How a Little Blue Acorn Became an Oak Tree
I was running from God, because I was angry with Him. What was I angry about? Ask me sometime, and I'd be glad to tell more of the story for you. But I was running... and also looking for my purpose in life. I joined the Army, because neither firefighting, nor boxing were manifesting enough adrenaline for me. I was doing well, but not feeling like I fit in. By this point in life, years later, I had come to what I thought were good terms with God and I felt like I was happy enough, so long as I kept progressing in my military career. That's when God allowed me to be humbled. I lost everything I cared about in a very sudden event. Instead of getting angry at God this time, I decided to run towards Him. I reached a point where I felt like my life was no longer worth living and that living a different life - a life for what Jesus would want- was the last option to try. I started seeking the Kingdom of God that Christ talked about in the New Testament, and my perspective on life quickly began to change.
I still had an adrenaline craving, but more and more I was beginning to use it for the Kingdom of God. After a couple years at this, I met my future wife, not knowing it at the time. I completed my term with the Army, and did private missionary work in multiple third world countries. I still didn't feel like this was a match for me, but I decided it was the best thing to try for, since it was for Christ. To aid this endeavor, I started on a bachelor's degree in teaching English as a second language (people all over the world want to learn English, so I assumed it would be a sure way to have a job anywhere in the world God might call me). I attended a university in Virginia and was keeping in touch with Jane (my future wife) through a long-distance relationship. Soon, I began to realize that Jane was a perfect partner for me to serve God with. I started taking her rock climbing, which I myself had recently been introduced to and was in love with.
I fell in love with Jane also, and I proposed to her (she said yes). I transferred to a university in North Carolina because she had just moved to Black Mountain to start a new career with a Christian nonprofit. We were soon married before a small gathering of friends and family; the whole event being centered on what it meant to seek the Kingdom of God and the purpose of marriage within that. I feel sorry for our unbelieving friends who attended! The reason I go into so much detail with this part of my story is because it really is the starting point of Blue Oak ATS. The pursuit of God's Kingdom and my marriage to Jane were two foundational elements that joined with my thrill-seeking personality to bring about this small business.
After adjusting to WNC, Jane was loving her work, and I was hating college. Despite my sincere desire to learn, the political agendas of many professors were disillusioning me with higher education all together. With each new TEDx talk, I lost my faith in higher ed, and soon enough all I could do during a lecture was think about my next rock climbing trip. I knew that climbing was turning into an obsession and I either had to find a way to be productive with it, or give it up entirely to prevent it from becoming an idol. I hesitantly decided to "take a break" from university and pursue my certification as a climbing guide.
At the same time, I was getting back into tree work after a few years of inactivity. I had done tree work on the side in Virginia on and off for 8 years before and during my time in the Army, but originally hadn't intended to start doing tree jobs in North Carolina; we had no connections, and my only "business" had been word of mouth through friends in Virginia. Our landlord at the time was actually the one who trusted me- before I was insured- to start tackling his looming tree problems for compensation. I still thought that my passion was supposed to be channeled towards guiding, but it felt as though God was opening door after door for me to learn the tree service industry.
One such door was when I met Seth. It was through a ministry job where a very large, dead tree had blown over and collided into several others. The whole mess of them then crashed onto an elderly woman’s roof. She had little income, and qualified for charity assistance to rebuild her roof, but the organization required removal of the trees first. The lowest quote she had found was way beyond her means, so she was stuck with the trees on her house and holes in her roof during winter. By the time I happened to stop by, it had been several weeks! She told me her situation and that she might not be able to pay much at all, but I agreed to do it anyway.
I felt overwhelmed with the task by myself, and I remember my wife asking me how we were going to be able manage it alone (yes, Jane has had to help me on lots of tree jobs). All I could tell her was that God would provide. Then, out of the blue, some guy rolled up with his truck asking if I wanted tree work. I assumed him to be an opportunist, seeing the tree on the roof and looking to make some money. I told him that the job was scheduled for the next day, that it was a charity case, and there was no money in it, but if he wanted to help, I would love it. He drove off without me getting his phone number or even a name. I didn't expect to see him again. To my amazement, however, Seth was on the jobsite when I pulled up, unloading his chainsaws and getting ready to work hard for little to no payment. We completed that job together and have been friends ever since. Without Seth, Blue Oak ATS wouldn't be what it is today.
There are many other similar stories of Divine providence in Blue Oak's beginning. I could write about how I was able to exchange tree work for my SPG Rock guide certification course and testing with an arborist in New York, or about my friendship with Nick, owner of Element Arbor, who turned out to be a fellow Christian/tree-enthusiast I was destined to meet, or about all the clients early on that have become close friends to Jane and I, but you probably get the idea by now.
I have to keep this short, so I'll only cover the accident briefly, but in October of 2020, I experienced a catastrophic tie-in-point failure and fell 30-35 feet out of a Tulip tree, straight to the ground, legs first. Severe trauma fractures, including a shattered pelvis, rendered me almost paralyzed in a hospital bed for several weeks until I was moved to a therapy hospital, where I learned how to transfer from my bed to a wheelchair by sliding on a wooden board. This accident (the pain from which I still experience today) has been the hardest trial of my life. October was when I had to decide if I would continue to trust God or sink into a bitter depression.
It was hard to not know whether I would ever be able to climb again. During the first week or so, the question of whether or I not I would even be able to walk was still on the table. In a state of total disability and indescribable pain, neither my wife, nor our supportive friends and family, nor the heavy medication prescribed to me could take the suffering away. God didn't take it away either. I had to remind myself every day and night that I was blessed, and that I would be thankful to God, regardless of my injury, and even regardless of the prospects of any recovery. I am so thankful to my wife for staying with me nearly every day in the hospital, and to Christian Friends of Korea for paying her a full salary even though she was there less than half time. Both Jane and I are thankful for my mom coming up from Virginia and helping Jane and alternating visitation days with her. We are thankful for every friend and family member who wrote cards, sent money, visited us, or helped in other ways during this difficult time. I kept my faith throughout, and was grateful to be well enough to return home by Thanksgiving. Thank you, to everyone who has prayed for Jane and I.
To the doctors' amazement, my recovery has been rapid, and we've been working steadily since spring. I'm still climbing, in case you were wondering, and if you hire us, you can ask me how it feels after the accident. I'll save the answer for an in-person discussion. This story of Blue Oak ATS is still in the early stages, but it's obvious to me that this is what I was born to do. For the first time in my life, I absolutely LOVE what I do. I love climbing, I love nature, I love the challenge and excitement of tree work. I've grown to love trees and my study to learn about their health and risk management will continue for a lifetime. I say it all the time, but it's a good thing to say: I am very blessed, and God is good.
My wife and I have loved climbing together for several years now, but it wasn't until recently that I decided to make a career of it. Although I started to explore the tree work industry while still in high school, it wasn't until after a long journey through life that I discovered my God-given passions for nature and adrenaline were the perfect fit for a small tree-service business.
Here's the quick version of the story, if you care to know....
The excitement of heights has always enticed me, but I never thought climbing could become a career. So, I looked for thrill-seeking job alternatives while I was still in high school. I became firefighter certified in my senior year of high school and joined a local department as a volunteer. In college, I continued this path by getting certified as an EMT. However, firefighting and EMT weren't fulfilling the need for action, so at the same time, I began training as an amateur boxer, eager to start a fighting record and eventually go pro. This was a dark time of my life.