Contact Info Subscribe Links



Gone to Goen


An Alabama truck driver searching for God's will swaps his big rig for a duty station in the men's dormitory at Free Will Baptist Bible College.


Gone to Goen

by Michael Oliver


Sometimes, I still can’t believe the sweeping changes that started 11 years ago when I thought I had life all figured out. God stepped in, opened one door, closed another, stirred the mix, and unwrapped surprise after surprise, until my family and I moved from a rural parsonage to a men’s dormitory at Free Will Baptist Bible College. Instead of having two sons, I suddenly had 80 young men looking to me for direction. Here’s how it happened.


How I Got Here

My home church (Sulphur Springs Free Will Baptist Church in Northport, Alabama) voted to “set me aside” as a deacon in September 1999. I sought God’s will, understanding that church leadership demanded high standards of spiritual and personal conduct, especially for an ordained deacon.

After a season of prayer and confirmation through a message preached by Evangelist Fred Warner, I surrendered to God’s calling on January 15, 2000—not to be a deacon, but to preach the gospel and get a biblical education. A few weeks later, my pastor and his wife (John and Ann Reed) gave me my first tour of Free Will Baptist Bible College.

The decision to attend FWBBC was complicated, because I was no longer single, 18, and living at home. I was 25, owned a dump truck, and lived on the outskirts of Northport with my wife Kim and one-year-old son, the first grandson on both sides of our family.

I was hesitant about relocating to Nashville, knowing it would mean a change of lifestyle and taking our son away from nearby grandparents. I was pulled in two directions. My flesh said, “You do not need to go to Nashville; look how good you have it.”
The Spirit said, “Come, follow Me.”

Seven months later as I sat in Dr. Garnett Reid’s Old Testament Survey class, I thought to myself, “Look how humble you are. You left your home, family, and friends to follow Jesus.”

But there was one thing I did not forsake. I held a tight grip on my security blanket—that maroon Kenworth dump truck. Kim and I agreed we could not make it financially if I sold the truck. Surely God did not want me to forsake the Kenworth! Boy, oh boy, was I in for a life lesson.

Doing things my way instead of the Lord’s way, I was out of control and out of my comfort zone. And that’s exactly where God wanted me, completely dependent on Him. Unfortunately,

I’m a slow learner, and some lessons had to be repeated several times before I finally got it. Spiritual, emotional, financial, and physical challenges began popping up from every direction. I hated it.

Things got so bad during the fall 2000 semester that we moved back to Alabama in order to make ends meet. The spring 2001 semester found me commuting 600 miles roundtrip twice a week in the maroon Kenworth, hauling freight from Alabama to Tennessee in the early morning hours and attending classes afterward. One semester of long-distance commuting was all I could take.

That led to a five-year break in my education, as I trucked grain and rock up and down the interstates. I was also a part-time pastor during that time, but FWBBC was constantly on my mind. I sold the Kenworth in 2005. A few months later, Terry Forrest (Pastoral Ministry program coordinator at FWBBC) called about an open youth pastor position at Olivet Free Will Baptist Church in Clarksville, Tennessee.

We moved into the Olivet Church parsonage on October 1, 2005, and I returned to FWBBC classes in the spring of 2006—this time with Kim, two sons (Seth, age 6; Jon-Albert, age 3), and confidence that the Lord’s plans were better than mine. I was finally back on track and in the Lord’s will. While I was not the typical student and probably looked out of place at times, I was where God wanted me, ministering the gospel and getting a solid biblical education.

Of course, there were bumps along the way, but we persevered. I had learned a valuable lesson from my mother who raised my sister and me after Dad died—if you want anything with eternal value, you must sacrifice. So that’s what we did. The result? In May 2011, I graduated with a BS degree in General Christian Ministries.


What I Do Here

While enrolled at FWBBC, I worked in the college’s cleaning and advancement departments. I now serve a dual role as administrative assistant in institutional advancement and men’s resident director.

Several people approached me after I accepted the job as resident director, saying, “Congratulations on becoming men’s RD; I’ll be praying for you…and especially your wife.”
I remember thinking, “What have I gotten into?”

Transitioning from a family of four in a rural church parsonage to a three-story building with 80 young men was a radical change. I was not concerned so much about me but for Kim. She was the one who trusted me saying, “Wherever you lead I will follow, even if it means moving our family from a cozy country setting to a men’s dormitory in the city.”

Did I have reason to be concerned? Yes! We had less living space, no room for our kitchen table, a lack of privacy, and no opportunity to sit on the front porch, which my wife loves to do. Kim and I talked hours about how hard family life was. We no longer had kitchen table discussions; the boys missed their dogs, trampoline, and four-wheeler. My cell phone seemed to ring or receive a text message every 10 minutes. But that first year in Goen Hall (men’s dormitory) turned out to be a blessing for our entire family.

The guys living in Goen called often to ask if Seth and Jon-Albert would like to have a Nerf war, throw a football, or practice basketball. They included our boys in as many activities as possible. What a blessing they are to our family.


Who I Serve Here

A week before the guys moved into Goen Hall, I was walking across campus when Wayne Spruill, FWBBC’s director of institutional research, stopped me: “Brother, if there’s any advice I can give you on being resident director, it’s this—love those guys. Sure they need discipline, but they need to be loved.”

That’s what I did. It has been two years since I became resident director, and what I’m witnessing on campus is the result of loving these young men, listening to them, advising them, counseling them, helping them get jobs, and treating them like young men want to be treated.

The Guys of Goen Hall thrive on love. The more they are loved, the more they respond. Theirs is not just a surface, jittery emotion disguised as love. These young men are encased with a genuine love for the Lord, and the spirit of the whole campus is changing because of it. Who gets the credit? God does!


God Is at Work Here

I’m convinced that God is at work here. The Holy Spirit enriches our lives as we submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. I not only serve FWBBC, but I also pastor Stoney Point Free Will Baptist Church in nearby Vanleer. Kim is now a junior at FWBBC; our sons (Seth, 12 and Jon-Albert, 9) attend Pleasant View Christian School. Looking back, I can’t believe that 11 years ago I wasted so much time and energy thinking that God needed my help planning everything. I thank Him every day for being gracious to our family.

God also has plans for the Guys of Goen. It’s exciting to see young men committed to God’s will. Many have forsaken family, friends, and jobs to attend FWBBC. Their sacrifice reminds me of the words of 21-year-old Free Will Baptist evangelist John Colby when he left family and friends to do the Lord’s will.

On November 14, 1809, Colby wrote: “O must I now leave, must I now be separated from all my natural connections in life? Yes, I am constrained so to do! The worth of souls lay upon me, I cannot rest. I must bid farewell to my kind parents and their home: take my life in my hand, and go forth into the wilderness world and pay the Lord my vows.”

As He did with John Colby 200 years ago, God is transforming the Guys of Goen into the image of Christ, shaping them into ministers for His Kingdom. He wants their willing hearts and obedient minds, and that’s what the Guys of Goen have to offer. I’m thankful to be affiliated with these young men, and I’m honored to call them my brothers.


About the Writer: Michael Oliver serves as administrative assistant in Free Will Baptist Bible College’s institutional advancement office and as men’s resident director. He graduated in May 2011 with a bachelor’s degree and plans to pursue a master’s degree this fall.



©2011 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists