The Gospel not only has the power to change hearts, it has the power to set life on a beautiful and gracious course – despite challenges and struggles – that ultimately leads to God’s glory. One family shares how a few experiences impacted the way they viewed people in their community and God’s call to serve.
Tom and Dedy have watched God work in their lives and in the lives of their children in many ways they had not foreseen.
There is no greater joy than to see a life come to Christ. Tom describes the beginning of his oldest son’s walk with God, “The Lord saved Tyler at a young age, and God has been faithful to grow him. As Romans 12:1-2 says, we were amazed at the transformation that God produced as Tyler grew to love God’s Word and commit himself to studying it.”
The Word of God, Biblical teaching, and discipleship by church leaders shaped a missions mindset in the whole family. “We are so thankful for God’s work in our church family to call us to missions," says Tom. "In early 2007, my sons, Tyler (then 15) and Brooks (then 9), and I (won't give age, ha) went to Ecuador with our small group. God changed all of us greatly with a new understanding and heart for the nations. We saw our lives differently here in Birmingham as well – in the way we desired to love and serve others in the name of Jesus our Lord.”
Tyler too remembers the impact of those early experiences overseas. “I really got to see God’s heart for the nations and how desperate a need there was for people who had never heard before. From that point forward, I believe God gave me a heart for internationals and the people He placed around me.”
The way God chooses to draw us out of what is familiar and mold our hearts to follow Him often lands us in unexpected circumstances.
Spurred by the preaching of God's word and the discipleship of Wes Sullivan and many other leaders in Student Ministry, Tyler and several friends, including Max Bishop, Josh Higby, and Park Wynn, were moved to care for the homeless in downtown Birmingham.
“They gathered supplies and met those in need at Linn Park,” Tom recalls. “Each Saturday morning, they began teaching a Bible study and distributed what they could as they shared the gospel. The Children’s Ministry got involved by preparing bags of food, water, gloves, coats, and other necessities to send with these students.”
Tyler met two men there who left a lasting impact on the rest of Tyler’s and his family’s lives. One of those men was Connie, a retired veteran who had a few mental handicaps and was living homeless.
“But,” Tyler says, “He was very genuine and willing to help, and he shared his story with us. Even when he had first lost his home and wasn’t able to sustain a permanent living place, he looked back with gratefulness. He would say that he got saved and met the Lord through those circumstances. He’d always be willing to serve us, and we would meet and study the Bible together. He became a really dear friend. Even when I went to college, we stayed in contact.”
Then, there was Douglas. Tom shares about getting to know him: “Douglas had been an alcoholic since age 13 and was then 51 years old. He began coming to the Bible study. He’d recently put his faith in Christ but was continuing to struggle with alcoholism. He was homeless, and we were able to provide a home for him with our family. Many at Brook Hills had the opportunity to lead, teach, and support Douglas. It was amazing to see the body of Christ come alongside him and support him through the ups and downs of learning to follow Christ.”
“My dad in particular developed a close relationship with him,” Tyler expounds, “and he was able to pour into him and help him through some really difficult times. I got to see my dad get involved, and I was just really blessed to see how my dad discipled me from a distance in that way. The way he sacrificially cared for Douglas and loved him well had a huge impact on me.”
Douglas got baptized at Brook Hills in 2011.
Tyler and his friends truly saw a picture of God’s love for the outcast through Connie and Douglas. “These individuals who were considered nobodies,” Tyler says, “ended up teaching me a whole lot – in learning about the way that they loved the Lord and the way that they grew in their faith, even in the midst of a really hard situation.”
In Tyler’s freshman year of college, he got a phone call from his parents. “They had heard that Connie had gotten in a car accident and had passed away. I just remember being in my dorm room and feeling such a brokenness – just weeping over it. But also, I could rejoice that this person who was homeless, that many people didn’t even consider, now he’s a king, and he’s reigning. So just to think about that, for me, that made all of it worth it.”
Tom refers to their experiences in missions overall, “They learned to step out of their comfort zones to share the gospel with hard to reach people groups. God was growing them and teaching them in the life of being on mission. This life, we have learned at Brook Hills, is both/and – BOTH here in Birmingham AND to all nations."
“God changes all of us by His Word," He continues. "The opportunities to go on mission and Brook Hills’ focus on God’s call to mission both encourage and challenge us to fulfill God’s purpose for us to share His good news with all people. Jesus and His gift of salvation is worth any cost.”
Tyler learned something important through the Bible study in downtown Birmingham and several overseas trips over the years. He says with conviction, “There isn’t some specific ‘missionary mold’ that someone has to fit in order to serve overseas or wherever you are. God can use any person, with any skill set, from any background in order to make his name known among unreached peoples.”
Tom reflects: “We have seen the power of God and His Word to change lives.”
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” – John 15:4-5
Tom and Dedy came to Brook Hills in 1991. Tom served as the first student pastor for three years in a part-time role. After their son, Tyler, was born, they continued working in student ministry (as leaders) for the next 12 years. Tom and Dedy have served as adult small group leaders since 2009, and Tom as an elder since 2015. Tyler and his wife, Sarah, currently serve in East Asia full time. To keep up with Tyler and Sarah, follow them on Instagram @werksintheharvest, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.