Helicopter mechanic switches focus to ministry

SAN ANTONIO – On Sunday, Feb. 19, William “Bill” Lord, 52, graduated from Wayland Baptist University with a Bachelor of Science in Occupational Education degree. But for Lord, receiving this degree is just the first stop on what is turning out to be a life-changing journey.

Lord really had no idea what was awaiting him when he stepped through the doors at WBU-San Antonio. After all, he had spent more than 30 years working as a mechanic on helicopters and airplanes and was in line for a manager’s position with UPS maintenance department. In fact, it was Lord’s supervisor who encouraged him to return to school and get a degree in order to move up the career ladder.

But while sitting through his Old Testament and New Testament classes, which are required of all students seeking degrees at Wayland, Lord felt something he wasn’t expecting.

“Wayland requires Old and New Testament courses,” Lord said. “I thought I would get them out of the way first. That was probably where I began to recognize that maybe it wasn’t me that decided to go to Wayland, but I was being led to Wayland.”

Lord originally chose Wayland, knowing it was a faith-based institution, in order to experience something a little different.

“My whole life has been airplanes and helicopters,” he said. “That’s all I’ve known since I left home and joined the Marine Corps. They introduced me to helicopters and from there my career has been nothing but that. I chose Wayland to get away from that a little bit. What’s the point of going to school if not to expand your horizons?”

Although Lord felt a call in his early classes at Wayland, he still wasn’t convinced that he was called to ministry. As he continued through his course work, however, the call became more evident.

“It was a calling out process,” he said. “The Lord separated me from that cultural stream that I was in. He kind of carved me out of that and set me up on the bank. All of a sudden I was on the outside of the stream looking in.”

That’s when Lord realized that God was preparing him for something different. He began making plans to enter Wayland’s Master of Christian Ministry program and also started looking at the Master of Divinity program offered by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary through its campus at Park Hills Baptist Church, Lord’s home church, in San Antonio.

He knew, however, to juggle a full master’s level class schedule with a full work load can be rather daunting.

“My job at the time was quite demanding,” Lord said. “I didn’t know that I would be able to stand up under the pressure of a full blown master’s program. The only way I could do it was if my job situation changed.”

Lord, with the help and encouragement of his wife, Peggy, penned a letter to his boss asking to relinquish some of his job duties and to assign him to a specific shift which would help him decide which school to enroll in based on class schedules and his work schedule.

“Well, my boss didn’t send me to school to be a preacher. He sent me to get an education and move on, so there was some resistance on his behalf,” Lord said.

Lord asked his boss to assign him to a shift. If his boss gave him a day shift, he would enroll in Wayland’s program where he could take night classes. If Lord received an evening shift, he would enroll in Seminary.

“What he came back with was an evening shift with Sunday and Monday off,” Lord said. “I would be off on Sunday and could go to church, and I would have all day Monday which is when the seminary meets.”

Lord enrolled in Seminary in January and continues to take a full course load, studying as many as 40 hours a week.

“Seminary is a whole lot of work,” he said. “I’m a technician by trade, so this is all new to me. The Wayland experience was very new to me and now the seminary is very new to me.”

Lord has stayed true to his calling throughout his education experience the last few years. However, he’s still not sure where his calling is leading.

“People ask me what it is that I’m going to do,” Lord said. “I tell them that it hasn’t been revealed to me yet. I don’t know how people make those assumptions since I don’t know how they get called. I just know that right now, the task in front of me is to prepare for something later.”

Lord said the way things have worked out so far has been amazing and he figures things will fall into place in God’s timing.

“I don’t set the table, I just eat,” he said. “I’ll just settle in and stay here until God moves me. He seems to be adept at making arrangements that I don’t even know about.”

Lord does know, however, that he is glad to graduate from Wayland and is amazed that he finished his degree in two years.

“If you had asked me last July if I was going to make the February graduation, I would have probably said I don’t think so,” Lord said. “But it’s like everything else that has happened in the last couple of years … I don’t seem to have control over it.”