- Associated Press - Saturday, March 26, 2016

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (AP) - As the son and grandson of preachers, Bobby Nuzum felt the call early in his life.

“At a pretty young age, I knew I wanted to be a minister,” said Nuzum, the pastor of the Bible Church of God on Washington Avenue in Clarksburg. “There were times when I was older, a teenager, that I went back and forth. But from a young age, I wanted to be a minister.”

And now not only has he fulfilled that dream, but Nuzum also has a family tree filled with other pastors.

Although for many of them, the path to preach was not as easy as for Nuzum.

“I had a lot of doubts and fears about being a preacher,” said Nuzum’s father, Jim Nuzum, who once led the Bible Church of God - founded by Bobby’s grandfather and Jim’s father-in-law, Bernard Maxwell, and now assists his son there.

“When I was in the Navy, I got away from the Lord. And then when I got out, circumstances drove me back to the Lord and I started walking in the calling.

“To be honest, the power of God moved me. For lack of a better term, it was a lighthouse in my life when I needed one.”

Tim Maxwell, Bernard’s son, Bobby’s uncle and Jim’s brother-in-law, had different reasons for avoiding his early notions that the life of a pastor would be for him.

“I felt the call of the Lord at a very young age, but I saw a lot of things that my mom and dad went through as pastors and ran from the calling,” he said. “I didn’t want to go through those things.

“But when the Lord touches your life, you have to do what the Lord wants you to do. So I chose that route. I wanted to help people and do what God called me to do. Ever since, it’s been a blessing. I enjoyed helping other people.”

Today, Maxwell is the pastor at the Full Gospel Worship Center in Bridgeport.

And then there is Bobby’s cousin and Jim and Tim’s nephew, Tom Sears, the son of Tim’s sister, Debbie. He serves as the pastor at New Beginnings Church in Good Hope.

“Pastoring is something I never, ever wanted to do,” said Sears, a substitute teacher who often works at South Harrison High School, where he also coaches basketball.

“Speaking in front of people was never my thing. When I was in front of class, I couldn’t find the words. … I can remember the hardships he went through as a pastor. So I didn’t want anything to do with it.”

That all changed when Sears was 18.

“I felt this overwhelming call that I would preach the gospel. I’ve never been the same. I never wanted to do it. I really don’t have any other answer. I have a passion for people. I want to make a difference.”

However, for Michael Stottlemyer - who married Bobby’s sister, Amanda - pastoring was an obvious choice. And like Maxwell, Sears and the Nuzums, the call seemed to run in his blood.

“I was evangelizing,” Stottlemyer said. “My dad, he had a tent ministry. He would have services under them in different areas. I was starting to minister under those tents.”

At the age of 20, he was preaching in a storefront, until he took a job at Bethel Temple Church in Bridgeport.

Then in 2004, he founded his own church, Message of Freedom, holding services in various locations until the congregation - which now numbers 150 to 200 - was able to buy a facility in Grafton in September 2005.

But he and his dad are not the only Stottlemyers who are pastors. Michael’s uncle, Dan Stottlemyer, leads a congregation in Tunnelton in Preston County, Laurel Mountain Community Church.

Dan became a preacher at the age of 19 after, in what seems to be a common theme, avoiding the pull of the church.

“That’s the thing I did not want to do,” he said. “I never wanted to be a preacher. But later on in life, I felt the calling of God on my life. I decided to fulfill that calling.”

A lot of the faith can be traced back to Bernard Maxwell, Tim’s father and Bobby’s grandfather.

“I don’t know if you believe in prophecy, but it was prophesized to my father-in-law that there would be a lot of ministries that would come out of that ministry,” Jim Nuzum said.

Tim Maxwell remembers how his father established the Bible Church of God in Clarksburg, then moved it to Carolina in Marion County and then back to Harrison County to Wilsonburg. It has been on Washington Avenue for two years now.

Bernard Maxwell died in 1997.

“I really miss my dad,” Maxwell said. “My dad was a good man of God.”

For Jim Nuzum, who married Bernard Maxwell’s daughter, Becky, her father helped guide him.

“He was my mentor,” Nuzum added. “He came into my life in a very needy time in my life, when I was searching for things. His faith in God helped me and got me stabilized. He mentored me for years.”

A native of Shinnston, Nuzum was first saved at the age of 9 at a church camp in Farmington and then felt the call to preach at the age of 12 at a vesper circle.

“I ran from that until I was 23 or 24,” he said.

Nuzum held a series of jobs after he got married in the mid-1970s and learned from his father-in-law by example.

“I sat under his ministry,” he added. “I talked to him every day. In his later years, he would call me to help him do this or help him do that. I was his assistant for a lot of years.”

The Bible Church of God was going to shut down after Bernard Maxwell became ill, Nuzum noted.

“But a couple of weeks before he passed away, he called me to his bedside and said, ‘I want you to keep the church going.’ It grew from there.”

Jim Nuzum was pastor of the church from that time in 1997 until about a year and a half ago, and then Bobby Nuzum stepped into the pulpit.

“It was all I ever really knew,” Bobby Nuzum said. “I was thankful for being blessed enough to be raised around pastors in that environment. It prepared me for what God had planned for me later in life.”

Bobby Nuzum’s cousin, Tom Sears, tried a different life at first, working for the Harrison County Parks & Recreation, but in 2003, he chose another path.”

“I left my job to do a full-time ministry,” Sears said, noting that at the time, it might not have seemed like the best idea financially.

“The update is that 13 years later, that God never failed me. He kept me proud of my family. I am a product of where I come from. I expect great things from God and I’m passionate about my community. That’s why I teach. That’s why I coach and that’s why I travel to India.”

Sears has traveled to India six times, he added.

Bobby Nuzum’s brother-in-law, Michael Stottlemyer, a native of Cumberland, Maryland, also is spreading the word beyond the country’s borders through mission trips. This past week, he traveled to Haiti for the third time to hand out beans and rice to several different communities in the Caribbean island nation.

“I really like helping people and I think it’s one of the greatest things you can do - lead people to God,” Michael Stottlemyer said before leaving. “There are just so many different ways to help and one of the best ways is to lead them to Christ and do mission trips, lead the community clothing drives and things like that. It gives an opportunity to present the gospel.”

In previous trips to Haiti, Stottlemyer added, he experienced culture shock at the poverty he witnessed.

“It’s another type of poor that we don’t see too much,” he said. “We have poor people in America that are in need, but a lot of times, there are different programs and assistance. There is help available.”

Also a native of Cumberland, Dan Stottlemyer, Michael’s uncle, also pastored a church in Arizona, but before he ever had his own church, he evangelized for 22 years.

“I was 41 when I started pastoring my own church,” he added.

He is in his sixth year at Laurel Mountain Community Church in Tunnelton, where he began preaching even though he had planned to go back out on the road again and evangelize after quitting his position in Arizona.

Like his nephew’s relatives, Dan Stottlemyer comes from a long line of people who are active in the church in some way.

“It’s a lifestyle my father and mother set before us,” he said. “That’s all we ever knew. They were our role models and we are following that legacy.”

And now at the age of 65, he plans to stick with it for as long as he can.

“I’ll probably be in the ministry until the day they put me in the ground,” Stottlemyer said. “My passion is for winning lost souls. My motto is ‘Winning the lost at any cost.’”

___

Information from: The Exponent Telegram, http://www.theet.com

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