Last summer, the Office for Regional Conference Ministries (ORCM) began the practice of providing paid summer internships for college students. Each year, two students are selected-one to work in a ministerial capacity in a conference and the other to work in a conference treasury position. The ministerial internship is as yet unnamed, but the conference treasury internship is called the Frank Jones Internship-named after the late, beloved first ORCM employee, Elder Frank Jones.
The conferences receive a summer internship on a rotating basis. The idea is to give college students exposure to Regional Conferences and real job experience, as well as funds towards their college education. In turn, the conferences receive an extra worker each summer and the opportunity to see how a potential worker would fit into the conference or their conference office prior to hiring them.
This year, it was Allegheny West’s turn to receive a summer ministerial intern. And here is where the incredible story of Pastor Max Lopez begins-the story of how he went from being kicked out of academy to being brought into ministry.
Pastor Gomez comes from Tampa, Florida. In the midst of a rather challenging high school career where he rather frequently got into trouble, he was given a choice between some military schools and Forest Lake Academy, which is just outside of Orlando, Florida. Not wanting to enroll in a military school, he chose Forest Lake.
It was there where he became acquainted with the person whose interest in him and influence on him would change his life-the Men’s Dormitory Dean, Sam Paschal, Jr.
Dean Paschal took an interest in Max Gomez, steering him away from the kind of trouble to which he had consistently gravitated to in Tampa. Or-at least, he tried to do that. He was not always successful, as Max Gomez was twice suspended from Forest Lake. Ultimately, he was expelled from school.
But the Lord intervened. While Dean Paschal felt that Max was guilty as charged, he also felt that the school was not correct in the way they handled the situation. In an unprecedented move, Dean Paschal went to the school administration and said, in effect: The way that this is being handled is wrong and if Max Gomez goes, I go. Forest Lake decided that both Dean Paschal and Max Gomez would stay.
Max Gomez graduated from Forest Lake and decided to go back to Tampa and become a carpenter. He had neither interest in nor money for college. Once again, the Lord used Dean Paschal. Though he was no longer Max Gomez’s dean, he was still interested in his future. He called Max and asked him what his plans were. He encouraged him to apply for Oakwood University-a school that Max had never heard of until coming to Forest Lake.
Max had no idea how his single mother had been able to send him to Forest Lake; so there was no way he could imagine being able to afford college-nor was he even interested. He wanted to be a carpenter.
But he made the fateful decision to put the God that he did not yet fully know to the test. “God”, he said, “If You are Who everyone says You are, get me into Oakwood University”. On August 17, he was declared fully financially cleared-though to this day, he cannot explain how.
But there was one more problem-how would he get to Oakwood from Tampa? Once again, God used Dean Paschal. Right about the time, Max was cleared, he received a call from Dean Paschal, asking him about Oakwood. Max told him that he had the money for Oakwood but no way to get to Oakwood. “Be here in Orlando tomorrow morning”, Dean Paschal told him.
The next day, Max’s mother dropped him off in Orlando. Dean Paschal put Max’s one suitcase and two backpacks in his vehicle and drove him 600 plus miles to the “School of the Prophets”.
When he arrived, he met with his academic adviser, who asked him what his major was. Max had given no thought to that; he had no plans to come to Oakwood in the first place, nor did he know what he was going to study now that he was there. The adviser read off some fields of study. When Max heard “Theology”, he decided on that-even though he had never heard of Theology and had no idea of what it was. But God knew.
God continued working on Max’s heart and during his first quarter at Oakwood, he gave his heart to the Lord and was baptized. Every semester, the God that Max had challenged to get him into Oakwood, made a way to keep him there-though when Max was asked how God did it, he still does not know.
He finished Oakwood in four years. He became a spiritual leader on campus and when Allegheny West was given a ministerial internship from the ORCM last year, they decided to use those funds-not to hire him for the summer, but to hire him as a full-time Pastor for their conference.
They decided to plant a multicultural, young adult-oriented church in Columbus, Ohio. They sent two young Pastors-Pastor John Coaxum and Pastor Max Gomez.
What Allegheny West is doing-planting that kind of church is virtually without precedent in a Regional Conference. One is hard-pressed to come up with an example of anyone doing this before. But for the last five or six years, Pastor Gomez has watched God do the unprecedented and the unprovable in his life-from being kicked out of school to being brought into ministry.
There is no doubt in Pastor Gomez’s mind that God is about to do the unprecedented and the improbable again.
By Dana Edmond