MY BIG PLANS. Keith Turman
The plan to be an architect was inspired by my tenth-grade drafting teacher at the Cherokee High School. I can’t remember his name, but I remember his love for Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, and still remember the songs he would play in class while we drew at our drafting tables. He actually looked like Bob Segar. His name is probably Bob. I went off to college with this dream in my back pocket.
One day, while simply minding my own business, God shows up and changes everything. First, God changed my life, which was amazing, and then God changed my plans, which was not so amazing. It wouldn’t be the last time this sort of thing happened.
My Uncle Al was head of the Psychology department at Asbury College, so I knew he could help me figure out how to keep following Jesus as an architect. When I appeared unexpectedly for my counseling session, Uncle Al was on the bathroom floor trying to fix his toilet. So leaning against the towel rack, I shared my dilemma and quietly prayed that he could also fix my life. But to my dismay, he said, “I don’t know what to tell you. But I do know that your only hope of finding perfect joy in life is to position yourself in the center of God’s will.” So five years later, I’m enrolled at Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, unaware of the crazy journey that was about to unfold.
Chan and I started the Hillsdale United Methodist Church in our tiny living room. But we had big dreams, one of which was for me to remain Hillsdale’s pastor for twenty years. But God shows up, and everything changed. God needed missionaries, so after five years with the ‘flock that rocks’ warehouse church that we deeply loved, we’re back in Atlanta—training with the General Board of Global Ministries. Bishop Bachtiar Kwee appointed us to serve Wesley Methodist Church in the capital city of Jakarta, Indonesia. With one week of training to go before our big adventure, we receive a phone call from GBGM headquarters. “We’re not sending you to Indonesia. But we’d love for you to go to Lithuania.” We were stunned, angry, sad, and afraid, but mostly felt lost—lost in a thick fog for our future. We weren’t sure if these were God’s plans for us, but we knew for sure that regardless, God would go with us, and God would use us. So instead of life at the equator, we moved to the North Pole; instead of life with a population ninety percent Muslim, we lived in a country eighty percent Catholic; we went from contemporary worship to very traditional worship; from batik shirts to clerical collars. Crazy. But it was crazy good.
I’ve lived around Asheville most of my life, so an appointment to the Asheville District felt like coming home. The house that we bought was like a dream. The church we served was the same. After ten years with a group we deeply love, the bishop’s call to move felt like a giant pine tree crashing into a dream. My big plan was to stay in Asheville and serve Skyland for another five years, become fluent in Spanish, and take off on a missionary adventure to South America. Chan would joke with me and say, “Yeah, you and your next wife!” At least I think she was joking. But no matter: God shows up, I become your pastor, and I find myself falling in love all over again.
My new friend, Mark Sokolowski, a Polish tree guy, made the giant pine tree disappear. The carpenter should come today. My big idea is still to live in that house someday. Maybe Hurricane Irma’s gift is a not-so-subtle reminder that God might have a different idea. Dennis the Menace said to his friend Joey, “Mr. Wilson says if you want to give God a good laugh, tell him your plans for the future.”
God says through the prophet Jeremiah, “I know the plans I have for you, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”
Uncle Al was right. My journey has been, and continues to be, filled with indescribable joy. Thanks Uncle Al. I will never forget you, and your advice to flush my plans down the toilet.