Not “Off the Deep End”, but “Into the Deep End”. For those of us who have ever spoken with Pastor Mike for any amount of time, we realize quickly that he has a servant’s heart. He is a man with deep passions and even deeper convictions.
I would like you to come with me into the Deep End and learn more about our Pastor.
Since I am a relative newcomer to Terrace Palms, I took an opportunity to sit down and ask Pastor lots of questions. It was such a rich time that I thought I might share some things about someone that many of you already know.
Pastor Mike has been involved with Terrace Palms almost since its inception. 19 years and counting. He is a self-effacing and humble person. Self-effacing means that he can measure whether or not he can achieve his goals, or he knows his limitations. That quality doesn’t come easily in life. He had to learn that in the midst of several circumstances as God fashioned him into the man we know today. Throughout his life up to this point, his faith in God has taught him a deep abiding love of three things: Christ, people, and His word. It is through circumstances where he had to step out in faith (even when he didn’t yet know Jesus) where he learned to be consistent and dedicated to follow God wherever He leads.
Pastor Mike’s journey in faith came through many situations over his life. For instance, when he was young, his parents divorced and he moved from the USA to Puerto Rico. Thrown into the Deep End, he had to learn how to speak, read, write, and think in Spanish almost overnight. Most of us, even if we had a reasonable grasp of Spanish, would find it a hard transition to go to school where everything is in another language.
As a young adult, he graduated high school, and he went into the military and served with the 1st Cavalry Division in the Vietnam War. Talk about being in the Deep End. His recollection of that time in his life is that it was unlike anything before or since.
After the military he met his wife Rose. They married in 1970 and later they had Michelle, their daughter.
A few years later, he started to feel that he wanted to know more about God, after all he knew that there was a God, but didn’t know much about Him. About this time he met some Mormons in his community. The Mormon missionaries spoke about their faith, and Pastor Mike felt maybe this was what he was looking for. He joined the Mormon Church because of the active nature of their faith. He saw them actually taking their faith seriously and sharing it with others. However, after 3 months he ended his membership, as he realized that their teachings were in conflict with Scripture. He realized that their “truth” was a lie. This time, his response to God’s calling him was falling in love with the scriptures. He dove into the Deep End of the Bible, trusting that God’s Word was truth, and he would never want to ever be fooled by a lie again.
Even as an adult, married, with a daughter, God called Pastor Mike to follow Him even though the trail seemed a little awkward. Before he moved to Tampa, he and his family were still living in Puerto Rico. Once he came on a trip to Tampa to visit his extended family and felt that God might be moving them here. For four years he prepared to come. When it was time, even though there was no job set up for him, he and his family stepped out in faith again. They trusted God and never looked back.
This time, the Deep End was located right here in Tampa, Florida. They moved here and waited for God to provide, and He did. He ended up getting a job that he did so well, a rival business would at one point offer him a job. It was a tough decision. He wanted to be loyal to the people who helped him take care of his family, but there was something that was leading him to take the new position. Another time to jump off into the Deep End with Pastor. Following what he heard from God, he took the new position, and found out soon after that his old job was going to be phased out and eliminated in another 6 months.
These experiences are why he is so sold out with regards to studying scripture, and teaching the scriptures. His passions come from seeing first hand what it is like when people are unprepared and are thrown into the Deep End. So many people don’t know how to tread water, much less swim. Yet, it is also in those times where we come face to face with our risen Lord and Saviour Jesus.
Pastor Mike’s passions are there because of what he knows firsthand: we need to know the truth because the truth sets us free. We cannot do it by our own intelligence or skill, but only with the words that proceed from the mouth of God. He wants us all to be prepared in case we have to fall in the Deep End in life. He wants us to come willingly into the Deep End of our relationship with Christ so that the Lord may use us to reach our neighbours, in the Temple Terrace Area, in Tampa, in Florida, and to the edges of the Earth.
Jesus in Luke 5:1-11 called out to some of the first disciples: Peter, James and John. They had just come in from a long night of fishing and hadn’t caught anything. They were tired, frustrated, and ready to try to forget the day as they went home to sleep. However, Jesus said to Simon (Peter), “Put into the deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
Peter didn’t know what to think, but he knew that Jesus had just healed his mother-in-law. So he obeyed, reluctantly and unsure of the outcome. Soon the nets were overflowing with fish! So much so, that the nets started to break, so they called to another boat to help. Then the catch was so large that the boats began to sink. Peter realized that this must have been something from God and was very afraid. But Jesus assured him, “Do not be afraid, from now on you will catch men.”
So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything, and followed Him.
God meets us in the Deep End. Pastor Mike has been learning this for a number of years, and Pastor invites us all to join him there.
(Written by Charles Dean Burbank)