event for me and Stephanie. We were physically, mentally, and spiritually sick over this for roughly six days afterwards. I could not eat or sleep. My wife and I were distraught to say the least. I prayed constantly, asking God why. Why did this have to happen to him? Why did this have to happen to us? Why didn’t we turn left or go straight when leaving the church and avoid this accident? It was Stephanie’s birthday weekend. We had three young kids at this point, and it was the first time we had the opportunity to get away by ourselves in nearly five years. We had plans to go to the wedding and enjoy ourselves in Lafayette for the weekend. I had a lot of questions for the Lord, but after nearly a week had crept by, I still had no answers. I was unable to sleep the entire time. Every time I would close my eyes, I would see Corey’s face; I would recall his distress, and I would be relieved seeing the Lord’s peace come over him as his spirit left him. After countless days with sleepless nights, I finally crashed and slept for nearly two days straight! When I woke up that Saturday morning, I heard and felt the Lord’s whisper come over me saying, “Stephen, I have made you into a good nurse that knows how to take care of people physically. Now, I want to teach you how to take care of them spiritually.” This moment gave me the chills and the goose bumps, and my heart started racing. I immediately got out of bed frantically trying to figure out "What in the world am I supposed to do with this?"
The following week, I was in Dr. Mark Crosby’s office (my Pastor), and then he sent me to our District Superintendent Larry Miller’s office, discerning this call God had put on my life. I worked through the process and became a Licensed Local Pastor. Shortly after this big ministry leap, I enrolled in the Course of Study program for Local Pastors at Millsap’s College in Jackson, Mississippi. After a few years working through this program, I was encouraged to pursue my Master’s Degree in Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary. This degree track was a long, ninety-six-hour, graduate program that took me seven, hard years to get to the finish line. I finally completed it, graduating from the campus in Orlando, Florida, in May of 2018.
The chances of Stephanie and I being at that intersection that night were slim to none. We were in a small town on a usual Friday night. Folks were getting off work, going out to eat, and hitting the roads for a fun night out on the town. We were out-of-towners, lost and confused, and I randomly picked a black Nissan Xterra to follow which led us to a red light and a wreck. I was nearly useless, and I could not do anything to physically help this twenty-eight-year-old stranger at the scene of this intersection. All I could do was pray for him as he took his last breath, and he died. Through this terrible accident, at this intersection in our lives, God was speaking to both Stephanie and me. He opened our eyes to ministry that night with a very powerful wake-up call. Could this have been a mere coincidence? Not a chance!
In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.
Proverbs 16 : 9 (NIV)
I learned from this experience and a few others that if we are praying for His will to be done in our lives but we have not handed Him the steering wheel, we are going to continually have problems. The sooner we surrender, the better. It is at that time our journey gets on course, and the good Lord can do His best work!
Love You All!