A Sacred Place – Exit 102 on I-85

Have you ever had a place serve as an ongoing reminder of God’s grace, mercy, love and goodness? I have such a place, that believe it or not, has become rather sacred to me. And it’s at an exit on Interstate 85 as soon as you get into South Carolina by way of North Carolina.

Celebrating our first Christmas together as husband and wife, Tracy and I went to visit family in Georgia a few days before this festive time of the year, and to announce the coming arrival of our first child in the summer of 1988. But instead of that first holiday being filled with great joy and jubilation, it served as one of the most difficult Christmases of our lives as we lost our first child to a miscarriage on December 21, 1987 while in Georgia. Due to the time-frame of this miscarriage, Tracy had to have a procedure done in the hospital that made an already difficult time even more challenging as we were scheduled to travel to see our family in Maryland later that week, and then return to work before the New Year began.

Traveling north on I-85 on Christmas Day of 1988 (Tracy on the backseat of our 74 Impala (she was to be on bed rest) and me driving all alone on the large, front bench seat of our car), I struggled to hold back the tears as I drove. Since the drive was 10+hours, I used that time to cry out to God again and again, asking the proverbial, “Why God?” questions. As we journeyed that long road between Hartwell, Georgia and Nanjemoy, Maryland, I found myself spiraling farther and farther into despair about what had just taken place in our lives. And then it happened. I turned off of the interstate at Exit 102 in South Carolina to use the restroom, get some gas, and something to eat from McDonald’s, (remember, it was Christmas Day and back then, there were not many things open). As I climbed back into the car to continue driving, I heard the whisper of God say to me, “I’m here, Gary. And you can trust Me.” Long story made short, that was a pivotal moment in my life (our lives) as the shattered pieces of my heart were comforted and a new journey of “walking by faith, and not sight” began for me and my bride.

Two weeks later, we moved to Dallas, Texas (something that I had been disobedient in for over a year) and experienced an incredible faith journey with God over the next five years in Texas that radically changed everything about our lives!  While there, I received incredible training from some of the greatest people I’ve ever known at Criswell College, met, served beside and loved some of the greatest servants of God anywhere (Audelia Road Baptist Church was an incubator for Great Commission Christians), and were blessed to have our first two daughters become part of our family in 1989 and 1991. Although none of these years were easy, God increased our faith in Him exponentially because we knew (and experienced) “He was with us, and we could trust Him.”

Fast forward 30 years later to the summer of 2017, and I am now wrestling with God concerning the recent death of my father (not that he died and was now in heaven, but the way he died). And lo and behold, as Tracy and I are driving to Georgia on I-85 to once again visit family, as I am passing that same Exit 102 in South Carolina I hear the whisper of God in my heart say to me, You can still trust Me, Gary. I am here and know exactly what I am doing.” 

For those reading this blog, you may have never heard the whisper of God before (it’s not easy hearing it in the midst of all of the other noises of life), but I can assure you, when He spoke to me this time, it was the most comforting, healing, powerful words I have heard, and served as the catalyst to lead me six months later to know that God was calling me away from the Pastoral Ministry to spend the rest of my life on this earth making disciples of Christ around the world. Hearing God speak at Exit 102 again was a pivotal moment in my life.

But guess what? Last week, June 8, 2018 to be exact, Tracy and I were driving on I-85 again, this time heading back to West Virginia from a quick trip to visit family in Georgia and to do some planning work with a ministry partner outside of Atlanta (Global Year).  As we approached this sacred ground where God has radically changed my life through His whisper (a highway exit, no doubt), I saw a billboard (the picture of it is at the top of this blog) that answered a question I had been asking God for the past 40 days. It said, “Obey Jesus’ Teachings, Luke 6:46.” Do you know what Luke 6:46 says? I quote, “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do the things I say?”  No whisper, this time, but instead, a clear writing on the wall (billboard) that has given me the exact answer that I need for some crucial steps of faith to be taken with Him and our ministry called New Life Global Ministries.

I share all of this today for a simple reason: I know firsthand that you can trust God. He is here. He knows what He is doing. All we have to do is trust and follow Him. By faith, He will guide our every step. And when we walk with the Lord with the confidence that we can trust Him, amazing things takes place!

What is your Sacred Place? Where is your Exit 102? How will you trust and obey Him because of what He says to you there? Haven’t heard from Him in this way? Sometimes, it’s only in the brokenness of our dreams, hopes and wishes, when everything in life seems shattered, that we can hear His whisper. And when we do, it changes us – forever.

Gary

Go Make Disciples of the Nations

nationsoverlay-01Yesterday was one of the most amazing days of my life! Under the leadership of my lifelong friend, brother in Christ and Pastor, Jim Goforth, New Life Community Church “commissioned” me and my wife to go make disciples of Christ throughout the nations.  For many, this may not seem like a big deal. Even some Christians would question if a “commissioning service” is necessary since we have already been “commissioned” by Jesus to go make disciples.  However, the significance of this day and what actually took place is of great importance to me, and here is why.

To “commission” literally means:

  1. the act of committing or entrusting a person, group, etc., with supervisory power or authority.
  2. an authoritative order, charge, or direction.
  3. authority granted for a particular action or function.

