Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Profile: Father Lee Nelson
I grew up in the Episcopal Church, my parents having gone through incredible conversions when I was about three years old. Through the power of the prayers of a little parish in Federal Way, Washington... not only was my dad healed from deadly spinal meningitis, but both my mom and dad were brought to faith in the Lord Jesus. When I was 15 years old, I found myself praying in a church following the Stations of the Cross. We were living in Texas then, and I had never really made the Faith my own. As I was “praying” (I was really praying to be able to escape the church without looking stupid.), I was hit with the Gospel. I understood, in a moment, that Jesus really had died for me. That He really did love me. Right then and there, I gave my life to Him, without reservation. That was August 19th, 1995.
Well, I threw myself into the Church, the life of my parish, getting into everything I could. God took this insignificant scrawny teenager who was really kind of shallow and made him into a leader. To make a long story short, I enrolled at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas and studied business, thinking that I might be called to the priesthood, but that that was for people in their 40s, and it would be a long time coming. In my junior year, I applied for all kinds of internships in the business world, but quickly became disillusioned, deciding to scrap the idea and apprentice myself to a priest for the summer. I didn’t even know how this would happen, but then I heard a sermon. The sermon was given by a professor of mine, an Assemblies of God preacher who also taught marketing. Go figure. Well, he was preaching on Acts 16, which tells the story of Saint Paul at the very end of a journey through Asia Minor. He wants to go to Bithynia, but the Scriptures tell us that “they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them;” (Acts 16:7) What ends up happening is that Paul, unable to go to Bithynia, winds up going to Europe instead. Paul has his eyes set on this great city of Bithynia, but God has plans to take him across the Bosphorus to Europe, where the Gospel spreads like wildfire. The point of the sermon is that sometimes God takes you where you don’t really want to go because His plans are greater than yours. Well, the following Monday, I received a call from Harley-Davidson Motor Company in Milwaukee asking me to work for them for a summer doing retail supply management. So I went. I didn’t want to (can you imagine that!), but I did anyway.
At this point, I should tell you that my numbers-oriented brain was perfect for this job, but my heart was not in it. In fact, I hated it. And, when I returned to school for that fall, I sat down and wrote a letter to Bishop Iker. The letter basically told him that I could no longer pursue anything but the priesthood, and asked for his guidance. That was all it asked for - guidance. Well, I didn’t send the letter. I hung on to it and read it at least once a week, sometimes many times in one day. In October, Harley-Davidson offered me a job. We were at a BBQ joint in College Station, and on hearing the numbers, I nearly choked on my brisket! I turned it down, and the following week - I sent the letter.
After two long, agonizing weeks without reply, Bishop Iker replied in an e-mail. It was short. “Would you like to go to seminary in the fall? Let’s meet up.” It said. I hadn’t really even thought about that! But, after graduating from college that spring (having gone through the Commission on Ministry commuting back and forth each weekend), I packed my bags for Nashotah House, and drove up there - the same route I took to get to Harley Davidson in Milwaukee, but this time for a different destiny. I had $300 in cash in my pocket, and that was about it. The Lord provided! Looking back on this time, I can say that He took me to the top of one mountain to show me another one.
In the spring of my second year at Nashotah House, I met Ela Grace McIntosh, who a little more than a year later would be my wife. We met in a coffee shop, and she is everything I could ask for. She sees her vocation as praying for me and raising our children to be saints. We currently have two kids. Moira is a very precocious and bold two-year old girl and Oliver was born eight weeks ago.
I currently serve at Saint Laurence Church in Southlake, Texas, where I have been for over three years, serving as the Youth and Family Minister. I have been there since I graduated from seminary. In fact, I was ordained there on August 20th, 2005, a full ten years and one day since that experience that changed my life. I serve a group of junior-high, senior-high, and college students who are simply marvelous, inspiring Christians. In my time at the parish, we have focused on four areas with them - Mission, Catechesis, Fellowship, and Worship. We engage them in Mission, being a part of what God is doing in the world and being evangelists with their lives. We engage them in Catechesis - filling them with the Christian knowledge necessary to be disciples in this world. We engage them in fellowship by sharing our lives with them. Lastly, we engage them in worship - offering our lives to God in prayer and liturgy.
During this time, I have served on the diocesan Youth Ministry Advisory Committee, which has rolled out a diocese-wide plan for parish youth ministry. I have served on the Happening Steering Committee, which puts together a weekend program for senior high youth, and also on the faculty of the Saint Michael’s Conference (http://www.stmichaelsw.org). One of the exciting things I have been involved with is the Anglican Communion Network’s Children & Youth Initiative, particularly the Youth Summit, which meets twice a year and is a group of about 30 youth workers. I am currently involved in preparing a new Anglican catechism for North America. As well, I was blessed to attend the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in Jerusalem in the summer of 2008. Concurrently with this, I’m working on youth catechism curriculum which will be part of an organization which is conceptually called “Youth Formation Ministries.” This was sprouted out of Christian Formation Ministries, which has developed similar materials now available in ten languages used in places like Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Southeast Asia, and Mexico. The curriculum is about 2/3s complete, and I’m looking forward to seeing what God will do with it.
When it comes to this diocese, we have a great thing going - we teach and believe and practice the faith once delivered to the saints and no other. We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ can not only change lives, but draws us into eternal fellowship with himself in Heaven. When the secular world attacks this belief, we hang onto it for life. I'm glad to be part of a group of young priests in this diocese who all hold, without wavering, this faith.