Carrying the Gospel to the Foothills of the Rocky Mountains
We are a duly commissioned mission outreach and church planting effort under the authority of
I was not raised in any religion. My mom was raised Catholic and my dad was raised Lutheran, neither of which were active. My mom was actively anti-Catholic and taught me that Jesus was a made-up person by the Catholic church to control people. After graduating from High School, I joined the Navy, and I met all kinds of religious people, so I asked them questions about what they believed. They would all basically answer the same: if you do these things: get baptized, go to catechism, go to church, etc, when you die you might go to Heaven. One day, a Navy Chaplin came to talk to us about having a higher power, and said “it does not matter what you believe in, as long as you have a higher power. This door knob can be your higher power, what maters is that you believe”. I knew that was ridiculous. I believed there was a God, and I concluded that if there is a God, there must be a way to get to God, and the doorknob was not it. When I went back to my ship, there was a gospel track lying on my workbench titled God’s Simple Plan of Salvation. I read the track and thought “that’s it, that’s the truth. But I don’t have time right now”, and I threw it away. I got discharged shortly thereafter, and went back to Michigan.
In 1989 I got a job selling insurance, and worked with Steve Sexton, a member of Van Born Baptist Church. I asked him lots of questions about what he believed and would always pull his bible out of the top right drawer of his desk and answer me with scripture. He was the first person I met that knew he was going to heaven. Over the course of three months Steve witnessed to me and invited me to church several times. At some point Steve gave me a track, the same one I received 2 years earlier, and I read it again. I did not believe it was coincidence. I sat in the hallway of my house one evening and ‘prayed the prayer’ on the back, but I knew nothing changed. I knew I was still on my way to hell. Another co-worker invited me to church and I decided to go. I had been under deep conviction for some time but did not know ‘what was wrong’. When I went to church I wondered how the preacher knew so much about me. He was ‘reading my mail’ and I knew I needed what he was talking about. When I got home that afternoon I could not sit still, and I knew if I died I would open my eyes in Hell, and I needed to do something. I thought of buying a bible and going back to church again that evening. But I couldn’t wait, and I couldn’t sit through that again. I could not find that track either, but I remembered that it said to confess what I was to the Lord and ask Him to save me. I believed Jesus was real, and alive, and listening. I knelt by my couch and cried out, “Lord, I’m a sinner, and I don’t want to go to Hell. I hope I don’t have to confess all my sins because I know don’t them all, but I sure hope you will forgive me, and save me.” Here I am, I lost man, on my knees praying to Jesus and asking Him to be my Lord. Unlike my empty prayer a few weeks earlier, where I merely parroted someone else’s words as if they were some magic incantation, I knew that very moment I was different. A burden was lifted. I had joy inside I could not explain. I did not even know the term “saved” yet. My co-worker Steve knew something happened, because I quit swearing. I went back to church the following Sunday, and actually enjoyed it. I asked my boss (who was also a Christian) where I could buy a bible, and he asked if I got saved. I asked him what that was, and he explained it, to wit I said I did. I had been under such deep conviction I walked around the office in meetings holding my chest, afraid I would have a heart attack. He said “I though so, you quit swearing, and you stopped holding your chest”, and told me I needed to be baptized. I had no idea what that was but said I would do it. I showed up for baptism… in swimming trunks. Details about what baptism was would have helped! This began the most amazing journey any human being this side of eternity can experience. I knew the Lord, and I knew what Steve meant when he said I know I’m going to heaven”!
When I got saved I went through many trials and tribulations. God was tearing down a lot of things in my life that needed to come out, and was building me back up again. Once I had an established job and home, I was perfectly content to just be saved and serve the Lord. I had no aspirations of anything else. God began to deal with me about preaching in the fall of 2002, but I was not listening. At our December 2002 night watch service, I was helping watch some children and was telling Nathan, one of the boys, to be quiet because his dad was about to preach. Nathan looked at me and said “when are you gonna preach Uncle Mike?”. The Lord used a two-year-old to put a dagger through my heart. Shortly after that, while talking after work one day with my staff, one of them asked me if I had ever considered becoming a preacher, and I was convicted again. I was preparing Vacation Bible School lessons at that time, and the Lord kept stirring me up, waking me up at 1 am night after night. I thought it He was dealing with me about the VBS lessons, as this was my first time writing them, but that was not it. I talked to my Pastor about it, that I thought the Lord was calling me to preach, and we both began to pray about it. I did not want to surrender to my emotions and go on how I felt. I needed something to confirm it was the Lord, so I asked Him to do something so unusual that I could not mistake it for anything but the Lord’s doing. I asked Him specifically to give me double my sales quota ay work, which had never been done.
