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By Carolyn Hittenberger
A casual observer would have labeled Paul Mead a fairly typical kid. After his parents divorced when he was three years old, his grandmother was his primary caregiver. In high school he maintained an average academic record in order to keep playing sports. Like many young people, however, on the inside Paul was broken and empty. He used to sit and try to imagine what a great life would look like.
Not raised in a Christian home, his only moral guide was his own understanding. He says that his choices, “always ended up in failure, leading to more emptiness and brokenness. Satan seemed to allow me just enough moments of happiness to keep me headed down the road to destruction.” Searching for something to fill that gnawing void deep inside, Paul bounced from city to city and job to job, tasting a variety of philosophical and spiritual concepts. Alcohol and drug abuse became a way of life.
In 1991 while working for a roofing company in NY, Paul fell 30 feet to the ground, crushing both heels and breaking both ankles. After two years of hospitals, surgeries, wheelchairs and therapy he learned to walk again, but fell into deep depression and more drug use.
He was awarded $500,000.00 from the accident. Paul wasted all of the money on a sinful lifestyle, with crack cocaine his drug of choice. He was in and out of jail and in and out of drug rehab. He periodically entered Teen Challenge programs, quitting each time. Within three years of his financial windfall, he was on the streets of Albany, NY, homeless and broke.
In March of 1998 Paul was once again in rehab, one of those attempt/failure cycles. While searching for answers he attended a local church where he met a young lady named Sharon. They formed a friendship which led to marriage in November 1999. After an extended period of sobriety, in February of 2000, Paul returned to Albany and right back into crack cocaine. The marriage was annulled in March. Sharon returned to her nursing career. In 2001 Paul once again entered Teen Challenge and once again quit. He was back on the streets and concluded that there is where he would die.
On a cold and rainy December 4, 2002 as he sat on the corner of Clinton Street in Albany, dressed in shoes, no socks, a T shirt and a hat - the sum total of his belongings - Paul remembered the phone number for Teen Challenge in Syracuse, NY. Director Dave Pilch answered his call. Paul asked if he could come back. The response is permanently engraved in Paul’s heart. “Of course you can. We love Paul Mead.”
He reentered the program. On December 22 the Teen Challenge team took a group to Faith Chapel in Syracuse, NY. While the praise team sang … how can it be that you, my King, would die for me? Paul cried out and experienced a life changing encounter with God. He recalls, “I literally saw Jesus open a door to my heart and walk in. The vision is as clear today as it was that day.” The emptiness he had felt was filled as Jesus entered his life, revealing His plans and purposes for Paul. Though he didn’t know much about what the Bible said, he knew there were promises that were meant for him to embrace.
The Lord began speaking to him regarding ministry. Though he had no clue just what would be involved, that inaudible, undeniable, irresistible voice prompted an immediate positive response. Paul never doubted the veracity of the call. His only questions were about “how.”
At Teen Challenge he sang in the chorus that travelled in ministry. Paul was responsible for calling pastors to schedule meetings for the group. He made a call to the Gospel Lighthouse Church in Hudson Falls, NY. The pastor was kind but did not schedule a service. However, he told Paul, “When you finish the program at Teen Challenge, if you have nowhere to go you can come here.” Paul did just that! He stayed in the extra bedroom of a man in the church. In small steps he grew into ministry in that local church. He began teaching Bible studies, learning and growing by experience.
He had tried on several occasions to reconnect with Sharon, but she returned his letters and told him she never wanted to hear from him again. He didn’t give up. In February 2003 he tried once more and was refused. When a well-known evangelist scheduled a meeting in Clifton Park, NY, near Albany, a group from the church planned to attend. Once more Paul called Sharon, asking her to go with them. She accepted and the group picked her up in the church van. When the altar call was given, Sharon prayed, “God, if only I could know that you love me....” She went forward to pray. The evangelist walked directly to her and said, “Hi, Sis, you are the bride of Christ and he wants you to know that he loves you.” Another life transformed!
Paul and Sharon were remarried on June 15, 2003. When Paul talked to her about his call to ministry she told him that there had been times in her life when she had considered the thought that she might one day be a pastor’s wife. Before it ever seemed likely, God was preparing her heart. When God orchestrates the details of our lives, beautiful harmony results.
Paul knew that ministry is not just a book-learned ability. Still, he recognized his need for Holy Spirit anointed training. A minister on staff at the church told Paul about Global University. When he saw that it was an accredited program and he could study while still working to support his family, he immediately enrolled. He studied two hours every day. He says, “Each class spoke to my heart through the Holy Spirit and prepared me to enter the ministry. GU was there for me when times were tough. There was always a calming voice on the other end of the phone when I felt lost and unable to continue my education. There was no “distance” in my “distance learning process.” In 2007 he completed the required courses for his Certificate to Ministry. He was granted his Ministerial License in 2008. He graduated and was a class speaker at Global University in 2010 and was ordained with the Assemblies of God in 2011.
Paul and Sharon joined the staff at Gospel Lighthouse Church as children’s pastors in 2004. When the pastoral position came open in 2007, Paul was elected to fill the vacancy. He laid on the floor of the sanctuary and said, “Lord, I don’t have a clue.” God’s response was, “Just go tell the people what I did for you and tell them I’ll do it for them, too. I’ll take care of everything else.” God calls and enables! He has given Paul the wisdom to minister to the congregation by following the leading of the Holy Spirit. Preparations are now complete to bring in Teen Challenge men who are called to ministry and begin training them through Global University.
His encouragement to others is this, “I’m just an ordinary guy who has been touched by God in an extraordinary way. Without the opportunity to study through Global University, I would have had a call on my life yet still be searching. Global University was the arrow that enabled me to hit the bull’s-eye of God’s perfect purpose, plan and promise for my life.”