Hope sometimes comes when least expected and for Sam Byer, soon to be Pastor for First Baptist Church, the road has been paved by the signs of God.
Originally from New London, a little farm town just south of Hannibal, Byer was adopted along with his older siblings by their paternal grandparents. Byer explained how being raised by a much older generation sometimes makes him feel as though he can identify more with their form of upbringing.
“Being a small community, everyone knows everyone,” said Byer. “I was raised in a Baptist church and have pretty much the typical upbringing you would expect from a small town. Our family was very involved in church; I walked the isle, said my prayers and did everything that was kind of expected of me.”
However, once Byer made his way into middle school, his upbringing had little to do with his rebellious nature. According to him, he was dismissive of his adoptive parents, as well as authority in general. He also began walking a path of drugs and alcohol.
“I was a red blooded American teenager, through and through. If it was a trip I was ready to try it, if it was an experience to be had I was ready to have it and I wasn’t just a teenager, I was a little punk,” explained Byer. “I remember friends, or people I would have considered friends actually signed my year book with, ‘yadda, yadda, yadda, don’t ever change. Just kidding, do the world a favor please change.’ I mean that was my friends talking.”
Byer told a story of how a group of troubled kids came to his school, kids who had made negative decisions themselves and wanted to stop others from making the same bad choices. Byer said he remembered telling them how unfair it was that they could go around and do whatever they wanted to, live it up, get busted and then preach about not making bad choices. In fact he told them if he wanted to do something he was going to do it, but as the years began to collect, Byer would find grace.
“At age 16 I started working a job on Sunday’s, just so I didn’t have to go to church,” said Byer. “There was this guy, who I worked with on Sunday’s as well who was also a Bible major in college. He probably didn’t want to work on Sunday’s but just couldn’t get out of the schedule and in turn would have very candid conversations with me as we were stocking shelves.”
According to Byer the man would ask him questions like, “Do you believe in the Bible?” “Do you believe the Bible’s claims about itself? That it’s true and without error and that it contains the word of God?” After replying with yes to all, the man asked him, “Do you believe in Jesus, that he is who he said he was and that he did what he said he did?” Again Byer said yes, but to his surprise the man told him he was going to hell and something in him began to change.
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