Jacq, the boys, and I spent some time in a place that is very near and dear to our hearts. It’s a little town called “America’s First Settlement” and the home of “the longest running revival in US history.” It is also the place where God saved and called me out of a crazy party life, where we were trained for ministry, where I started a successful outreach the military community, where Jacq and I were married, where Brayden was born, and where we have some of our fondest memories and deepest friendships. It can also be one of the weirdest towns around. I find myself still saying, “What in the world?!” as I drive around the downtown area.
What town is this you ask?? Pensacola, Florida!
We headed four hours east of our home in Louisiana and arrived at our first stop, Orange Beach, Alabama. God graciously provided through some wonderful friends a place for us to stay for 5 days alone. Brayden was able to play in the sand and collect a bag full of sea shells while we were there. It was refreshing to just be a family and take a breather for a moment.
We spent time catching up with our family at Liberty Church Pensacola. One lady we met while we were there was a part of a prayer team that prayed over me as a new believer back in ’96. As they prayed for me, they began to prophesy about my future wife and family and our ministry together. I still remember them laughing in the Spirit and saying over and over again, “It’s going to be wonderful. God is really going to bless you. You just wait and see”! I never forgot that holy time and neither did my old friend. She was also there for me when Jacq and I was married and now she was able to see us right before we launched into our new ministry! God is so faithful!
Our lunch with Pastor Buford and Ann Lipscomb was a great time catching up with some of my awesome spiritual parents. Pastor Buford walked me through my first months as a new Christian, helped me to launch my first official ministry, married Jacq and I, and has always been there to listen to me, pray for me, and give me great advice and wisdom when I needed it. I was also able to spend Monday with all of the staff pastors from Liberty; Josh, Ron, and Carter. Liberty has planted three campuses that each of these pastors run. We had a great time catching up and laughing over a meal at good ole Sonny’s BBQ.
Another blessing was being able to spend time with my Spiritual great granddad in the faith, Sandy Carson. Sandy is always a blast to be with and even at over 80 years old, he still let me set him up on Facebook! Sandy was a Catholic priest for 17 years and left the priesthood for evangelical ministry after he was confronted by the scriptures and received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. He continued on in Spirit filled ministry for another 35 years and has a great family. What a blessing to be friends with a man who knows what it means to pay a price for the truth and see God’s faithfulness come through for him.
I also had lunch with my good friend Steve Watson who has been serving at Liberty church for at least as long as I’ve been around there. Steve also has an awesome testimony of God’s healing power when he was seriously injured at work and was told that he would never be normal again, both physically and mentally. The doctors didn’t count on God’s healing and restorative powers. Today Steve is one of the sharpest Holy Ghost businessmen I know. He is a man who believes in the power and the reality of the Holy Spirit to save, heal, and deliver and it is a blessing to call him a friend. His son Paul who is also a good friend of ours was in town during this time too. So, double blessing! Paul and his wife Diana are a great couple with a big heart for missions and missionaries. Paul works for Teen Mania in Texas.
We traveled over to Destin, FL for the day to meet a new friend, Pastor Steve Vaggalis of Destiny Worship Center. We were able to meet through Pastor Troy Maxwell, but once we got together we realized that we were connected through other local relationships. Pastor Steve is married to a Jaqueline too and also has two boys! We had a great time of connecting and I look forward to being friends with the Destiny Worship Center family for many many years to come.
After a night in a shady motel off of Mobile Hwy, we bunked over at another “Mama’s house”. Mama D (aka Sandy Drysdale) is the mother of some of my friends Sarah and Johnny Drysdale. Sarah and her husband Jonathan are missionaries to Guatemala and were in town too, so we had a great time talking until 1 and 2 am some nights! Mama D and her husband Tom used to open their home to all of the young adults of our church as well as the military guys we would bring with us. They even started a coffee shop where I worked and eventually met Jacqueline. It was called “Cafe Koin” which was also the name I also used for our outdoor military outreaches. We had so many great memories from our times with the Drysdales and we always feel just like immediate family when we come back, even if it’s been many years!
Jacq and I were also able to have lunch with an awesome man of God who I used to work for. Jeremy Empie was only teenager when I first started working for him, but he has grown into a strong prophetic minister. Did I mention that Jeremy has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair? That fact didn’t stop him for starting his own web design company that I helped him run at one time and now he is traveling and working in full time ministry. Jeremy is such a blessing and an inspiration to me!
We finished off our time at Liberty Church’s new North Campus where I was able to see my friend Josh Lipscomb lead his young congregation. Thye have really done some great things there! I went to Josh’s cell group when we were both just 20 years old. We’ve both come a long way since then! Josh is now married to a great girl named Kristin and has one boy and one on the way. Jacq and I also loved being able to have lunch with Patrick Waters and his pregnant wife, Melissa. Patrick is a great friend and is going to be a great dad. He is so funny and lovable and did a great job with our boys at the restaurant! Some say that Patrick is the poster boy of the Pensacola revival. He was radically saved during the revival around the same time that I was…’96. God did a huge work in his life then and has continued it on to this day. He now serves with Josh as a Pastor at the North Campus.
The little town of Pensacola doesn’t seem like a very influential town from the outside looking in, but I can tell you that it has influenced millions of people’s lives from all over the world through the revival that happened within it’s borders. That revival is no longer in existence now, but it somehow lives on through those of us who chose to take what we received there and not choose to park on the mountain, but instead, move on down to the valley to help those who needed what we have.
We realized early on that we “freely received”, not to keep hold on to it and seek more for ourselves, but to “freely give.” In Pensacola, I received new life in Christ, experiences in the Holy Spirit that I will never forget, a strong vision for the nations, a deliverance strong enough to propel me beyond my own dysfunctions, some beautiful personal relationships, and best of all; my partner in the ministry and the mother of our two sons.
Now we are here in her neck of the woods, South Jersey. We are looking forward to connecting with the people who made her what she is today. Stay tuned!