January 27th, 2008 10:29 EST
US Navy Provides Sailor Opportunity to Pursue Music Ministry Career
By Army Sgt. Laura M. Bigenho
28th Public Affairs Detachment
Alexandria, Va. (Army News Service) - Joining the military opens a variety of options for servicemembers. For one Sailor, it meant having the opportunity to fulfill his dream of being a worship minister. Navy Yeoman 3rd Class Joe Smith, C3 Operations administration clerk, Multi-National Corps-Iraq, said he enlisted because it was a good way to pay for his education.
The Jonesboro, Ga., native said the GI Bill and tuition assistance will cover about three-fourths of his 4-year education. Like many high school graduates, Smith initially set out to do something he later discovered he did not like.
“I originally wanted to go into politics, so when I joined the Navy, I requested to be stationed in Washington, D.C.,” Smith said. “I quickly learned that it wasn’t for me.”
Smith was searching for a home church when he came across Calvary Road Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va. Smith said he knew he had found the right one the moment he walked in. “It just clicked instantly,” he said. “I knew that was where the Lord wanted me to be.” Stemming from a family of musicians, Smith said music has always been in his blood. He decided to go back to those roots by pursuing a degree in two of his greatest passions: music and ministry.
“For me, music has always been intimate,” Smith said. “The thought of bringing people into that kind of environment for God just kind of blew my mind.” Smith’s pastor helped him pursue his dream by introducing him to Liberty University. Knowing he wanted to complete some education while enlisted, Smith started working toward a degree in worship leadership.
Smith completed his first year of school when he received an e-mail from the Navy seeking volunteers to deploy. Smith told his chain of command he wanted to go.
“I was tired of seeing on the news that there are people who have deployed three or four times while I was sitting back in my office,” Smith said. “I felt it was time for me to do something for real.” Although his deployment put his education on hold, Smith still finds time to sing and has gained experience leading in worship as a member of the Joyful Noez Praise Team here. Army Capt. Glen Renfree, MNC-I field artillery battle captain, has worked with Smith both on the praise team and in the workplace. He said one of Smith’s best attributes is his willingness to take initiative.
“He will not hesitate to bring up good ideas or more efficient ways of accomplishing tasks, showing the kind of initiative I would expect out of an NCO,” Renfree said. The Lawton, Okla., native said Smith’s unique voice sets him apart from his peers. “What sets his voice apart is that unlike the rest of us who tend to lose power as we sing higher, (Smith’s) voice actually gains strength the higher he sings.”
Smith said although he never imagined being in Iraq, he is thankful for the time he has here to grow as a Christian and to help others in the process. “Ultimately, when the day is done, I want to know that I have helped bring someone to that place where it’s just them and God,” he said. “To bring people into an intimate environment where they’re not worried about who’s around is just an awesome feeling.” Smith said he looks forward to fulfilling his military obligation next year and returning to school.
Renfree said he is confident Smith will succeed in doing so. “He’ll develop into the kind of worship pastor everyone will want to sing and play for,” Renfree said. “Every worship leader must possess the ability to have fun praising the Lord, and (Smith) truly epitomizes that.”