Happy Monday Folks! While I was at the CMLeaders conference a few weeks ago, I got to meet and talk with Ben, a friend of Barbara Graves. Ben told me how he ended up at his current church and I was so amazed at his story, I asked him to share it with you all too!
Here’s Ben’s story:
My name is Ben Fowlkes, I am currently Pastor of Childen’s Ministries at Church of the Open Door in Elyria, Ohio. A town right outside of Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland was once a thriving city, now a city trying to survive. These people need Jesus and I am honored that God has chosen me to be a part of a large church that reaches its community. How God brought me here is quite the story and I am honored that I have been asked to share that story here.
I have been in children’s ministry since the 80’s when I served as a volunteer at my local church. I went off to college to study my passion of Graphic Arts. At that time I was learning a lot but still felt a void that only God could fill. I left school after 2 years to become a professional clown. I went to school, learned how to do balloon art, magic and even how to put makeup on correctly. It was here I learned that God was calling me to tell children about Jesus. I went off for a year at Word of Life Bible Institute where I was asked to help start a church in Tampa, Florida. This experience only confirmed God’s calling on my life. The next 13 years of ministry God lead me to help start churches in Georgia and North Carolina.
Flickr by timlewisnm
(Not an actual picture of Ben!)
Through my experiences I learned about and fell in love with the Orange concept. Families and churches working together to help raise children with the knowledge of Jesus Christ. For the past 3 years I have been volunteering at the Orange Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Through these experiences I have met many great people that have turned into lifelong friends. One of which was a lady from Ohio that would tell me about all the great things God is doing at her church and through her leadership. This same lady would eventually call me 2 years later telling me about how her husband got a job and God had called them to another state. She then told me she would like to recommend me to interview for her position. At first I said NO! Thank you, I like the south. Weeks went by and I could not get this church out of my head so I called them just to ask some questions, a “get to know you” kind of phone call. I got off the phone and prayed that God would take the resume’ that I was about to send and shut this door because I was over thinking things. Every day for a week and a half I prayed for a shut door and confirmation of His will. I am a strong believer that God answers prayers, in His perfect timing. 10 days later I was called into the office of my employer and got let go. God shut a door, not the one I was praying for but He knows best.
What makes this story so great is what happens next. I was let go at 8am on Monday morning and at 12:00pm that afternoon I received a phone call from the church in Ohio asking to set up a interview. OK! God is at work. The next 4 months I saw God show up in so many ways. He provided all my needs. God was running the show and I was sitting back and watching Him at work.
The moment I knew for sure that God was leading my family to Ohio was a Thursday afternoon, I had just gotten off the phone with a church in Texas that was also interviewing me. I began praying that God would show me clarity. I was in the interview processe with churches from Texas, South Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Virginia and Alaska. I was at the stage of being overwhelmed and tired. I was ready to settle down, serve Him and provide for my family. That day I prayed for God to make things simple and clear up His plan for my family, and that He did. From that prayer on I never heard back from any of the other churches, except the one from Ohio. Ok God, I will move to a city in the north where I don’t know a single person, to a city where the weather is unlike anything I have experienced living in the south. I will go to a church that is bigger than I have ever been a part of. Even at that point I was still trying to change God’s mind, but HE is all Powerful and all knowing. My family and I are serving at a church in Ohio that loves God, serves Him and is making a positive change in their city.
My story is not super dramatic, full off loss and sadness. My story is one of fully relying on God to take care of me and my family and that He did. God took care of us beyond our expectations and has placed us right where He wants us and for that I am eternally grateful.
You can follow along with me as I blog about family, kidmin and creativity at www.kidminjelly.com.