A Confidential Autobiography for International Mission Board, SBC 1999
(The structure makes this bio obviously a form filled in for the IMB, but I like it and glad I saved it for personal history.)
I. Family and Childhood History
Born on the 4th of July, 1940, my granduncle was the delivering doctor and only doctor in Warren, Arkansas. Mom and Dad were 18 and 22, having met two years before at First Baptist Church of Warren, where Dad sang in the choir and Mom was visiting her uncle.
My relationship with my parents was always positive, especially with Mom in the younger childhood years. She was a “stay-at-home mom,” which I now value more than ever. I learned early from her to be an obedient and well-behaved child.
Through junior high, I remember us as the typical family, living a simple life on my dad’s small salary as a department store manager in south Arkansas towns. When I was age 3, my brother Jerry was born in 1943. While Dad was in WWII we lived with our maternal Grandmother in Fort Smith. After the war, Dad had three short-lived jobs in different towns, then El Dorado was our home for 9 years and where I mostly grew up from age 7 to 15. We were at Immanuel Baptist Church every Sunday morning and evening and some Wednesday nights. Dad sang in the choir and both Mom and Dad were my Training Union leaders for one year in the Junior Department. I got to go with Dad when he led the singing in revivals and he even had a radio program, singing hymns. They made me proud! I was a 12 year old when my “surprise” sister Bonnie was born in 1952.
Dad got a better paying job in Tulsa, Oklahoma between my 9th and 10th grade years. Dad and I liked Tulsa. It was too big of a city for Mom and Jerry.
During those three years at Tulsa Will Rogers High School, I tried to be the family mediator of conflict and sometimes caretaker of Mom and Bonnie. We belonged to Calvary Baptist Church, but I was the only one to attend on a regular basis. Mom and Dad not only didn’t attend church, but were fussing a lot and started drinking. And I guess that is when I first “preached,” as I lectured them on church attendance and alcohol! (A role reversal?) Mom claimed that Dad had an affair during that time. Still hard for me to believe. She filed for divorce, but never followed through, and was never happy or healthy again. She finished raising Bonnie in Hot Springs, Arkansas, where Dad had a traveling job until retirement.
I never had serious sibling conflict. My brother Jerry and I played well together until I became a teenager interested in girls. We tolerated each other then. I went away to college when Bonnie was only 6, so I related to her by mail and on visits with a good relationship.
Affection in our home was frequent in the early years, as Mom and Dad kissed a lot and showed a lot of affection to us kids. We all loved on Bonnie, the baby! And we hugged a lot until we went to Tulsa.
Both parents always recognized each of our achievements and bragged on us a lot, even in those older, tougher years. Mother especially never forgot a birthday, anniversary, or some recognition of every little accomplishment at home, school, or church.
Best and worse childhood experiences depend on the perspective. I guess my best experiences were as a Boy Scout on camping trips. I excelled there as a substitute for lacking in sports. My salvation experience at age 10 was the best spiritual experience, and I always loved Sunday School. I guess junior high marching band was second to Scouts and church. My worse experience was probably that middle of the night talk I had with my parents during high school when they were drinking and fussing. I was preaching to them. Then I realized I was on my own (without parents) and couldn’t be responsible for them or their behavior. I felt like an adult that night.
My sexual discovery and development started from other boys at school and Scouts at ages 12-13, with a lot of talk, some masturbation, and one boy came to junior high school with some cartoon pornography. Later there was a sex education program in Scouts that was professional and much more helpful! I was a 10th grader when Mom made Dad come talk to me about sex and we all knew he was way too late! It was kind of funny!
I never knew any childhood abuse. My parents were never abusive to us kids, just to each other in their later years.
Mom died in 1988 in Hot Springs of cancer at age 66, the day after I left her bedside and returned to Tennessee. Dad aged there until I brought him to Nashville for care in early 1995. I saw the inevitable circle of life that year when I changed a diaper on my Dad on Thanksgiving Day. He died in his sleep a week later at age 77. Mom and Dad are buried in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
II. Social Development
As a child and teenager I was shy, particularly with adults. But, my first date was in 8th grade! I got along well with all of my peers, male and female, throughout school. I attended all of the school dances in junior and senior high and belonged to a square dance club in the 8th grade. A few of my Baptist friends would not dance. But my parents and I saw dancing not as sin, but good social development, at least back then!
In college I became more social, did public speaking, and was never shy again! But most of it was BSU or church related and I no longer participated in dances! I became a serious Christian and witnessed to other students regularly on a secular state campus that shocked me with some of the behavior. I never tried drugs or tobacco. Someone got me to taste a beer once and I spit it out. Yuk! I’ve never had any desire to drink. But I tried not to be a “goody-two-shoes.”
I dated with one steady girl friend and several others in high school. In college I dated many girls, most only once. Jobs and studies limited college dating somewhat. My favorite girl friend was a mission volunteer at Ouachita. (I now wish I had married her or someone like her!)
Handling finances began in high school as I held a steady job for three years, saving most of the earnings for college. I worked all the way through college and seminary because my parents didn’t have the money. When I graduated I had only one federal loan from college to pay off! Except for a small car loan, I never had debt until marriage. I now expect to be debt-free again as I leave for the mission field!