I was at work a few days later and got a call from a customer that needed a business loan. I knew by talking to him that he would be declined, but I went out to see him anyway. When I got to his business, as soon as I laid eyes on him I knew I was going to witness him. We had some small talk, and while waiting from some of his documentation I began to witness to him. After a few minutes he looked at me and said, “I marked you for a preacher the moment you got out of the car”. I brushed it off and continued to witness to him. That night, like clockwork, at 1 am I’m wide awake. The Lord reminded me of my prayer to do something unusual and said “a complete stranger just called you out for being a preacher.” I answered Him and said, I don’t want to surrender because you will call me away from this place someday and I don’t want to go, but I can’t take this anymore and I surrender anyway. If you want me to preach, I’ll preach. Oh, and we didn’t get double our sales goal, we got triple. It never happened before and it never happened again.
My mother had moved to Indian Hills, Colorado, and when she passed away, I preached her funeral service. God began to deal with my heart about that area but had already decided I did not want to live there. Her estate was a mess, and on three occasions I intended to call my sister and tell her we should just sell the Colorado house, and the Lord said no. After many struggles, I purchased the house from her Estate along with my mom’s best friend Grace, who wanted to stay there. The burden for Colorado continued, and the Lord continued to speak to my heart about it, specifically about the town of Conifer. I began to research the area and found that there were no Baptist churches in any of these small mountain communities. Grace passed away in March 2015 and I was thrust into another estate fiasco. I flew out to Colorado to look for some legal paperwork and stopped at the grocery store in Conifer for food and water for the weekend. I parked the car and began to weep. The burden for this place, and the conviction was overwhelming. I knew, as surely as I was saved, that I had to preach in this place. I had considered going to several places in the past where there was a need and an opportunity, but I had never experienced a burden like this. For three years there was a burden and calling upon my heart for this place, and the Lord was confirming it was Him. I came back in September 2016 for a court case for the Estate. When I first arrived, I went to the same grocery store in Conifer, parked the car, and waited. I wanted to see if I began to weep again, and I did not. I thought to myself that perhaps I could still get out of this. As I went into the store there was a young lady in yoga pants and multi-colored hair, but I did not see that: I saw her sitting in church. I saw a man frazzled by his three kids all making a fuss, but again, I saw him and his children sitting in church. This happened a third time, and the Lord convicted my heart all over again. This was the place He was calling me to minister. One of my biggest challenges was that I did not want to leave the church family I had grown with and loved for the past 20+ years. Pastor Smith preached that Sunday evening from Luke 14:26, and the Lord convicted my heart with the opening verses. I had not yet told him what the Lord was doing in my heart, yet the Lord was giving him messages that were “for me”.
I started selling off my mother’s stuff that was still in the house. A lady named Carole Ann came to the house to buy a few things, and out of the blue she asked, “are you in ministry”, and I replied yes. She asked me what denomination, and instead of answering I asked her to tell me. She said “You’re a Baptist”. When I said I believed the Lord wanted me to start a church here, she was astonished and told me there was a church in Bailey (5 miles from Conifer) whose pastor had retired, and they were praying for someone to come and lead them. I was dumbfounded. I told the Lord I was in over my head, and I didn’t know what to do next. That Wednesday evening Pastor Smith preached from Ezekiel 47 with a message titled “Come on in, the water’s just fine”. He was making application to service in the church. When he got to vs 5, he looked right at me, smiled, and said “you feel like you’re in over your head? Come on in, the waters just fine”. I knew the Lord wanted me in Colorado, and if I did not go I would be in disobedience to Him. I told Pastor Smith that night that I believed the Lord wanted me to stay here, and told him all the Lord had been doing in my heart. He said you need to go home and talk to your Pastor. I went back to Michigan and told my Pastor what the Lord was doing. He talked with Pastor Smith, and agreed to transfer my membership transfer to Colorado. By January 2018 my home in Michigan was sold and I was a full-time resident of Colorado.
My Labor in the Lord
Since I was saved I have been faithful in services, tithing, choir, and visitation work. After my call to preach I was put in charge of Vacation Bible School, and in 2006 the Lord opened the door to further evangelism by start a nursing home ministry. After 8 years the Lord opened the door to start another, and we’ve seen roughly 20 souls come to Christ from that outreach. Many of those faithful in attendance considered Van Born “their church” even though they could never attend. I was involved in Primary church, Youth Camp, and would fill in for the Pastor when he was away. I also did miscellaneous work around the church: installing a new sound system, electrical wiring, setting up a computer network, and any other maintenance work that needed to be done. I also recorded, mastered and produced seven CD’s of our Choir and special music. After finishing my move to Colorado, I was put in charge of Wednesday night services, am involved in the music ministry, and was instrumental in the revitalization of our visitation program.