Take the First Step
(by Rev. Patrick Quinn, Teaching Pastor at Frazer UMC in Montgomery, Ala.)
It was September 2002 and I had just begun the three-year journey of theological education at Candler School of Theology at Emory University after resigning my job at Sandestin Resort. Leaving on Monday mornings from my home in Northwest Florida, I would travel 5 1/2 hours to Atlanta for classes Tuesday through Thursday before returning home to my wife and child sometime late Thursday evening. Five weeks into this “new normal” the long road trips, endless hours of homework, and financial stress were beginning to take their toll on my family.
It was there on a Friday afternoon in September I found myself at a crossroad. I loved the opportunity to engage in theological education in order to pursue ordination as a minister, but I also love my wife and daughter. I was feeling guilty about what I was putting them through. It felt unfair that they suffered from my absence and my lack of financial support while I studied to be ordained. The stress put on a young family seemed overwhelming, especially since the monthly bills were stacking up.
My wife and I got into a serious conversation about how we were going to make ends meet. (Okay, it was a fight!). She was right, there seemed to be no way to continue. Taking a break from our conversation, I walked out to the mailbox. There in the midst of more bills was an envelope from Dr. Karl Stegall. It was a letter congratulating me on beginning my theological education as well as introducing me to the Stegall Seminary Scholarship program. A check for $100 was included (enough to pay for my daughter’s doctor bill that month) along with prayers of encouragement for my family.
I wept all the way up the driveway and back into the house. I showed my wife the letter and the check and she too was caught up in God’s provision. On the way out to the mailbox, I felt like I needed to quit seminary and return to my job to support my family. On the way back into my house, I felt God wrap His arms around my family and whisper to me that we were going to make it.
Ever since that day, I have trusted God with my family as He has graciously entrusted me to preach the Gospel. The church became an even more powerful force in my life as a result of receiving that letter. Dr. Stegall and the countless number of saints that continue to show up for those called into the ministry have my utmost respect for their faithfulness. Most of all, I thank God for showing me when someone takes the first step out of the boat Jesus will be waiting to catch you!