Soon after my bar street decision to live for Jesus, a couple of US servicemen, Tim and Manny, from a local church came by my house and invited me to church. It was a wonderful place full of young servicemen and their families excited about Jesus. Here I was baptized, discipled and welcomed into the kingdom of God's people. As I learned more about the Lord I was able to begin to put together a lot of the things in my past that God had been doing. It seemed like the Lord had taken a round about way of doing things, but I realized that sometimes God has to do things in a round about way because we do so much running around. I realized he had been very patient, loving and persistent in my life and I was very grateful.
The church was very active in evangelism and I found myself many times witnessing on the same street that I use to stumble drunk down. They also took evangelism trips to neighboring islands (there are many around Okinawa) and would pass out literature and bibles to the local Okinawan residents. I think it was here that the next major step in my life began to take shape.On these trips I would meet many people who never heard even once of the wonderful saviour that had changed my life. After several of these trips, it was at a mission's rally that I dedicated myself to the Lord for ministry work. To me it was only fair. I mean how could I stay in the Navy when there was such a need right here among these people.
My hitch in the Navy ended August 31, 1982. The Navy discharged me in Okinawa, and the next day I was in school with Christians in Action, the mission's agency that began the church I was attending. They had a missionary training program and I spent the next three years preparing for missionary service. The first two years were in Okinawa and the last was in the States. From there I then traveled around the US raising support. God blessed me with several wonderful churches and individual supporters, and by February of 1986 I was ready to return to Okinawa to begin missions work.
My first year and a half as a missionary was spent working as an apprentice with the church I originally attended. After this I spent the next two years studying Japanese. It was during this period of time that I met a beautiful Japanese girl named Naomi. She was a Christian (of course) and my first glimpse of her was at her church's bowling tournament. I had been invited by another friend and had no idea that my future wife would be there. I first saw her on lane 20 and decided then that I wanted to be her bowling partner. As they say, it was love at first sight. However, what may have seemed easy to want was not going to be so easy to get. In fact it took five years to get from the bowling alley to the wedding aisle. But in June of 1992, before lots of friends and family Naomi and I were married .And might I say, it was well worth the wait.
After language school in October 1989, I returned home for a year of furlough. I spent the time with Belmont Church, a non-denominational church in my community in Nashville, and one that took the primary support and leadership in my life. Their support gave me the ability to concentrate on studies rather than fund raising and through their encouragement and ministry style the Lord helped me to focus in on some of the important principles of ministry I would need for the work in Okinawa.