Jewel-sized droplets of rain begin to pitter-patter on Sam Thompson’s* head. A pesky bumblebee zooming around briefly interrupts his thoughts, but the disturbances are only external. His unwavering calm exudes from a place deep within, and he continues to recall memories of the long journey he’s made to his peaceful haven. He didn’t need feet for his travels because the journey was one made by his heart and soul. This foggy trek was one to his savior, Jesus Christ.
The aspiring ministry worker is at a good point in his life. An onlooker may be surprised at this 22-year-old Indian American’s peace of mind considering what he has been through. In the last year his parents ceased to support him financially, and somewhat emotionally, because he found a way to disappoint them. No, Thompson didn’t get arrested, impregnate a girl, or even fail a class. His crime was a decision to pursue ministry work full-time.
The once pre-med student found his calling doing God’s work full-time, much to his family’s disapproval – even though religion is central in their home. Though he regrets the estrangement from his family, he outwardly gives off no signal of sadness because, he says, Jesus is on his side.
Born into a Pentecostal Christian family, Thompson says Jesus always had a special place in his life. He grew up attending church in the New York suburb of Queens and in Dallas, Texas where his family lives now. The people mostly around him were all Christian, and he loved it. Going to church, reading his Bible, saying his prayers everyday – this was a way of life.
As a child, he dreamed of becoming a paleontologist or an archaeologist – maybe even a forensic scientist. His traditional Indian family encouraged a career in medicine. He reconsidered and settled on his family’s suggestion. It was safe, and he would have a stable career. Thompson had always wanted to help people with whatever he did, and becoming a doctor would fulfill his dream to heal the sick and help the less fortunate. Still, he wanted to go a step further; he wanted to do God’s work. Then, in high school, he had an epiphany.
“It dawned on me to be a medical missionary,” he remembers. “This would satisfy that desire in me to do ministry work, [while satisfying] what everyone thought I should be doing in life – mainly [something in] medicine.”
Thompson says his religious family supported his decision, but one condition hadn’t changed: he had to stick with medicine. For years he fulfilled their wishes and continued steadfastly on the road to becoming Dr. Thompson. After all, the Bible commands Christians to “Honor thy mother and thy father…” and Thompson was no one to disobey his Lord’s word.
Fast forward to his college years: Thompson relished in freedom like any normal 18-year-old. He studied and partied, and had some carefree fun. Old ways died hard, though, and Thompson always remembered to check off reading his Bible and saying his prayers the daily to-do list. Being a good Christian was still important to him as ever.
God came knocking halfway through Thompson’s college career while he was at an Urbana conference, a national meeting of intervarsity students to learn about local and international missionary work. Unprepared for the heavenly calling he was about to receive, Thompson said his world was thrown off its axis.
“At that point, I kind of felt God tugging at my heart to do full-time ministry,” Thompson says.
Confused about whether God was really speaking to him, or it was a manifestation of his self-doubt to work in medicine, Thompson continued on the path he had originally set out for himself. Thompson says God paid him another visit a year and half later. This time doubt had no home in his heart, and he knew what he had to do.
“I was at this retreat, and I had to kind of ask God, ‘What are some areas of my life I’m not giving up to?’ I’m sitting there thinking and I heard [something] just short of the audible voice of God say, ‘Your future is Me,’ and that just floored me. [I was] brought to my knees in tears.”
Thompson recalls experiencing spiritual enlightenment juxtaposed with a surge of sheer panic. He was in disbelief that God was speaking to him but couldn’t help wondering about the uncertainty of his new future.
“I thought – oh my gosh, I’m going to have to give up this career and this future that I was banking on to pay off my college loans. I didn’t know how to tell my parents.”
Thompson changed his major from biology to religious studies soon thereafter, much to his parents’ disapproval. They told him they would no longer support him financially if he didn’t get back on his original track to medical school. Thompson, torn between honoring his parents’ wishes and following his heart, chose the rockier path. Although he felt like he was, in a way, going against God’s word to honor his parents’ wishes, he was also certain he was being led down another path.
The chasm led to great heartache for Thompson, which was soon made worse by his financial problems. He was eventually forced dropped out of school and began working full-time as a salesman to support his living expenses. The economic distress and estrangement from his parents has unsurprisingly taken a toll on Thompson, but his strong spirit and faith in God keep him treading on.
A close friend and mentor, Josh Smith* of Austin, has been a source of comfort for Thompson through the process because his circumstances were very similar. Smith said his own calling from God and subsequent rift from his family years ago have helped him guide Thompson through his rough patch.
“Brice’s faith should be giving him confidence to work through this hard time,” Smith says in an e-mail interview. “Nowhere is it promised in the Bible by God that just because you follow Him, it will be like living in paradis. I’m sure Jesus is comforting him through this situation and will teach him valuable lessons that will help him as his life continues.”
Thompson hopes one day he will be able to attend seminary and become a missionary. For the time being, he finds solace in singing and playing music. Some days he writes poetry or writes in his journal. Mostly though, he keeps faith – endless, unwavering faith that eventually the broken pieces of his life will fall into place, and he will walk hand in hand with his savior.
His journey ahead may seem formidable to some, but for Thompson, the difficult path is long behind him. His life’s purpose is crystal clear, and that’s enough for now.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy