Q: What do you do here at Calvary?
A: I am the Middle School Director here at Calvary Church. My weekly responsibility is to be teaching on Sunday as well as just writing the curriculum, connecting with leaders and parents, and [pretty much] anything that has to do with middle school.
Q: What are you most excited about since joining staff at Calvary?
A: I am excited to build relationships with students and leaders. I think that I'm a very relationally-driven person and I'm excited to get to know the students and then see how I can direct and push them to grow in their walk with God. We get to do a lot of fun stuff, including ministry retreats. I think my passion is to try and push people more to grow in their walk with God. And so, middle-school specific, they're tough to read sometimes or challenging to move. But I do think that's a gifting God's given me—to be able to be influential in their life.
Q: How did you come to faith?
A: [My family] grew up in church. We always went to church. And so, I know it was a pretty young age that I was even introduced to who Jesus is and what He's done for me. At five years old, I remember coming home from church. I was riding in the car with my mom, and sitting in the back seat, and out of the blue I just asked her, "Mom, how do I get saved?" She pulled over right then, turned around and started trying to walk me through like, "Do you believe you're a sinner? Do you believe that you can't save yourself? That you need a savior? That Jesus is that savior who died on the cross for your sins?" And I think I knew enough to be able to place my faith and trust in Jesus. And then we prayed together.
At that point, I prayed to receive Christ in my life. I'd say I was saved at age five [but] obviously I had to grow a lot in my faith and understand a lot more about it. Even in college [during] my freshman year I rededicated my life to Christ and started thinking through some of the decisions in the way I was living. Going to a Bible college and then wanting to do ministry, I decided to rededicate my life to Christ, striving to live better than I was. From that point too, I saw a noticeable change, even in how adamantly I followed God too. It was more intense at that point because I really feel like I took it on my own. So those were probably the two biggest moments in my walk with God.
Q: Did you grow up in Lancaster, PA?
A: [I] was not born and raised in Lancaster. I was born in West Virginia and my dad is a pastor there. My family all lives there now; they all live about 15 minutes away from each other. My wife and I and our baby, Jordyn, live here in Pennsylvania.
[After] I was born in West Virginia, we moved to Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, and so I had most of my childhood in Mechanicsburg for about 10 years, which is why I don't have an accent like all the other West Virginians I know, which I'm very blessed for. Then we moved back to West Virginia to the same place I was born, and that's when my dad actually left the business world to become a pastor. We left everything we knew and I started high school in West Virginia, which was pretty dramatic.
But, [I] finished all four years of high school there and then went to Lancaster Bible college here in Pennsylvania. Just jumped between West Virginia and Pennsylvania most of my life. After LBC, we moved to DC, which is the first city I'd ever lived in, which was nuts, but lived there for two years and then we moved back to Lancaster, and we've been here for two years or so now.
Q: Tell us about your family.
A: My wife Christy [and I] met in college, got married right after, and then both lived in DC away from both of our families and got to solidify ourselves. I think it was really good. And then we found out Christy was pregnant and so we moved back to be close to her family. They all live in Hershey. Jordyn is my daughter, and she is about a year and a half old now. She's a lot of fun! She's walking around, running around, and she was dressed up for Halloween this year. I went and did the whole trick or treating, knock-on-the-door and all that. So she's starting to get some of that stuff which is fun.
Q: So, you used to be a sponsored cliff jumper?
A: Yeah, it started because I was scared of heights. Dead serious. I was in high school in West Virginia [where] there's nothing to do whatsoever. One group of my friends knew of this quarry we could go to with public access. They had this 40-foot cliff or so, and I was just terrified to jump off of it. Once I did, it was this adrenaline rush and I really wanted to conquer my fear of heights. And so, I started jumping. Me and my best friend each had one day off a week and we'd organize it so that we could take that same day [off]. As I kept doing it for a couple of years, I started getting better at it and it got boring to just jump. So then I started trying to do tricks. I'd watch videos of other people doing tricks and try and push my limits a lot. And then it became something I just loved. I would travel all around and take weekend trips and go to all these places.
I had this one guy I met in college who would just [record] video. I never saw him jump a single cliff, but he would literally just go to video me jumping. And so we did a lot of trips together and those videos started to catch on with that cliff jumping community. A sponsorship called Big Swings reached out to me, and they basically sponsored me and the would pay for my expenses, anything like that. They would shoot videos with me jumping, doing different tricks wearing their merchandise, and they would post them on YouTube and try and promote their brand. I got to tour around with them for a little bit and go to these different places and just try and do big, big tricks. One of my big goals was to break a hundred [foot cliff]. Never got to break that goal. The highest I went was 90 feet, which is significant.
