This is one of those “it’s a small world” stories.
Better yet, it’s one of those “God’s word is sharper than any two-edged sword” stories.
It starts in the mid-1980s on a football practice field, where the Keller High School marching band practiced its steps in the 100-degree Texas heat.
I played tuba in the band all four years of high school. Edward Dottle, a fellow member of the Class of 1986, played trumpet.
In fall 1985, our 150-member band adopted the motto “No Bozos — State Bound” and made it all the way to the state marching contest in Austin, where we earned a superior rating. That’s not crucial to the story, but my fellow band geeks will understand why I felt compelled to mention it.
Edward and I were not best friends, but we were on friendly terms. Like many high school classmates, though, we lost touch after graduation.
So, imagine my surprise when I recently came across Edward’s name on a Web page connected to Bill Williams, a friend who directs Focus Northeast, a domestic missions effort sponsored by Sunset International Bible Institute in Lubbock, Texas.
Curious, I e-mailed Bill to ask about his connection to Edward. “We are friends in the cause of Christ,” Bill replied.
I remembered Edward as a cool guy and a respected band leader. But I didn’t remember him as a church guy
. Our paths never crossed at any youth rallies.
Journalist that I am, I had to contact him and find out his story. After mentioning that he sure wished he could track down a video of our band’s performance at state, Edward explained that he was not a Christian in high school.
“I tried religion,” he said, visiting a denominational church in town “until I had enough of the hypocrisy and twisting of the Bible and never went back.”
At this point, I had to ask myself, “Did I miss an opportunity to share the gospel with Edward myself?” I wondered, “How many other high school friends and acquaintances might have been open to the simple message of Jesus if I had been mature and brave enough to share it?”
But back to Edward’s story: His third year at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, a friend invited him to an event with a Church of Christ student group.
“The people there had a joy and a happiness I wanted,” he said.
He started reading the Bible and was mesmerized by Romans 8:6: “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.”
A short time later, he read Acts 2:38 and determined that he needed to be baptized.
“I studied myself into being a Christian at 20 years old,” he said.
In 1992, about three years later, he met his future wife, Jacqueline, at the Highland Oaks church in Dallas.
At age 25, she came to the United States in 1990 from Ecuador with the missionaries who converted her, Dan and Kathy Leaf.
Edward and Jacqueline married in 1993 and later welcomed three daughters: Raquel, who will turn 13 in July, and identical twins Natalie and Christine, 11.
For more than a decade, Edward enjoyed a successful career and comfortable lifestyle as a computer programmer and analyst. But for years, he felt God tugging at his heart to become a missionary.
In 2005, after hearing Ken Bolden, a former missionary to Kenya, speak at a couples retreat, he decided to quit his job and pursue ministry training at Sunset — with his wife’s full blessing and support.
“I want to go to where people do not know the love, joy and hope that you receive in being a Christian — not just hope in heaven but in the life that we live now,” he told his wife, who received her U.S. citizenship in 2007. “These are some of the greatest gifts I received in becoming a Christian. I want to share them.”
Where did God lead them?
To Ecuador, Jacqueline’s home country.
Last year, they arrived in Ambato, a city of 350,000 where they are the only known Church of Christ missionaries.
“Most Ecuadorians don’t understand why someone would leave the U.S.A. to live here,” Edward said, “but it is a great way to attract them to studying with me.”
The Austin Street church in Levelland, Texas sponsors the Dottles’ work, which still could use a little financial support.
“The best thing I can say about Edward is that he has the heart of an evangelist,” Austin Street evangelist Jay Kelley said. “He truly sees the Great Commission as his life’s work.”
Amazing, isn’t it, what God can do with a one-time high school trumpet player who gives his heart and soul to the cause?
It’s a small world, yes.
But we serve a big God.
Bobby Ross Jr. is Managing Editor of The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected].