by Havilah Miller
(On the Cover: Bears' shortstop Hayden Fleming -- a missions major -- leads in prayer following a recent baseball game at TMC. [Photo by Norm Miller; graphical design by Carrie Ann Sienkiewicz.])
CLEVELAND, Ga. (TMCNews)—The young man plopped his duffel bag resolutely to the ground. A sea of faces swirled about him as a garbled voice reverberated through the Honduran airport. The smell of the nearby jungle filled the terminal. He wiped sweat from his brow and breathed. Having only the name of a remote island on his mind and a crumpled wad of cash in his pocket, he prayed, "What now, Lord?"
Two years earlier, fans from Providence School in Jacksonville, Fla., erupted as a strikeout pitch in the ninth inning secured a state championship title. Captain Hayden Fleming had led his teammates to a resounding victory.
But the real life change in his high school career came through a man he called Captain Stiehl, who loved baseball almost as much as Fleming.
"Captain Stiehl really started pouring into my life. He and his wife invited me to church and adopted me into their family spiritually. We would spend a lot of time together, and he would ask me questions to really get me thinking. Over time, he showed me what it looked like to have a real relationship with Jesus. That's when I gave my life to Christ and was baptized."
With the influence of his new mentor, Fleming also developed a passion for international missions, ministering in places like Honduras and China, each time gaining more love for the people and an urgency to share the grace of Christ.
Unfortunately, Fleming's new life caused friction between him and his atheistic parents. The young teen struggled to avoid the conflict and eventually moved from his parents' house and into his car. Six months later, he had enough money saved from his job as a plumber's assistant to move into an apartment with some roommates. That's when he sensed God leading him to Honduras.
"One day I asked the Lord whether I should go to Honduras again. Immediately, I felt this wellspring of emotion bubble up inside of me. So, the next day I had lunch with one of my mentors and told him my situation. It just so happened that the missionaries I was going to try to work with were going to be in town that Wednesday. We met with them. God just started opening doors. I just thought, 'This is crazy.'"
In a huge step of faith, Fleming flew to Honduras with $1,000 in his pocket and the name of the Honduran island, Roatan, etched in his mind. With a language barrier, no contacts, and no directions, Fleming stood in the airport, watching and waiting.
Minutes later a man approached, offering to interpret for the young traveler and direct him to the right bus. Next, a young mother with two children gave Hayden a ride to a safe hotel, then guided him to the right ferry boat. Each step along the way, Fleming witnessed the Lord provide for every need, thus confirming his purpose.
Several missionaries in Roatan befriended Fleming as did three Truett-McConnell students: Trey Postelle, Cole Godwin, and Chelsea Godwin. They told him about TMC and encouraged him to apply. Having no plans to go back to school, Fleming dismissed the idea; but eventually, God got his attention.
"The third week, I was sitting on the beach with Trey Postelle and his pastor, Stephen Peeples. I still remember Pastor Stephen looking at me saying, 'Hayden, if you want to be effective in ministry you've got to get your education.' That was the third time I felt that God might actually be trying to tell me something."
Unsure of what God had in store, but prayerfully considering an education at Truett-McConnell, Fleming researched the school and called President Caner, who encouraged him to visit the campus, and eventually connected Fleming with several TMC personnel.
"It was really cool what God did -- how God brought me to Honduras -- that's really the road map of how He has worked in my life so far," said Fleming, who was amazed at the Lord's plan and the change of life-direction he never anticipated.
Now a junior at Truett-McConnell, Fleming continues his adventure with the Lord. Pursuing his call to missions both in the classroom as well as on the field, Fleming has worked side-by-side with professors in several different countries.
"Most of the crucial elements come outside of the classroom setting," Fleming said. "You get to go on mission trips and really get to see the professors, like Dr. Pruitt, actually put the principles they are teaching you into action."
In addition to picking up the books at Truett-McConnell, Fleming has also picked up the bat and glove again as shortstop for the Bears. It was a passion he doubted he could ever pursue again.
"Because I felt God calling me away from baseball those couple of years, God really taught me a lot in prioritizing -- not to elevate anything else above Him, including baseball," Fleming said.
"Being a college athlete is a very demanding lifestyle," he added. "But you have to realize that, day-in and day-out there is something else worth living for and worth playing for."
Though Fleming's walk with the Lord began a few short years ago, he already has experienced life-changing truths that root his relationship with God even deeper, and his presence at TMC is a testament to God's amazing provision when one steps out in faith.
For anyone considering Truett-McConnell College, Fleming said, "It's such an opportunity for growth. If you want to sit under some of the top minds in the field, this really is the place to come. The workload may seem tough at a certain degree because we are doing a lot of graduate level studies, but it really benefits you in the end."
Havilah Miller is administrative assistant to directors of TMC Student Life.