Butch Farrah Hears God’s Call
A native of Rockingham, NC, Butch Farrah began his journey of faith in the small, rural Presbyterian church that he attended with his mother. He experienced his first calling experience around age 10 when, during a service, he suddenly had the urge to join the church. Recounting the event, he says, “Worship had just begun when I decided to interrupt the service to ask Reverend Thrower how I could join the church! I walked the aisle to the chair where he was seated and the next thing I knew, he was using my visit as an impromptu sermon ending with an altar call.”
Butch remained faithful to the church until the age of 12, and then, seeking relief from his overly strict father, he began to find other things to occupy his time. As his grades and his home situation worsened, Butch turned to alcohol, music, and girls for liberation. Doing just what he needed to do to get by in high school, and having no intention of going to college, Butch continued this way until the latter half of his senior year. Butch says, “In looking back, it seems so obvious that God was at work in my life even when I had abandoned all thoughts of church, religion, and the God in which I once believed.” He now believes that it was God’s hand at work when he got a call to the guidance counselor, who informed him that his mother had been able to gain Butch’s acceptance into Wingate College despite the missing requirements for college entrance. The confidence of his mother and guidance counselor motivated Butch to attend college. The first two weeks of college classes, however, overwhelmed him and made him wonder if he would ever make it through the first year.
One night after turning down an invitation to a party, Butch sat in his dorm room and heard a voice inside of him say, “’Butch, no one cares if you do this or not and Wingate will be glad to take your money and send you home if you don’t make the grades.’” Butch says that this was the turning point for him as a student and as a person. He finally realized the importance of education and what he would have to do to succeed.
Butch heard this same voice once again a few years later when he again turned down an invitation to go clubbing with his friend in order to study for an exam in his mandatory religion class. The next day, he learned that his friend had been killed in a car accident on the way home from the party. Looking back Butch says, “I could not help but wonder if the voice that told me to study for a religion test was not the same voice that spoke to me as a child to join the church, got me on the right path in college, and then spared me from the auto accident that killed my friend.”
Still, Butch continued to be angry with God. He finished his classes and became the first member of his family to receive a college degree. He then accepted a job as a loan officer in 1983 that helped him realize that working with people in need was one of his skills. In 1984, he married his first wife and transferred his membership to the church that she attended with intentions of only going on holidays.
Soon after, his job took him to Tampa, FL. Almost a year after his move he learned that his father had been diagnosed with two forms of cancer so he relocated, once again, to be closer to his family. He spent the next ten months caring for his father before he died. Butch says, “My father’s death caused me to rethink my faith and ultimately helped shape my spiritual maturity in a profound way.”
Butch’s spiritual reshaping continued with the birth of his first son, Matthew, two years later. He decided then that he and his family would attend church again so that his son could be brought up in a Christian home. He says, “What started as a mission to raise my son in the church, resulted in the very slow growth of my faith.”
In 1992, Butch experienced health problems that forced him to stay in the hospital for an extended period of time. Out of his frustration with not knowing the cause of his health issues, he asked to speak with a hospital chaplain. During their time of prayer, Butch says, “A peace I could never imagine fell over me, one that is hard to describe even now.” The next morning he was discharged from the hospital and knew that he had experienced a miracle. He says, “I felt drawn to be involved in the church in a way that I never had been before and soon I was leading the youth group, teaching Sunday school, and serving on the board of Deacons.”
It was during this time that he felt a call to ministry and visited Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta, GA. His wife’s reluctance to relocate, however, made him question his call and decide not to attend seminary. He began pursuing a new career at the local bank. A little while later, their marriage ended in divorce and Butch turned to the church to help him through this difficult time of being a grieving single parent.
Butch spent the next three years trying to move forward and began asking God to send him someone that would help him feel alive again. Butch found this person in Allison, the associate pastor of the local Methodist church. Though, Butch says he was hesitant to date a preacher, the encouragement of their mutual friends gave way to their first date.
Then, “One Sunday morning,” he says, “my thoughts were filled with the words, ‘give up all you have and follow me.’” After seeking the advice of some trusted friends, Butch decided to begin exploring divinity schools once again. Believing that “Campbell University Divinity School had a spiritual quality that was far superior to the other schools,” Butch decided to become a part-time student.
Three semesters later, Butch found his experience at Campbell to be all that he had hoped for and again felt the inclination to give up all he had to continue answering the call.
Allison, to whom he was then engaged, was very supportive of his decision to sell his house, cash in his retirement, and resign from the bank. The bank offered him a less demanding position as a local consultant, and a phone call from the local District Superintendent of the Methodist church placed him as the pastor of Rowland United Methodist Church.
As a full time student, Butch experienced growth, enrichment, and peer-support. Very early in his Divinity School career he felt pulled toward chaplaincy and pastoral counseling. Thus he joined the CPE program and was given the opportunity to minister to patients in the hospital setting. Because of his own personal experiences, he desires to work with families in crisis, and he believes that it will be a vital part of serving his parish. He says, “As a minister of God’s word and the gospel of Jesus Christ, I believe it is ultimately my call to help others find the way to land safely in God’s loving arms. Whether I do this from the pulpit or from a counselor’s chair makes no difference to me.”