Early Manhood – Years 16-21
When I was 16, my father retired from the Air Force. We moved from Ft. Worth, TX to Sapulpa, OK. Sapulpa was my father’s home town. Our move was influenced by my desire to play football in the state of Oklahoma. I arrived in time to participate in the spring and summer football workouts. It was soon announced that I would be the starting quarterback for the Sapulpa Chieftains.
My arrival was part of a period of turmoil and transition for the football program. The town was experiencing the loss of the head coach who had been murdered by an assistant. A new head coach, Art Davis, was brought in from California to direct the program. He was a native Oklahoman who was both an excellent coach and an even better man. I learned much from him about football and about life. The transition also included the opening of a new football stadium.
Our first game was the renewal of an old rivalry with Bristow High School. They were the defending state champions and were ranked #1 in the state. We won that game 20-13. I threw a touchdown pass for the first score of the game and ran for a touchdown that provided the winning margin. Excitement in a football crazed town and state was high after that win. However, we lost the remaining 9 games of the season.
The next year, my senior year, we received little media attention heading into the season. However, we had a successful season that landed us in the state playoffs for the first time in school history. After the season, I was named to the All-Conference team and made one All-American team. I had the second most touchdown passes of any quarterback in the state and was in the top ten in scoring.
While in high school, I also played basketball and baseball. After the football season, I was contacted by a few colleges about playing football on that level. However, I was already married with one child. It did not seem feasible to go to college, play football, and provide for a young family. So my football career ended after that senior season.
Marriage and Children
At the age of 16, I went through a teenage pregnancy situation. Although I was a Christian, I did not act like one by giving in to sexual temptation. In October of 1976, I became married. I deeply regret that I sinned against God and against my young wife. I should have learned my lesson about “fleeing youthful lusts.” However, later in life I would sin against God and my wife again.
At the age of 17, I became a father for the first time. Cameron was born in April of 1977. It would have been difficult to make it through those early years had it not been for the love and support of many. My parents and my mother-in-law were greatly disappointed in our actions, but demonstrated grace and love to us. They made it possible for us to continue in school and in life as teenage parents.
During these high school years, I worked at the Royal Burger in Sapulpa. It was truly a family affair. I’m not sure that I can count all of the family members that worked making great burgers for Sapulpa residents.
My typical day during my senior year was to go to school until about 11am. Then I would go to work until time for sports (football, basketball and baseball) practice. After practice, I would return to work flipping burgers until closing time.
Cameron was such a joy. He was included in the official team picture for the football team. He would also run around the bases after my baseball games. He loved anything with a ball. Cameron would grow up to play baseball on the college level.
When I graduated from high school, I began in earnest trying to figure out what to do with my life. I had a happy young family, but the consequences of having a family that early limited my options. I was growing spiritually and praying that God would guide me in my life’s path.
During the summer of 1978, I enlisted in the U.S. Army. Soon after enlisting I sensed that my path was to be that of being a preacher. I began preaching in nursing homes and at small churches.
The Army Years
In September 1978, I began my three years of service in the Army. I went to Ft. Jackson, SC for my basic training. After that I went to Ft. Lee, VA for my advanced training. My first duty assignment was in Ft. Sill, OK. During my year there I was promoted from Private (E1) to Private First Class (E3). In November 1979 I was named Soldier of the Month for the 6th Battalion 33rd Field Artillery unit.
It was during this time that our second child, Leah, was born (October 1979). Leah was our happy baby. As she grew up these words describe her: smiling, laughing, talking, singing.
At the beginning of 1980, I was transferred to Kitzingen, Germany. I loved living in Germany, and still love all things German. During my stint there I was promoted from PFC (E3) to Sergeant (E5). I was also named Soldier of the Quarter and Soldier of the Year for my battalion. I was rewarded with a trip to Berlin. At that time, the city was stilled divided between West and East. I did have the opportunity to spend a day on the east side of the Iron Curtain.
During this time, I had the privilege of serving as the Associate Pastor of the Kitzingen-Wurzburg Baptist Church. This church was an English speaking church that was part of the European Baptist Convention. What a wonderful experience to serve a multi-ethnic church meeting in a centuries old building on the Main River.
In 1981 I was honorably discharged from the Army. In the next article, I will detail my time as a college and seminary student and my years in the pastoral ministry.
You may also enjoy reading: