I have been involved with this organization primarily through Donna Granger and Bob Nash. It has been an inspiring journey, and I love the heart and mission of Betty Mitchel as well as Teresa Stroup. The following is a brief bio of my life and ministry.
I was raised in a Christian home by parents who love the Lord. My Mom and Dad met in bible college in British Columbia in the late 60’s. My dad was a pastor in the Yukon Territory for a couple years until he felt led by the Lord to pursue his passion for law enforcement and became a cop. I have one sister and a brother that died shortly after his birth in 1979. I attended christian schools almost all of my growing up years mostly in Salem Oregon. In high school I began attending a Baptist church in Aurora Oregon because I “felt the leading of the Lord” and there was a girl there I liked… That was where God really started speaking to my heart that full time ministry was where I was meant to be. I was very involved in the youth ministry there in Aurora and was trained and mentored be the youth pastor there. He continues to be a life long friend and brother to this day. I entered an internship program after graduating at Christian Center of Salem and began a three year journey that would set the trajectory of my life from that point forward. This was a time where I really came out of my shell and was thrust into youth ministry in a huge way. I also attended Salem Bible College during the internship pursuing my associates of religion degree. After three years I had the opportunity to go to Christian Life Center in Stayton Oregon as their youth pastor. It was like a dream come true for me. I was ﬁnally in the position I had dreamed of for many years. I had a blast! It was an amazing two years there, I learned a lot and grew fast.
I met my wife to be Tonya at that ﬁrst church through what I believe to be a divine set up. I had never had a girl friend unto that point, not for lack for fussing at the Lord… I met Tonya on a Sunday morning when her family brought her to church after telling me about her for months. As soon as she came in and sat down I heard the Lord say as clearly as I have ever heard Him, “Thats your wife”. I said YES! We met and were almost inseparable for the next six months. I asked her to marry me on her birthday in November of 1995 and we were married the next March. We spent the next several years learning how to be married and having a blast doing youth ministry together in a few diﬀerent churches. We ministered in Alaska (in a couple diﬀerent locations) and Burns Oregon to name a few. She was and is a pure gift from God to me and has been an indispensable partner in ministry that I could not have (and still can’t) done without.
In 2002 we had just come back from Alaska and we weren’t sure what God had for us to do next. I asked Tonya what she wanted do… she said she had always wanted to go back to central Oregon. So we loaded up the truck and headed over the mountain. Before the next day was over we both had jobs and a place to live. This is where the story takes an unexpected turn.
The place we found to live was with Bob and D’Ann Nash in Terrebonne Oregon. The had a bunk house on their property that they let us stay in. I felt like a cowboy! Except for the hat and buckle. Bob and his family were doing foster care and had been for many years. Tonya’s family had also been doing foster care for a while. So after about six months we ended up getting a place there in Redmond and becoming foster parents as well. That was sixteen years ago and we are still doing faster care today. It has been a blessing to take care of people and kids in a variety of contexts. It has also been a way to ﬁnancially make our way and still do ministry at the same time. Bob’s family and our family ended up starting a church at the Blackhorse Saloon in Bend in 2003. It was so much fun! The bar was open on Sunday mornings and we just went in and set up on the stage and started worshiping. It was the beginning of a lot of changes in me. I am a recovering pharisee. This was the time in my life where God was changing me on the inside. I went from “us and them” to “its all just us” over the years that I spent under Bob’s teaching and mentoring. It was some of the greatest years of our lives. Bob is still as close as family and we talk often. I make sure I check in with mentors in my life so they can tell me where I’m missing it in my current ministry.
After ten years together Tonya and I were still able to have children. We didn’t know why or even what (if anything) was wrong. We ended up going to a fertility doctor and actually were pregnant while sitting in his oﬃce… I know, crazy. That was the beginning of several mis-carriages over the next couple years. It was devastating and hard to bear up under. We prayed a lot that God would allow us to have a baby and bless us in that way. We had had lots of words from God about children and had a conﬁdence that in His timing it would happen. Finally in 2006 Macy Jane Thomas was born. It was one of the most glorious days of our lives. The promise had arrived! She was born with a condition that necessitated an amputation of her right foot and then she was ﬁtted with a prosthetic at 13 months. It has never slowed her down and today at 11 years old you wouldn’t even know about it unless she told you. Macy is a joy and loves the Lord with all her heart.
In 2009 Jack Truman Thomas arrived. He was another answer to prayer and a huge joy in our lives. He is the spitting image of his daddy… He has the heart of a David, and is full of compassion. He has such a tender heart for Jesus in everything he does.
In 2009 we moved back to the Salem area because it was important to us that our kids grow up around there extended family. It was a good move and the relationship my family has with Macy and Jack is invaluable.
We were still doing foster care and attending Church on the Hill in Salem. I ﬁlled in there as youth pastor for about a year when they were going through a transition of Pastors. It was fun and challenging. I still have a great mentoring relationship with two of the pastors from that church and I get to meet with them once a month.
In 2015 I was contacted by a friend who had planted a church in Albany Oregon in 2008. He wanted me to come join their team and help with the Downtown Campus. They had inherited a small church plant that had lost their leader. They took on the project and made that their Sunday night service. As of September of 2016 I was made Campus Pastor for the Downtown Campus of The Shift Church. They needed a lead guy to bring vision and structure to that Campus. I feel a little like God tricked me into this job. Its funny how He ultimately knows much better that we do about where we need to be and when we need to be there. It was so obvious when the time came that this was the exact right place for me for such a time as this. I have been having so much fun working with the team God has brought together to lead this little band of believers. I have been stretched and grown leaps and bound in the last couple years. We have many plans and dreams for the Downtown Campus and can’t wait to see what our Lord will do with this rag tag group of ragamuﬃns.
Missions has always been a ﬁre inside me. I have said that if God would have allowed me I would have been a missionary many years ago. I believe that the passion in my heart for missions is from the Lord and that He’ll use that right where I’m at. A wise lady once told me that everything we do for the Lord is training for what lies ahead. I believe that our steps are ordered by God and that He will lead us into his perfect will as we walk with him. Who knows what lies ahead in the future… Have your way Lord!
That brings us to current day. I am happy to answer any questions you may have or explain anything in greater detail. Love to you all at GSM and look forward to see you soon.