The last cliff jump I did wasn't even with the sponsorship or anything. It was this place in Tennessee where my one buddy was getting married. So for his bachelor party, I was his best man, I was like, "Let's go cliff jumping together." And so, we took all the guys and went to this waterfall that I had never been to—a beautiful 40-foot waterfall—and there were all these signs that say, “no jumping,” “people died here;” those signs that you see everywhere. I looked at it as no big deal. I did all my safety checks; check the water, check the landing, dive down, make sure it's deep. I found the spot and was able to check it out. [I] went up to the top and jumped, just feet first, and hit my spot and I was totally fine. My confidence was up then.
So, [I] go back for a third jump. There was this one trick—[the one that] got me sponsored—it’s a unique trick that I was doing that looked really good for a camera. You run, jump, turn over, and turn and face the camera. I would just throw my hands behind my back and then slowly fall into a backflip. And so I did that. When I turned, I pushed myself off to the side rather than going straight out. And so as soon as I took off, I knew that I had messed it up. I threw my head back and looked at my landing—it was right where the water was crashing in the waterfall [which was] a spot I couldn't check because that water was too powerful.
So I knew I was landing completely in a blind spot. The waterfall hit this big rock and I came down on my tailbone and my wrist and landed in a seated position right on that rock. The waterfall pushed me into the deeper water. I was wearing a wetsuit, and that's actually one of the things that saved my life at that point because I could have blacked out and drowned. When I hit the rock and landed in the water, I could only use my arms. From my waist down was not responsive; I wasn't able to kick my legs or anything. I turned over on my back and just used my arms and swam. It was a decent distance to the bank. And when I got to the bank, I'm calling out for some other guys that helped me get over on the bank. I wasn't able to stand up because it was too painful. So I used this big rock and helped pull myself up. And as soon as I stood up, the pain shot up my spine and I blacked out.
I just remember all the guys faces around me, and they were all pretty concerned. I was just like, "What's going on?;” I was so out of it. My friend had to hike out, get in his car, and drive 15 minutes just to get cell phone reception to call 911. [The paramedics] get there, put me on the board, and everybody had to help carry me out. They put me in an ambulance, drive to an open field and put me on a helicopter. And so I got airlifted out. It was my first ever helicopter ride. I couldn't even see out the window, I was so disappointed. They flew me to a trauma unit, to the nearest one in Johnson City, and put me on a bed… the doctor takes his fist and just goes down my spine and he gets about halfway and I'm just screaming in pain. And he says to the other doctors there, and again, I'm fully present. He says, "I think he's paralyzed. Let's go take him into this other testing." I'm laying there, and all I heard [was that] I’m paralyzed.
And I still couldn't move my legs. They put me in the full body scan for about an hour. I went through all these tests; [it was] the longest hour of my life of just praying and thinking about my life as if I’m paralyzed now, and just what life looks like. So it was a pretty long hour, but [I] came out of that and the doctors come in and they said, "I don't know how this happened, but you didn't break a bone. Nothing is broken.” He said, "The reason your legs aren't moving is because you have severe nerve damage in your tailbone and it's actually too painful for you to move your legs. The muscles and the nerves made this huge knot… When you can take two steps, I'll release you from the trauma unit." Every time I would stand up, I'd black out. It took me three days to take two steps and then they released me [from the hospital] and then it was just months of recovery after that.
It was crazy. And I think one of the big things that I thought was, "How is this bringing glory to God? What is coming from this? What can I learn from it?" And I think some of it is my priorities, that I invested a lot of time, a lot of my identity and pride in cliff jumping. And in a moment, that's gone. I don't cliff jump anymore. And so it's pretty crazy how a significant portion of my life was just gone in a moment. But it made me super grateful for the time that I have now because even at that point, we weren't pregnant. It was a month later, then we found out [my wife was] pregnant. So all that happened at the same time, and it's just like, man, I feel like I'm [living] on so much bonus time and I want to use that, and use that wisely. And I think it gives me a lot of perspective; a good reminder of [how] it could have been over at that point. But God's not done with me. He still has plans for me. So we'll see what that means or what that looks like.
Q: Who are you discovering God to be today?
A: I think right now I'm learning how much God is providing for us. He is the provider. And I think [I’m learning] more and more to rely on Him in that way too, [knowing that] God's going to take care of us and he's caring for me and my family. It's been a huge blessing, just such a benefit to know how much God's provided for us. And even in this job, in my second week here, this was a huge answer to prayer for us in our life, timing and everything. It’s just perfect and it couldn't have been planned by us. [With] the timing of Christy's job and my job, our schedules have just completely changed and our life has changed in a moment, too.
So God's been providing for us in huge ways, even outside of work. But I think the thing that I'm learning more and more is I don't have to stress or worry about these things because I know God's going to take care of it. I'm going to do my part, I'm going to work hard and make sure that I honor Him in what I do, but He's got it and He's in control and so I can have open hands, and God will take care of us.