God's Dynamic Will
Paul Garrison graduated from Nazarene Bible College in 1976, along with his wife, Diane. He remembers his NBC professors fondly. It is amazing the impact that a professor can have on one’s life. Paul’s most impactful teacher was Dr. Charles Baldwin, his New Testament teacher. He learned Greek from him, and Paul told how Dr. Baldwin poured knowledge into him.
He remembers his Pastoral Practice professor, Dr. Milo Arnold. Even today, more than 45 years later, Paul remembers a quote from Dr. Arnold, “The world is such an adventure, I don’t want to get off.”
Professor Norman Oke and his wife taught him to “keep moving forward” and that “vision comes before provision.” These thoughts gave Paul such a foundation for being a pastor.
Professor, Dr. T Crichton Mitchell was a scholar who specialized in Charles Wesley. He took the doctrine of holiness apart, piece by piece, Biblically, for his students. Paul will never forget being in his class. He remembers Dr. Mitchell sharing, “The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart!”
Paul said that some pastors have long pastoral stays, whereas, he had the pleasure of going many places.
Paul worked as Pastor in the Nazarene Student Center at Oklahoma State University. He helped in raising funds for the Student Center. He told of how a Salvadorian couple came through the Student Center with no connection to anyone in the US. They came to the US on a Student Visa. When they walked through the doors of the Student Center, they experienced Nazarene care for the first time.
The Salvadoran Civil War broke out after the husband had graduated, returned home, and was teaching at the San Salvador University. This prestigious position made him a target. By the time all of this had happened, and the couple was able to contact Paul, they had moved to Ponca City, Oklahoma for Paul to pastor Trinity Church of the Nazarene.
The Salvadorian couple had had a horrific time. They were harassed, a brother was killed, and their 3 boys were killed as well. Through Paul’s and Diane’s appeal to the State Department for political asylum for them, and through a miracle from God, this couple was helped and received political asylum.
Paul also worked for the Nazarene Publishing House in Kansas City, becoming the Managing Field Representative after George Rice retired. He loved that job, and in this capacity, Paul got to travel to District Assemblies across North America presenting Christian literature, especially, literature that explained holiness of heart.
When Paul’s first wife, Diane, became ill, Paul had to stay home to take care of her and their children. He started his own remodeling business. He had already attended NBC, and MidAmerica, and Baker University, getting Bachelor and Master’s degrees. God had prepared him for this time in his life. By the time he was 13, he knew so much about construction. So, later in life, Paul was able to excel in repair and remodeling, and eventually, build new homes.
In the fall of 1997, their lives took a turn through a lunch with Nazarene missionary couple, David and Jody Cooper. The Coopers were the Regional Work and Witness Coordinators for the Mexico and Central America region of the Church of the Nazarene and were returning to Guatemala after their home deputation. They needed a driver for their second car. Paul agreed to drive their car, following them from Texas, through Mexico, to Guatemala. At one point of the trip to Guatemala, there was a very close call. God allowed two cars and a truck to pass on a very narrow road, all at the same time, three vehicles deep – an impossibility. If God had not intervened miraculously, it would have been tragic, Paul said, especially because the Cooper’s daughter was driving in his car with him at that time. Paul was in Guatemala for 6 weeks helping build cabinets and had a lot of alone time which he spent with God and his Bible. In the stillness, Paul received a missionary call from God. He felt an assurance which he called a “witness of the Holy Spirit.”
God had an important encounter in store for Paul with Africa Regional Director, Dr. Richard Zanner. Unbeknownst to Paul, Dr. Zanner was looking for a missionary with skills in three areas: construction, religion, and business. Paul had life long experience in construction, graduated from Mid-America Nazarene in religion, and got an MBA from Baker University. Dr. Zanner spoke with Paul at the General Board in 1998 about his dream of building a Nazarene University in Nairobi, Africa. After prayer, the position was accepted, and Paul and his wife, Diane, went to Nairobi to take on the task of Work and Witness Coordinators for the Construction of Africa Nazarene University's administration building. They were there in 1998-1999. Then, the doors opened for them to go on to Ethiopia.
There was a need in South Ethiopia, in the Sidomo region. Paul worked with Missionary Howie Shute during the time when there was a move of the Holy Spirit like in the book of Acts. Starting with five preaching points in South Sidomo, 200 house churches were planted. The vision was for each pastor to train a pastor and for each pastor to plant a planting church. The church was growing so fast. There was one time when Paul preached to a gathering of 10,000 people on a hillside using the Jesus Film. They saw God use the Jesus Film to win thousands to Christ.
West Ethiopia, the Gambela Region, needed a training center. God impressed on Paul’s heart a Tabernacle Style “Training Center” with classrooms in the front for students. It was to hold 3,000 people. The Ethiopian government gave them 1 square kilometer (247 acres) of land. Runners were sent out that announced the free Bible classes, food, and housing. One man was so hungry for learning that he walked for 2 weeks to get to a place he could ride a boat for 2 days, then travel 3 days by truck, and 2 days by bus. This student spoke a language no one knew; requiring three translators to be understood. He stayed for six months while other students would stay two weeks, learn, and then go back the same way they came, traveling up to three weeks to get back to their homes. This student had traveled across Southern Sudan from way over by the country of Chad.
Diane was a nurse, and at one point was the ranking medical person in Gambela. For about a three-hundred-mile radius, she was the go-to medical person. When Paul would go to see pastors, Diane went to teach village health and check on medical needs. Diane also traveled to Northern Somalia to minister to 356 children at an orphanage in Hargeisa. She gave medical and spiritual care they had never had.
Diane contracted ovarian cancer and two other types of cancers. During this time, they returned to the United States from Africa. Paul got his certification as a hospice chaplain. Paul was certified in hospice chaplaincy in 2002. Diane died on June 13, 2008 after they had been married thirty-six years. Paul described her as the type of person we hope to meet when we think of heart holiness. They had two children, Wes and Erika, who both live in Olathe, KS.
Four years later, God gave Paul, Linda. Linda was born and raised in the Northwest Missouri area and lives to please God. Her first husband had a heart attack and died suddenly. Both of Paul’s children encouraged him to find someone to love, so with their help and a profile on Christian Mingle, Linda and Paul began to date and found God's will for their lives. Paul shared that Linda is a Bible scholar in her own right.
Paul’s life verses are: “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it… So, Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…” (Ephesians 4:7, 11, 12)
NBCommunicator Editor, Rev. Susan McKeithen
Filed Under: Communicator Published: 02/23/2021