by Nathan Welsh
CLEVELAND, Ga., TMNews – Eddie O’Brien currently serves as a Truett-McConnell Adjunct Professor and Director of the Campus Store located in the Nix Student Center, but how he came to obtain each position is a story that truly involves the grace of God.
Humble beginnings in North Carolina
O’Brien grew up in a poor family in North Carolina. When he graduated from high school, he lived with his brother and sister-in-law in Washington, but they fell upon hard times. O’Brien returned to North Carolina where he was homeless for several months.
A newly converted Christian friend was one of the few who showed him kindness during this time. O’Brien remembered: “When I was homeless, she was the only one who took me in, and I stayed with she and her mother for about a week.”
To the Navy
“I was raised to work,” O’Brien said. “We were all raised to work. If you didn’t have anything it’s because you didn’t fight to get it.”
It was then that O’Brien decided to take the test to join the military. He attempted to test for the Air Force, but he scored lower than the cutoff required. The recruiter told him that they could still accept him; they just did not know where they would place him.
O’Brien found this to be too risky, so he went to the Navy where he accepted a job as a mechanic on destroyers and aircraft carriers.
Competition as motivation
O’Brien was first sent to a school to learn how to operate as a mechanic. He had many classes with a guy that O’Brien described as a “nerd.”
According to O’Brien, “It bothered us that this nerd was doing better than us in school, so we weren’t trying to do well in school. We were trying to do better than the nerd.”
O’Brien’s tenacity paid off and his grades were so high that he was chosen to be one of four people to work in electronics with missile defense systems and Doppler radar.
He then was sent to a school for more training, where he earned the highest GPA of his class and received a letter of commendation. O’Brien was the first one in his family to graduate from college.
God beginning to work
O’Brien grew up believing he was a Christian, but he never had a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ. This was especially evident as he lived a pagan lifestyle while living in Virginia Beach. O’Brien said, “Drinking was a way of life; I was in that way of life, and I did it every day.”
One afternoon while walking across the base, he was stopped by a man handing out Christian tracts. “I was so drunk that I couldn’t even see what the guy looked like,” claimed O’Brien.
“He told me that if I kept living the way I had been living, I would go to Hell, and I got really offended by that.”
O’Brien became so angry that he balled the tract up in his hand and put his fist right in front of the man’s face as he screamed at him.
While this man probably thought he had failed in his witnessing endeavor that day, what he didn’t know was O’Brien had taken that tract back with him to his room and kept it for the next eight years.
This man helped contribute to O’Brien’s eventual salvation, as well as his Christian friend from North Carolina who kept sending him letters every week. She even sent him a Bible that O’Brien keeps today as a reminder of God’s love.
The work of salvation
During this time, O’Brien met his wife Jennifer and they began to look for a church they could attend.
Their first service they visited left them disinterested when they heard a sermon they did not find meaningful.
The following week, they were visited by some members of the congregation who explained that the preacher that day was a guest preacher, and they invited O’Brien and his wife to come back to hear their pastor preach.
They decided to visit the church one more time, and this time they met Pastor Jim Holmes.
Holmes was going through a difficult time as his daughter, who was born with Down Syndrome, had some severe heart problems. Watching Holmes’ faith in such a difficult time led O’Brien and his wife to surrender their lives completely to God.
A strange calling
O’Brien and his wife became eager to learn anything and everything about God and two years later, O’Brien felt the Lord calling him into ministry.
O’Brien remembered, “I asked God, ‘Are you sure about this?’ Because I was the little boy who was in remedial reading class every year of my entire life. I joined the military, they tested me, and they put me in remedial reading class.”
Despite his feelings of inadequacy, O’Brien still followed God’s call. After eight years, he earned not only his college degree, but also his Master’s.
A new occupation
He and his wife eventually moved to Georgia, where they plugged into Helen First Baptist Church where Pastor Jim Holmes was now pastoring.
In 2010, he applied to work at Truett-McConnell, but did not receive the job he had wanted. Two weeks later he received a call from Dr. Moosbrugger to be his secretary. O’Brien was willing to do anything to work at TM, so he accepted the job.
Three days later, the Director of the Campus Store stepped down, and O’Brien was approached for the position due to his experience in retail.
O’Brien said, “It was the fastest advancement in the school’s history, going from being a secretary to a director in three days.”
A passion to serve students
“When I got here, it had faded white paint on the walls. Hardly anything was in here,” explained O’Brien.
“But we started cleaning it, arranging it, painting it. Over the summers and especially over this last year, all the changes you see are things we have done ourselves.”
Pastoring outside of church walls
While O’Brien has made great strides in increasing the sales of the campus store, his true passion is for the students.
“Every year our goal is just to serve the students,” said O’Brien. “If we invest in them and show them we care for them by doing this because we love to do it, then we have an opportunity to not only sell them things, but also do ministry in their lives.”
There is a rule in the campus store that if a student comes in needing to talk to someone, the employees are to take as long as they need to help counsel the student.
O’Brien continues to impact the students at Truett-McConnell as a professor since 2010. “I’ve developed seven online courses to date and I am currently developing 2 more” Currently, he teaches Hermeneutics, How to Teach the Bible, plus a variety of Old and New Testament courses online.
O’Brien said, “God called me to be a pastor, and I am a pastor. I just do it in a different way. Every student that walks through [the campus store door], in a way, I’m a pastor to them, and that’s why God called me here.”
Nathan is a senior Christian Studies major and a freelance writer for the college.Return to News Archive