As many of you know, for the last few weeks the Carroll family has been trying to sort our next steps in this crazy journey God has us on. It’s been rough but I know he will see us through. How do I know this you ask? God has always been faithful in the past! If you want to know more, I’ve included my personal testimony below.
My personal testimony begins with the legacy of faith left to our family by my grandfather. Turning from a life of debauchery and hedonism, he dedicated his life to Christ at an evangelism event in the 1970s. As a result, God changed his life drastically, creating a context of faith for his own children, a context that reverberates down to my own three boys. Because of this legacy handed down from my grandfather and through my own father, I grew up intimately connected to the church.
My parents are godly people that loved and nurtured me throughout my formative years. I accepted Christ as my personal Savior at age 6 then rededicated my life to him around the age of 14. I was an excellent example of a morally formed individual until my senior year in high school. Sadly, I then decided to put God on the metaphorical shelf and engage in a few aspects of personal moral debauchery that I felt I was missing from my perfect Christian life.
My rebellion lasted a few months into my college years until I comfortably settled into a subdued spiritual complacency. This left room for some of the more borderline anti-social behaviors but kept me from getting into any major trouble. I even started going back to church, although I was becoming quite an accomplished Sunday-morning-only Christian.
During this time, I fell head-over-heels for a lady named Melodie and we were married a year or so later. About two years later we had our first son Ethan. Meanwhile, I was studying in the Criminal Justice program at New Mexico State Univ. and life, as I understood it, was going great. I had a future career lined up with a prestigious federal agency, a new baby, and my future was wide open. However, God had other plans as he “interfered” in my life, throwing me for the proverbial loop and calling me into ministry.
My calling led to a dutiful reorientation of my life and an unquenchable thirst for the study of apologetics and theology. This in turn led to several stints in various ministry roles throughout the US during which we had our second son (Ryun). After five (or so) years of working in full-time church ministry, Melodie and I prayerfully considered heading back to school full-time to engage in proper theological training. We understood this to be a vital aspect of our future ministry and wanted to be faithful to the Spirit’s leading, despite the financial and personal costs such a life altering decision this would entail. We subsequently settled at Talbot School of Theology where, over the course of the next 4 and a half years, I received two masters degrees (an MA in Spiritual Formation and an MA in Theology).
At the start of my post-grad education, Melodie was eight and a half months pregnant with our third child, Joshua Aiden. Ethan was turning five and Ryun was turning three. We had some money from our house sale in South Dakota and after paying off all of our debt (except student loans) we had enough left to cover a few months of rent in Southern California (not the cheapest place to live). Melodie and I had prayed and stressed, prayed and considered, and then, finally, prayed and accepted that this was the next big step that God had for us. We were to live on faith and follow God wherever he might lead. We were both at peace with the decision. God dropped everything in its place and we just followed.
At Talbot, my time in the Institute of Spiritual Formation (ISF) was a difficult but integral part of my spiritual growth. It was here that I was broken down in an intense and painfully necessary way. These years are as much a part of my Christian testimony as that fateful day when I was 6 years old and I gave my life to Christ. Through this time at ISF, my hidden heart received the exposure it dreadfully needed and I found healing from several past hurts in the presence of a Christ-centered community. Here, the Holy Spirit also began a process in which I am still excited to be involved equipping me to minister to others in a unique and purposeful manner.
Eventually, God led our family to the UK to continue this process. Moving overseas to pursue a PhD at the University of Aberdeen with a wife and three children was not the simplest course of action. However, God has used these years in another highly unanticipated manner placing us in a community within which we were able to minister through our involvement with the local primary school’s football (soccer) program. Ministering to and sharing the gospel with genuine people that have tangible life situations (single parenting, anger issues, unemployment, inordinate expectations, etc.) has kept me from being lost in the so-called ivory tower of academia.
Now we are back in the US and, although we are sad to leave our community behind, my hope is that we have acquitted ourselves gracefully, extending the love of Christ in our actions and standing firm in our commitment to God despite existing cultural pressures. God’s continued provision in our lives has left me with a sense of wonder and hopeful expectation that he will continue to use us in the manner he sees fit. For the time being, Melodie and I (along with my three boys) are prayerfully waiting for the next step to be revealed in this exciting journey.