Saturday, May 19, 2007


South Bend, Indiana was a bit of a culture shock for me. On my previous trips to America, I had only visited large cities. I had also spent a lot of my formative years in London and Lagos, both cities with dense populations. South Bend was, well… different! For the first three months I lived in the dorm while my wife and son lived with her sister. In Maryland! It was an extremely difficult three months made even more difficult by the fact that I missed my son’s first birthday. As I settled in to the routine of Bible School, I found that, with nothing around to serve as a distraction, I spent much of my time praying, studying and excelling in my classes. There was, however, one class which turned out to be extremely exacting. The most amazing thing about this class was the fact that I hadn’t signed up for it (at least not consciously). It was called “Character Building 101” and almost all the lessons occurred outside of the classroom. As the three month mark approached, I began to look around for an apartment and a job so that I could take care of my family when they finally arrived in South Bend.

Finding a job that fit around my school schedule proved more difficult than expected. I had morning classes, some evening classes, and even a couple of classes that ran from 7.00 – 9.00pm. I took whatever job came along that would pay me. I worked in basement waterproofing, construction labor, I cleaned the floor of a gas station mini-mart after hours, a couple of photo labs, why, I even worked with a fellow student who had a business felling trees (and these are the jobs I remember). I did so much manual labor; I had no need to go to the gym. The lessons were long and hard. Many times, I found myself questioning if I’d really heard God’s call to ministry. I had assumed that once I arrived in the US, there would be a welcome mat rolled out for me and things would all fall into place quite nicely. This was not the case.

For the first time in my adult life, I found that I was not in a position to call the shots. I was miserable, unfulfilled, and uncertain as to whether or not I was in the right place. I had come to the States after a three year stint in the UK working for Federal Express. In the UK I had an official car, a great income, and a beautiful home. Life was good. This transition to the “ministry-of-suffering” certainly wasn’t my idea of effective preparation for a full-time ministry calling. Why couldn’t we just stick with the homiletics and eschatological theology? I didn’t sign up for this kind of life did I? Then something happened that shook me to my core. I was working for Lester Sumrall’s prayer line, covering the “graveyard” shift. One of my responsibilities was to call up ministry partners and find out if they had any requests I could pray with them about. I took a prayer request from a lady who needed Divine intervention as she approached the deadline to finish working on a banner she was making. After I had prayed with her for a few minutes, she hung up and I promptly forgot the call, until I received a letter from her about a week later. Below are sections of the letter verbatim.

Saturday April 11, 1992

Dear Joe, (this is the name I was known by at the time)

I appreciate so much your call last week. I must tell you that the power of God came on me during our conversation so that I was literally trembling all over—when this happens to me, I know there is something very powerful going on. I shook for 10 minutes after we hung up so that my 4 yr. old asked why I was shaking.

I feel such a prophetic stirring about you when I pray for you. Something interfaced in the Spirit when you called. God has put you on my heart very strongly. You have a destiny to touch nations. I somehow feel that you suffered disappointment when you arrived here. Your high expectations were not met in the place you so looked forward to learning of God in. You are a man after the EXCELLENT MINISTRY— a man who is a 100-fold servant. God is putting steel in your soul and spirit to shine in places that are apathetic and jaded. He is going to bring through you a fresh anointing to people who are “familiar” with the things of God.

God says to you—I have set you in a place to grow and become a warrior of wide experience…

A destiny to touch nations? A man after excellent ministry? Bring a fresh anointing through me? Did she have any idea who I was and how much I was second-guessing my calling and purpose? If she didn’t, God sure did. And, Oh, by the way, that part about "sufferred disappointment," multiply that by ten! It was the first time anyone had so accurately “read my mail” without even knowing me. For the first time since arriving in the USA, I began to realize that God had orchestrated all of these circumstances from the very beginning. Like Joseph of the Old Testament, I did indeed have a greater destiny, but its fulfillment was hinged on the lessons I would learn along the way.

I wonder what Joseph must have been thinking as he went from the pit, to the palace (as a slave), to the prison, and then to Prime Minister (Genesis 37 – 46). His destiny was always to become Prime Minister of Egypt and to deliver the world from famine, but the lessons along the way were essential to his ability to fulfill his purpose. Mark Batterson, Lead Pastor of National Community Church, refers to these types of experiences as, “chasing lions.” Only after you have dared the difficult and seemingly impossible, will you be prepared to step into your purpose. Like Mark points out in his book, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, David made Beniah head of his personal army presumably because he liked his resume. You see, Beniah had killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day. Not many men belong to the lion-killers-club. But David did, and Beniah’s singular act of bravery endeared him to David and earned him a stepping stone into the courts of the king. What lion are you chasing?


Anonymous said...

Hi Joseph

I came across your blog from one of my late night "surfin".

Life has a strange way of moulding us. He uses felling trees, sweeping floor etc. Nevertheless, there is this thing about our God who delights in making us better,not bitter persons, stronger not weaker,braver not being afraid and ultimately ready to face life.

I hope your period of moulding by the Master Builder,God, grant you enough grace to endure to the end of the process He has for you.

Got your back, as we normally say in Jamaica :-)

Anthony (

Joseph said...


Thank you so much for your encouraging remarks. It is my prayer also that I am able to endure the process of my "character development" to the end so that I become everything that He desires for me to become.