Jesus is the One who has all authority. And with this supreme authority in heaven and on earth, He has given the order, charge and directive to all of His followers, “go make disciples of the nations” (Matthew 28:18-20). It is the primary purpose He has “commissioned” us to do in this world – MAKE DISCIPLES!  Since those who make up His Church are the Body of Christ, it seems only natural (even supernatural) that the Body of Christ (the local expression of God’s hands and feet in this world) would “entrust a person, group, etc. with… a particular action or function” – go do what the Commander and Chief has given you the authority to do – make disciples everywhere!

To have the church that I have loved serving as Executive Pastor the past eight years recognize God’s call and commission on my life, truly amazing! But even more, to have these same people pray over us, anoint me and my wife with oil, and promise to “hold the rope” while we go “into the mines” around the world and help rescue the perishing and care for the dying, priceless. But wait, it gets even better. To have the leadership of New Life give the first substantial monetary support to the making of these disciples, as well as openly encourage others to become ministry partners with us, beyond words. It was, and is, a day I will never forget!

But let me make one thing clear: it was not about me. Yesterday’s commissioning service was about the One who gave His life as a ransom for all, and because of this great sacrifice, a group of people are coming together to proclaim this One and Only Savior, Jesus, to the world!

I am humbled by what took place (the kind and encouraging words spoken of me by Pastor Jim, those who prayed during the services, those who recorded well-wishes and God’s blessings, via video, and those who wrote cards and notes of congratulations). And I am honored to not only represent Jesus as His ambassador – here, there and everywhere – but also my church family, New Life Community Church. Together, we will be a part of fulfilling the Great Commission!

Happy Birthday, to Me!?!?!

birthday-cake-popcornYes, today is my birthday (May 14, 1967). And yes, it is strange to write “Happy Birthday,” to me. But hang with me for a moment. As I celebrate this birthday, there is an extra special reason to celebrate the life that God has given me. And it is simply this – maybe for the first time in the 51 years that I have been alive, I am actually BEING and DOING what He created me for in the first place (being a follower of Christ who is helping others follow Christ). If that doesn’t deserve a “Happy Birthday,” but even more, “Praise the Lord,” I don’t know what does! Continue reading “Happy Birthday, to Me!?!?!”

The Next Chapter

I have to admit, the last few weeks have been full of all kinds of emotions – joy, sadness, excitement, fear, amazing anticipation, overwhelming apprehension. Ending one remarkable chapter of life to begin a brand-new chapter of life has had me all over the place! And yet, here I am, May 1, 2018, and things have changed. I am no longer a “Pastor” (something I have had the honor and great privilege of being for the past 33 years), but rather, I am simply a “Follower of Jesus” who believes He will use me to reach people here, there and everywhere, until the task is completed.

I have loved being a Pastor (98% of the time). It has given me the opportunity to walk beside a lot of different people, during all kinds of stages and seasons of life, and together, discover how powerful God’s love is despite the challenges and even difficulties along the way. Experiencing this time and time again with so many amazing people, I believe I have learned something of great value: I can completely trust Jesus with anything and everything that has to do with life because He is 100% trustworthy. This is not to say that some of the seasons we go through are not hard (they are!) Yet, the grace and mercy of the Risen One that I follow has always provided a sense of peace and purpose, something I would not trade for anything in this world.

Stating this, to step down from this amazing calling as Pastor is not something I have taken lightly, nor based on my own whims. To the contrary; my Lord has had to work on my heart regarding this for a long time. And because I know I can trust Him with anything and everything, I willfully lay down that which I have loved to now follow Him into what should be my last assignment on this side of heaven – BE A MULTIPLYING DISCIPLE who helps make MORE MULTIPYING DISCIPLES throughout the nations until ALL HAVE HEARD THE GOSPEL!

It was 34 years ago this week, May 3, 1984, that I made a simple, yet, life-changing commitment to God: “I will go wherever you want me to go, I will do whatever you want me to do, and I will be whatever you want me to be.” I had no idea at 16 years of age, and as a brand-new follower of Christ, what that commitment would mean. But how thankful I am that He led me to make this promise to Him as it has afforded me a front-row seat to some of the most amazing experiences one can have in this life.

Due to all of these first-hand experiences with Him, I step into this new chapter in life as a FULL-TIME MISSIONARY and Executive Director of New Life Global Ministries, knowing that if I will simply go where He wants me to go, do what He wants me to do, and be what He has created, called and commissioned me to be, this next and last chapter will be the greatest yet!

Thanks so much for being part of this journey with me over the years. Now let’s go make more disciples!

Gary Willett

Follower of Christ

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P.S. – Embarking upon this next chapter in life, my family and I have a great need from you (our family and friends). We will not be able to do what He has led us to do without MINISTRY PARTNERS (those who will partner with us through prayer, encouragement and/or financial support). If you would be willing to be one of our MINISTRY PARTNERS (in whatever capacity), please contact me (garywillett@gonlgm.org or 304.433.7185) and I would love to meet with you over coffee, a meal or ice cream and share details.