From highways to heaven

Thu, 2012-07-26 11:32 -- univcomm
Dan Turner said his decision to become a minister came a few years ago while driving down Interstate 70 in a Dodge pickup. He’d thought about it before, first as a child, and later as an adult. But then, he said, it was more of a nagging in the back of his mind, asking him if there was more he could do with his life. The 30-year-old, who graduated with a Masters in Divinity from Anderson University’s School of Theology, will soon start a new life as a minister with a small Church of God parish at National Memorial Church of God in Washington, D.C. It’s a life that’s quite different from the career track he’d been on before enrolling at AU in 2001. A graduate from both undergraduate and master’s programs in civil engineering at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, Turner had his career and future set working in Washington, D.C. for the Federal Highway Department doing transportation research.

“They referred to me as the golden boy in my office in D.C.,” Turner said.

But his life took a turn when he moved back to his native, Lenoir, N.C., to be with his family after finding out his father was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

“That was what I needed was a transition,” Turner said, reflecting on how he made his career change. “It would have been really hard to step out of a job I really loved and making a good salary.”

So his decision to go to seminary was a leap of not just career, but faith.

“I’d rather be doing what God wants me to do than have the security of a job,” Turner said.

He started contacting seminaries in early 2001, enrolled at AU that fall and found himself trading in a newer model truck for a Honda Civic hatchback.

Turner found a new set of challenges in seminary. Having come from a mathematically oriented background, where x+y equals an answer, Turner said theological questions just lead to more questions.

“It just frustrated me to death my first year,” Turner said.

Turner said he used to think there was an answer to everything but learned if there is an answer, it’s not always an easy one.

Turner also had to get used to the mountain of reading required. As an engineer, the work was largely hands-on. But in seminary, Turner had books about religion, leadership and many other things to equip him in ministry.

“I feel like in so many ways, how little I know and I’ve realized how much I have to learn,” Turner said.

Turner said he would like to keep a hand in engineering, perhaps in contracting work. He said that career might give him a different perspective on ministry.

“I think engineering has given me a way to look systematically at things,” Turner said.

He said it might give him insight on how to help others with problems by breaking things down one step at a time.

Besides graduating, this is a year of more big things in Turner’s life. He and his wife, Kristie, who graduated from AU’s seminary last year, will celebrate their first anniversary and they are preparing to move to Turner’s new job at the church.

“It’s exciting to think about moving, but also a little scary,” Kristie said.

She said it’s good to see how much Turner has changed.

“When he talks about the person he was and who he is now is totally different,” said Kristie about Turner’s change in focus to people and relationships than having the right car and clothes.

Rev. Dr. John A. Young, pastor at St. Matthew’s Methodist Church in Anderson, where Turner has been the youth pastor for three years, said he believed Turner has made an impact on the youth program. He started a puppet ministry where the older youth do puppet shows for the younger children.

“He’s really fun, he comes up with a lot of creative ways of teaching us, said Young’s son, Jordan, 17. “It keeps us guessing, you know. It’s not the same old stuff.”

Young said he believed Turner will do well at his new job.

“He works well with young people and old people, everybody at the church will miss him from our 93 year old to the small children,” Turner said.

-- Writer Kate House is a reporter for the Anderson Herald-Bulletin.