I grew up in a close knit Catholic family on Long Island, New York. Although I was educated and trained at a religious school until 8th grade, I found no fulfillment, purpose or direction. Because of the lack of purpose in my teen years I dabbled with alcohol and drug use. These substances seemed to add a sense of adventure to my life and to bring peace to my inner turmoil.
My Dad was a Vocational Education teacher and suggested I go to college to be a teacher as well. After high school I went to State University of New York at Oswego to become an Industrial Arts Teacher. Without the restraints of parental control, I continued to get lost in substance abuse and partying which were common on most college campuses. I felt very lost and confused and I longed for more purpose in my life.
During my college days I came home each summer and worked at a cutting tool warehouse where I had worked since high school. The crew there was a rough “biker type” crowd and the supervisor, although not a biker, was quite comfortable in the group. In fact sometimes the crew would work half the day and then go out drinking the other half of the day!
The summer of my junior year however, Tom, the supervisor at work, seemed different; something had changed. He was much calmer and had a sense of peace. He was also upbeat and positive and I noticed that he wasn’t going out drinking with the guys anymore. I on the other hand was very pessimistic and would talk with Tom about the futility of life. One day near the end of summer Tom asked if he could share some things with me. Since I had been wondering what had changed in him that gave him such peace, I agreed to listen. Tom led me to Christ that day in the cutting tool warehouse.
Later, back in Oswego, I was invited to a college meeting called BASIC. As I was walking across the snow drifted campus that January night, to attend the first meeting, I wondered what it would be like; was it a cult? Would it be boring? Weird? I entered the room filled with what seemed like a hundred college students. The worship was intense. As it ended a young person named Mike Cavanaugh started preaching and my heart was filled with wonder at his message. Mike had a way of touching the God-inspired purpose in each of us! Over the semester, Mike’s teaching continued to build a fire in me to follow God with everything I had and to live my life to its fullest potential in Christ.
It was a BASIC retreat that brought me to Elim Bible Institute for the very first time. I came to the retreat with a bit of fear – I guess my Catholic upbringing made me suspicious of other religions. I had never really heard much about Elim in the Bible or elsewhere in my religious upbringing. Although it could also have been my cynical Long Island upbringing. The worship at the retreat was incredible and a bit disorienting all at the same time. I was sensing God in my life like never before. Then Paul Johansson preached. I felt like God was in my head talking to me. Paul added fuel to the fire Mike had begun for the pursuit of God’s call on my life. He spoke about Moses being called through a burning bush – a bush that would not be extinguished, and that out of that burning fire came the voice of God to Moses. He pointed out that I could also have the fire of God in me that could not be put out, and that out of that fire I would hear God’s voice for the calling He had on my life. I loved Paul’s straight forward approach to speaking! And his New York City demeanor really added to the appeal of Elim.
After graduating from Oswego I became a teacher for three years. These years were a long, difficult, and dark time for me. I was a kid from Long Island teaching in a small town in Upstate NY. Through this wilderness experience God brought me to Elim Bible Institute. The first day I drove on to the campus, I felt the fire of God’s voice assuring me that I was in His will. I loved Elim! David Edwards along with Stacy Cline and others awed me with their insight into God’s Word. Dr. Mike Webster taught me how to craft sermons and how to understand what God was saying in the Bible. But most of all, I learned that God loves to use ordinary people to do extraordinary things! For the first time in my life I felt I was where I was supposed to be and doing what I was supposed to be doing.
Best of all I met my beautiful wife, Joann, my first year at EBI. She was on staff in the business office, but I had noticed her from a distance early on in the cafeteria. Although we didn’t hang out in the same circle of friends we definitely connected a few times and finally I got the nerve to ask her out to the movies. About 9 months later we were married. Joann was the best gift that God gave me at Elim.
After working on the maintenance staff at EBI for a few years, George Veach asked me if I would come assist him as he pastored in Herkimer, NY. It was such a privilege to go and learn from Pastor Veach! George was a “learn by doing” teacher, which meant that he believed the Holy Spirit would guide and empower you for what needed to be done.
After three years growing and learning in Herkimer, we went back to Lima to work with Mike Cavanaugh and Mobilized to Serve, which was a single adult ministry. Before we left the church in Herkimer God spoke to us that we would return there. Three years later we got a call asking us to come and pastor the church. We stayed in Herkimer and built on the foundation laid by Pastor Veach. We watched God do amazing things during the 18 years that we pastored there. We built a new ministry center, opened a separate building to reach the poor, worked in the business community, partnered with the Red Cross, and transitioned the church to the next generation. Best of all, that was where we raised our three children: Joseph, Joshua, and Janelle.
Today our children are grown. Our oldest, Joseph, is married to Kari and they live in Long Island City, NY where Joseph is an attorney and Kari works for a French cosmetic company. Joshua is married to Esther. They live in Syracuse where Joshua is a Campus Pastor for some of the colleges in Syracuse. Joshua is also the Assistant Pastor at Faith Chapel, working with Pastor Jim and Kelly Tuttle. Janelle is in her second year at Elim Bible Institute.
Now God has called us back to Elim, this time to strengthen Credential Holders and to encourage them to pursue their fullest potential in Christ. I also desire to help them find the Voice of God and the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish His plan. I thank God every day for a place of refreshing like Elim; a place where titles are not as important as testimonies; and ordinary people are looked to for extraordinary exploits.