Investment in a "Wrong" Kid Turns Out Very Right
He was a kid from the “wrong side of the tracks.” He lived in a trailer in the small town of Pittsburg, Texas, with his mom and step-father, who were hardworking, but also lived a hard life. Few knew of the boy’s situation, though those that did already understood — with a shoulder-shrug of indifference — that little Kevin Ward’s future would likely play out in a not-so-terrific way.
But one day in 1974, the somewhat naïve, but highly motivated new 24-year-old pastor of the small AG church in town, was made aware of Kevin.
“I had come from a church in Arkansas that was all about bus ministry,” explains David Porter, now 69 and a missionary with his wife, Phyllis, at Network211. “Our church couldn’t afford to buy a bus, so I went around in my car, asking kids if they wanted to come to church and getting their parents’ permission to come.”
Porter remembers the day he was visiting a neighbor of the Wards and saw Kevin tossing a football in the backyard. He invited him to church.
“I remember Pastor David would come and pick me up every week for church in his big green Plymouth Fury,” Ward recalls. “He would come visit us on Saturdays, then pick me and, eventually, my step-sister up for church on Sundays.”
As time passed, Ward’s mom, Carol, became a faithful attender, and even his step-father started coming to the church. Porter refers to Kevin and his mom as “core members.”
The church made sure that Kevin, even though his family didn’t have the money for it, was able to attend church camp every summer in Jacksonville. During camp one summer, he felt God call him into the ministry — a call that he never forgot.
In 1979, Pastor David and Phyllis Porter began itinerating — they felt called to be missionaries to the country of Luxembourg. By that time, the church had grown from 40 to averaging more than 90 congregants. When the Porters left in 1980 to begin their overseas ministry, Kevin and his mom remained faithful to the church.
“God had His hand on Kevin’s life,” Porter says. “It seemed He had prepared a way for him and Kevin was simply following it.”
Ward attended Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas following high school, and then finished his education at Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie, Texas. His dedication to God’s call remained firm as he became a youth pastor at a small AG church in Abilene, Texas. A few years later, he became the youth pastor at a larger church in Grand Prairie, Texas.
And then, in 1992, something surprising happened. This “from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks kid” was elected as the district youth director (DYD) for the North Texas district.
“Nobody knew who Kevin was at the time; he didn’t have a lot of contacts,” Porter says. “But God just really did things in his life.”
Although Kevin Ward may not have been a household name at the time, his passion for missions soon caught the district’s attention as he became a strong proponent for Speed the Light (STL), the AG youth missions program that helps provide missionaries with transportation and communication needs.
“When I first arrived as DYD, North Texas gave about $275,000 annually to Speed the Light,” Ward says. “We grew that to $950,000 and we were able to meet a lot of missionaries’ needs through that growth — we bought a lot of equipment and Speed the Light vehicles for missionaries.”
What some may call divine providence, the Porters were missionaries with the North Texas district. They were also some of the financial beneficiaries of the great effort Ward was putting into STL, receiving communication resources and two STL vehicles.
In the mid-90s, the Wards were able to travel to Luxembourg to meet with the Porters. Ward still gets emotional remembering the experience of being able to play a part in blessing the Porters.
“It was like we had come full circle,” he says with a pause. “David let me speak at his church, while he interpreted. It was a really special time.”
In 2000, the Porters began serving as missionaries to France, and they needed a new vehicle. The North Texas district, through STL, sent them a check — signed by Ward — to buy a new vehicle. Although the check didn’t go toward a 1970s green four-door Plymouth Fury (which Porter laughingly refers to as “a boat”), they did buy a Peugeot 806, a Eurovan that could seat up to eight.
The Porters served 20 years in Luxembourg and then another 16 in France before coming back to the United States in 2016 to serve as Network211 directors for French outreach. They still keep in contact with the Wards.
“I couldn’t be any more proud of Kevin and his family,” David Porter says. “Kevin, his wife, their kids — quality, quality, quality.”
Ward says that through the Porters’ investment in his life, the entire culture of his childhood family and his future — and family’s futures — were transformed. His mother still faithfully attends an AG church in Tyler, Texas. His step-sister also attends church. He and his wife, following 14 years as DYD, have been Texas pastors, currently serving as senior pastors at Connect Community Church in Pasadena, Texas, and all three of his children serve in ministry.
In reflection on what God has done in and through his life because one person reached out to him, Ward shares, “Wherever we serve, we include bus ministry, because you never know who you are picking up.”
IMAGE: Left to right: Jonathan and Nathan Ward (Kevin’s sons), Kevin Ward, and David Porter.