Hola! (That is Spanish for hello.) My name is Jonathan Dustin May but I actually go by my middle name, Dustin, and I was born on January 27, 1981. My dad, Randy, is a CPA in the Memphis area and my mom, Janet, is a first grade school teacher at Ross Elementary. I am the oldest of three children. My sister, Tabitha, is two years younger than I am and she lives in Nashville, Tennessee. Many of you probably know my brother, Arthur, as you have possibly confused us for each other in the church hallway. Arthur is four years younger than I am and runs the night shift of maintenance here at the church.
I grew up in the Hickory Hill area of Memphis. We attended Ridgeway Baptist Church and my mom was always faithful to have us in church every week. When I was in the 3rd grade we were going through some tough times as a family. Mom and dad were moving towards divorce and the church we attended was struggling. During that time, we found our way to Central Church on Winchester and Kirby. We became involved in the Children’s Ministries doing Pioneer clubs and going on different retreats.
When I think about first coming to Central, I remember many faces I met and how fun it was to run around in such a HUGE church. You could hide and no one would ever find you – whether that meant under the pews in the sanctuary or finding one of the 2nd floor office cubicles. One of my favorite memories was when I was at camp. On a summer trip at Camp Tsungani, during cabin time, our counselor began to speak about hell and the difference between heaven and hell. I remember thinking that I wanted the assurance that I would go to heaven. I wanted to know the Jesus my counselor was talking about. Even as an eleven year old, I wanted Him to move and begin to heal my life – and I accepted the Lord in June of 1991. It took some time to realize what it meant to make Him Lord of my life but I truly knew who Jesus Christ was, loved Him, and wanted to live for Him.
Shortly after Camp Tsungani I began the transition into Jr. High. I attended Briarcrest Middle School and was very active in Jr. High ministries, going on all the trips. So many youth volunteers poured their lives into me, like Don Gilbert and Tom Waring who were the Youth Staff at Central. As I moved through Jr. High and High School, I was very active in athletics which included football, baseball, basketball, and wrestling. My favorite sport was baseball; I pitched, caught, and played third base.
My best memory in High School came while on a Gatlinburg trip my freshman year. I was on a winter retreat with Central Church to Gatlinburg, Tennessee and the Lord moved in a mighty way through Scripture and worship. I vividly remember the last night of the retreat. The pastor told of a man’s calling to GO as an ambassador of the Gospel. He stated, “A man was going over to the leper colony when he was asked, why go when you know you can’t return? The man stated, ‘Why should I enjoy the amenities of home when these people need Jesus too.’” Immediately, the Lord began to speak to my heart and showed me that my calling was to be more than an incognito Christian. I went forward and asked the Lord for guidance. He was calling me into Christian service and promised that He would lead the way. I felt confused, nervous, and scared, yet I knew that I had made the right decision. I prayed with a counselor and have been pursuing the area of Christian Service since that moment.
After graduating from Briarcrest High School in 1999, I bounced around a few colleges before I ended up graduating from Mississippi State University in May of 2003 with a degree in Business Administration. This brings up a good point – I will always pull for my alma mater Mississippi State but my favorite team is Florida State University. Whether it is Garnet and Gold or Maroon and White, I love watching college athletics, especially football.
As I continued to ask the Lord what exactly it meant to be in full time ministry He continued to open doors for me to walk right through. He had opened many doors such as my graduating from college and then going on a short term mission trip to Costa Rica. Still, I really wanted to experience the foreign mission field for a longer period of time. After many conversations with Don Gilbert, the door opened for me to go and serve in Guayaquil, Ecuador for 5 months under International Teams Missionary, Miguel Olvera. What an experience! There I was able to live for a short period of time working with the youth of a church called El Jordan. God stretched me, pushed me out of my comfort zone, gave me the opportunity to learn Spanish, and do ministry in the local church. It was awesome!
Well, the time came for my internship with Miguel to end and once more I was asking, “God, what’s the next step?” Wouldn’t you know it, God was faithful yet again! I came home from Ecuador in December of 2003 and in February of 2004 I was invited to come on staff at Central Church as a youth pastor under Tom Waring. It was a dream come true – the opportunity to serve on staff in a ministry at the church I grew up in. So I continued the process of serving the Lord on staff as a youth pastor and asking the Lord what He wanted me to do.
In the fall of 2004, I began attending MidAmerica Baptist Theological Seminary where I graduated in May of 2008 with a Masters in Divinity. During my time in seminary, I began to date this very cute green-eyed blonde who had also grown up in Central Church. She shared my love of the Lord, shared my love of music, and she could sing – her name was Mary Jane Coots! Mary Jane was going to school at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and I was here in Collierville so we dated long distance. The drive from Collierville to Knoxville is now very familiar to me. I think I can make that drive with my eyes closed – ooops, nevermind; never drive with your eyes closed! After dating for quite some time, I proposed to Mary Jane in December of 2007 and we were married on January 10, 2009.
Mary Jane is the daughter of Meme Coots who teaches 5th grade at Southwind Elementary and works the front desk in our church worship center, and Mike Coots. Her grandmother, Jane Hester, teaches art here at Central Day School. Mary Jane has two brothers: Michael is in law school at Mercer and Matthew attends MTSU in Murfreesboro.
Mary Jane is currently teaching Spanish I and Spanish I Honors at Collierville High School along with taking graduate classes in Education at Union University. She plans to graduate with her Masters in May of 2011. She also teaches one of the freshman girls Sunday school classes here in the High School group.
Mary Jane and I enjoy running and working out together, watching shows such as Survivor, NCIS Los Angeles, and nearly any movie. Our favorite restaurants are Carrabbas and Half Shell. One of my favorite things to do is cut the grass. One day, I’d love to have my front yard look like a putting green.
Awhile after Mary Jane and I were married, Tom Waring, Central’s Director of Student Ministries, announced he was retiring. Shortly afterwards, I was offered that position. It has almost been a year now, and I am so thankful to be able to serve here at Central Church. God has kept His promise to guide me and direct my steps. There is no doubt this church has truly been a blessing in my life. I came to know the Lord, accepted the call into ministry full time, experienced mission trips, came on staff, found a gorgeous Godly wife, and am able to serve the Lord here at Central Church!
[originally posted 2011]