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Florida Bible College - Chip Birch - Pastor - Southwest Community Church, Miami

Chip Birch Pastor - Southwest Community Church, Miami

The image of fun, sun, and a new adventure helped bring me to Florida Bible College back in 1972! Most might think that is why I went, but what was not obvious to family or friends was the turmoil within my soul! Few knew that I had applied to serve in the Peace Corps and that their rejection had me shaken. I had the perfect background for a project in South America and thought it would be a formality to be placed in that field. Little did I know that using God words in your application would result with a closed door! But the living God closes and opens doors, especially when we seek God in prayer and ask the important of questions, Why am I here? Followed by, What do you want me to do?

I was introduced to Jesus by my family. Years later, I heard the assurance message of the Gospel at Youth Ranch in Pennsylvania. An FBC grad had a large group of teens meeting weekly in a home about twenty minutes from our house in Glenolden. Somehow my brothers found this group and were regular attenders. I resisted their repeated invitations to attend with them each time I returned home on school break. But God had something I needed to hear and, when I did finally go, the message was loud and clear! Jesus offered eternal life through faith in Him and, once you trust Him, you are as saved at that moment as you will ever be! God's love described I John 4:10 was the center of Rick's message that eventful night!

Immediately after the session closed, I went out on the porch to catch a smoke. Rick came out and offered me a soft drink. He asked me if I understood what he had been talking about and why I raised my hand at his invitation to trust Christ. I looked at him through my John Lennon glasses and sporting my long hair, to respond curtly with, "Yeah, do you think I am stupid?"

Rick had little to affirm from my response. I was a worldly person in every way, but what Rick and nobody else saw was the entrance of the Holy Spirit into me. Outwardly, nothing much showed, but inside was a different story! God had started something very real in me, whether it was obvious at that time or not. I went back to the university to finish the last half of my senior year. Then I began asking God the questions of the opening lines, but heard nothing back. So I concluded to just use my talents and training to help people and did the Peace Corps application process.

A couple of months later, after the death of my grandfather and an invitation of my brother Bill and his wife Janine, I was on a plane to Miami and a visit at Florida Bible College, recently resettled in Hollywood, Fl. I was overwhelmed by the friendly people, who seemed to have genuine interest in the souls of people. Students didn't just learn about the Bible, they went out daily talking with strangers in the community, winning friends and leading a great number to faith in Christ! I had never seen anything like it and my heart was full of a new joy and purpose.

Attending Chapels and reading books over the next few months made it clear to me, I needed to enroll and learn as much about the Bible as I could! Further graduate study in Marine Science was put on hold until further notice! A new life and adventure had begun. God slowly transformed me from the inside out, using memorized Scripture coupled with live training in the working world. It was a total reformation of what I used to be and value into something I had never considered. God used the faculty, the guest speakers, the student body, and ministry opportunities to engrain the Word into my very being.

But the best was yet to come! Meeting my wife Linda was the crowning mark of my time at FBC, providing a like-minded partner to share the long journey of life! She had gone all four years at Florida Bible, preparing to serve the Lord wherever He desired. By God's grace we have journeyed together for nearly forty years! Along the way the Lord added five children and fourteen grandchildren to our quiver. We are looking forward to finishing the race together, as God provides the life, strength and opportunity! It is for His glory and that is all that matters!

Pastor - Southwest Community Church, Miami


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