Mike Byrd and family. SUBMITTED

Mike Byrd recently joined First Baptist Church of Portland as pastor to students and recreation. He will work with grades 7-12.

He is a Florida native, who spent his first 19 years living in the Seminole/Largo area near Tampa Bay. He and his family come here from Savannah, Ga. where he was a student and college pastor.

Byrd had his heart set on joining the Marine Corps early in life. During his junior and senior years in high school, he seriously talked to the recruiter. He thought everything was set until they found out he had asthma.

According to Byrd, he had successfully played hockey, football, basketball, and soccer and the asthma was a minor issue, but it was enough for the Marines not to bring him on board. He had no plan B.

His mother talked him into going to the Word of Life Bible institute for two years. While he was not particularly interested in studying the Bible at a small Christian school at that time in his life, but he said that God used that institute to show him that God had other plans for his life. That’s when he decided to be all in.

He earned a four-year degree from Tennessee Temple University in Chattanooga. It was during his time there that he met Christian Rowden, who would become his wife. She was studying dental hygiene at a nearby college and they met while attending Brainerd Baptist Church.

According to Byrd, he often asked God to make it crystal clear what He wanted him to do with his life. A simple statement by a college professor, sealed his calling to the ministry.

A professor told the class that there were only two things in the universe that would last forever. Those were the word of God – the Bible, and souls of people. The professor asked them why they would not want to consider investing their lives in something that would last forever. Byrd felt God was telling him that this was where He wanted him to be.

Byrd’s wife grew up in Murfreesboro, and they lived there for several years after they married, before moving. After their little girl Raelynn was born, they decided that they would like to move back to the area so their child could grow up around her grandparents. They were willing to go where God led them, but were happy that God led them to Portland so they could return to the Middle Tennessee area.

His plans include letting the young people know he cares for them and their relationship with God. He wants to listen to them and to become aware of their interests and hobbies, and to preach to them not at them.

He added that he learns as much from the young people as they learn from him. He is very interested in them becoming more Bible literate. He wants to address current issues facing today’s youth by connecting with them and being an advocate.

His first step in that direction was holding a volunteer kickoff meeting for interested parents and volunteers. He wanted to explain what the ministry should be about and get their input. Next, he held a student kickoff on Oct. 14 with plenty of sweets to go around since it was National Dessert Day.

Byrd said he is very excited about beginning his work with First Baptist Church of Portland. He will also be continuing his work on his Advanced Master of Divinity degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary by taking online classes.

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