JUSTIN AND KENDALL'S STORY
This summer, the Resonate Story Team got to know Justin Smith and Kendall Ewan, who are committed to following Jesus no matter what the cost, giving up what people would normally call the “American Dream” to live a life worthy of the gospel. They were kind enough to share their hearts with us and how major life choices they have made reflect what is truly important.
Story Team: Tell us a little bit about yourselves and your background.
Justin and Kendall: We met at The University of Texas the spring semester of our sophomore year when we had a class together, and we quickly became friends. We graduated in May 2004 and were married that July. After several years of marriage God led us to adopt our son, Ewan, from Ethiopia. That is a whole other story unto itself and we were so blessed to get to watch God work throughout the entire process. Justin is a “non-traditional student” (a.k.a. adult!) at the University of Idaho, getting a business degree in Professional Golf Management. Kendall is a stay-at-home momma and just began homeschool kindergarten with Ewan.
Our experience with church while we were in college and newly married changed the way we saw church forever. At our church in Texas, we both saw for the first time how Jesus applied to our everyday lives. We learned what He had to say about our lives’ priorities, like marriage, children, friendships, and jobs.
ST: Why did you decide to leave Texas?
Justin and Kendall: The short answer – Jesus.
We had felt God preparing us to move almost seven years before it actually happened. Moving somewhere far away became a desire in both of our hearts, although we had no idea when or where or what for. Finally in August of 2011 it just became too much, like an itch you have to scratch. We felt God telling us it was time. So we started praying specifically for God to make it abundantly clear what he wanted us to do, for Him to open the doors to His plan and literally slam the others shut. And boy was He faithful.
Justin had been working a great job – one he enjoyed, was successful at, and paid well. But he had a nagging feeling that this wasn’t what he was supposed to be doing. That his time there had served a purpose, but that purpose was completed. One afternoon after church we had a conversation that went something like, ”Okay, we know that God gives us talents and skills, and he also gives us passions for things. So where do those line up?” The answer came swiftly and easily – GOLF! But that only led to more questions, like how do you get a job in the golf industry? Much research (really we should say lots and lots of Kendall’s Google searches later) led us to the PGA’s Professional Golf Management Program offered at 20 universities across the country.
ST: How did you end up choosing the University of Idaho?
Justin and Kendall: Praying for direction was now a constant thought stream in both our minds. From the beginning of our marriage God had given us several very specific priorities – Jesus, our marriage, and our son - and we knew the place He wanted us to go would include and take care of those. The application process shed more light on God's plan, as Justin was accepted into both the University of Idaho and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
Kendall set up appointments for us at the exact same places in both locations – church, housing, preschool, and with the university’s program director. We went to Moscow first, and after having all our meetings except with the church, we were thinking this might be it. Our last appointment before heading to the airport was the one that changed everything - we met with Chad from Resonate. Through the words of Chad, that morning God made His plan for us known. When Chad told us that Resonate’s main goal was to win college students for Christ, we were all in.
We went ahead to Colorado Springs, and again God was faithful by slamming that door shut! Nothing fit there.
ST: What does your ministry through the golf program look like? What are your hopes for it?
Justin: The PGM program consists of about 80 students, mostly guys. I get to spend a good amount of time with them on a daily basis, either in class or playing golf, and this allows me to really build relationships. Luckily golf is a game that takes time so we get the chance to have long conversations. There are a handful of guys I’ve gotten to be close friends with, and Kendall and I have them over for dinner. It gives us a chance to talk about who they are and show them who we are and how Christ has influenced our lives.
Everybody has a different story – some were raised in Christian homes, but most weren’t. Whatever their background though, they’re all out of their parents' houses now, deciding who they are and what they believe in. I think most of them have questions and are searching. Hopefully I can be a part of their journey.
ST: Tell us about the event you hosted on April 27th.
Justin: Our program has golf tournaments throughout the year, and one of them coincided with Resonate’s Serve the Palouse day. We pitched the idea of hosting a barbecue for the guys to our Village because we thought it would be a great way to serve them. As they say, the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach! The fruit we have seen from our involvement in the golf program is the relationships we have built with students there, and those relationships continued to develop through the barbecue. Trust has been established and a few conversations have happened, and we're hoping for many more.
ST: What advice would you give to young men and women like you, who desire to follow Christ as the figure out what to do with their lives and careers?
Justin and Kendall: Our advice to students trying to figure out their direction in life is first to be in God's Word. God speaks to us directly through His Word and builds faith in us when we hear Him. We have found that faith is an essential part of the journey. Secondly, pray and be specific in your prayers. Something Justin often prays is for God to be "abundantly clear" in what He wants us to do. We don't hesitate to ask God to open the door He wants us to take and literally slam the others shut.
Third, look at what your heart wants, what things you're really passionate about, or what natural talents God has given you. Remember that He's given you those for a reason and don't be afraid to pursue them. Lastly, find Godly counsel. It has been so important in our lives to have Christian friends who have already been there and done that. And yes, we do mean people older than us, like a good 20-30 years older. There are several couples we can really rely on to impart Godly wisdom when we're unsure of what to do. Sometimes their words give us confidence, but other times they give us an entirely new perspective that we hadn't thought of before.
ST: What does following Jesus mean to you – what are you sacrificing for the sake of the gospel and why?
Justin and Kendall: We’re sacrificing the “American Dream” of having money, security and comfort. Trust us, all of those sound nice. We can definitely say that money, security and comfort are things we want, but we want what God wants more. He’s shown us that all of that keeping up with the Joneses is really ridiculous – it doesn’t matter, it won’t last, and all of that effort won’t make us any happier.
So many times our conversations come to the same conclusion, “Um, yeah, but what did God tell us to do? Okay, then that’s what we’re doing.”