Singleness is contentment for me now. And was in my 20’s until age 29 when I panicked. I thought I was getting too old, and that I had to be married to stay in ministry or participate in missions. Friends and family were pushing me to marry, and at that time the sex drive was more influential! After twenty years of marriage and now 10 years of singleness again; I am so very happy being single and have no intention of every getting married again! I have many lady friends, and most know of my singleness intention. I understand now what Paul was talking about when he wished all could be like him. Celibacy is easier now. I am happy with myself, my relationship to God, and singleness! I am never bored or lonely. God’s world offers too much!
Marriage began as my most exciting adventure as I married the daughter of a favorite volunteer youth workers in Dallas. Though I prayed about it, I was so excited that I failed to make our spiritual relationship primary, thinking she would surely grow spiritually with me! Intimacy needs were fulfilled and there was a lot of joy at first. But God was not in this marriage and she was not interested in the spiritual things I longed for. I experienced being unequally yoked in marriage. I changed jobs and locations twice to make her happy, but of course it didn’t. She was never happy and became abusive and depressed after our daughter was diagnosed with a type of autism. She wouldn’t go with me to counselors. She filed for divorce. I got the children and she went back to Texas. Life became much easier for me, even as a single parent of a special needs child.
Children were the greatest joy in my marriage and I love both dearly. The loss of Juli in 1997 was the biggest loss of my life — see “stressful experiences” below. It was a different kind of loss when Jason left me with his debts and ran away to “see the world,” and then to live with his mother. He is a professing Christian adult of 26 now, so I have turned him over to God, with prayers for his return to God. I will pay off his car after I sell the house.
III. Emotional Development
A. My personality strengths are that I am always happy and positive and relate well to almost everyone. Reading The Power of Positive Thinking by Peale during high school was an early influence, along with the Scriptures. I strive to have the attitude of Christ; in all things give thanks; and to be satisfied in whatever state I find myself. My weakness is that I want to help everyone and sometimes have trouble saying “no.” Though I am much better with boundaries now. I learned the hard way!
B. Stressful experiences in the last five years for me are (1) The move of my father to Nashville with his failing health. It was complicated by he and Juli competing for my attention. Then there was his death and the difficult job of settling his estate with no help from my siblings and even criticism from my brother. But I maintained honesty, fairness, and love for each person and God took it from there! Friends helped with Juli during those times. (2) Juli’s health and behavior became worse in the 1990’s. She had to have serious female surgery and then developed more complicated behavior problems with her “Pervasive Developmental Disorder.” Patience and constant prayer caused us to always be a close father/daughter and in some ways best friends, though at times I could not manage her uncontrolled behavior. After psychiatric hospital treatment, the doctor and teachers pushed me to place her in a residential school at age 17, which we both hated, but I knew must be done. It became just what she needed with remarkable improvement, until the kidney failure. (3) We spent ten days in the hospital together, then seven weeks of dialysis and she died of congestive heart failure. The biggest blow yet, but God just put his arms around me through Christian friends and his grace lifted me up through it. The Compassionate Friends organization helped with my grief and God led me to participate in the Kenya mission project that would fall near the first anniversary of her death. It produced new joy and purpose in life after the grief. I just keep praising Him! And now (4) the deletion of my job at LifeWay was a temptation to give up, but I said “God, your grace has gotten me through worse than this! Lead on!” And I believe it was He that connected me to this position in The Gambia! I just can’t wait to see what He is going to do next!
C. Counseling came for me during the last half of my marriage, much as a shoulder to cry on. I begged Ginger to go with me to a counselor. She did twice, to different counselors, and was sure that none of them knew what they were doing. A codependency support group and book helped me to stop my supporting her bad behavior. As I became emotionally healthier, she filed for divorce.
D. My extended family was weakened during marriage because she didn’t want to be with my family or her’s. I have since renewed my relationships with my family and her’s. I’m closer to her Mom and Dad than she, since she refuses to talk to them. I attend annual reunions of my Mom and Dad’s families. I am closer to my sister than my brother who has made himself a recluse in northern Minnesota, having little contact with anyone. I write him and occasionally get a reply. My sister and I have regular contact with e-mail, as well as cards, phone calls, and rarer visits. I write Jason, but he doesn’t write back.
IV. Spiritual Development
Early spiritual influences came from my parents by taking me to church regularly and of course from the pastor and the Sunday school teachers. I was converted and baptized at age 10. Bible study in high school helped me to grow and BSU in college was the first big influence on my spiritual development! Summer missions and involvement in church grew my relationship to God. A Southern Baptist all my life, each church has made an impact on my life. A daily quiet time with God in Bible reading and prayer since a Junior boy has made the biggest difference of all in spiritual development!
I felt called and “surrendered” to missions after hearing Baker James Cauthen preach in college. But my marriage did not allow it to happen. The mission trip to Kenya last year was a “recall” to missions and an assurance that God could still use me. I now see God using my early retirement from LifeWay to put me where he wants me. All family and friends are affirming me in this decision and there is a celebration here in Nashville over this new ministry for their friend.
V. Professional Identity
After seven years as a minister of youth, I was well-known, respected and emulated by others. That was why I was asked to head up the youth mission education program for the Brotherhood Commission. I spoke and taught all across the U.S., feeling a strong purpose in life. The minister of education/administration role was the most maturing, but my wife was still pulling me away from ministry and wouldn’t let me stay there. So I came to LifeWay and for nearly twenty-two years I have gained respect, purpose, and an identity of service to others; service with quality, skill, integrity, and always a smile! I love helping people! That has been my role for the last seven years in Business Support Services, now giving me confidence that God was preparing me for this mission business facilitator role.
VI. Cross-Cultural Development
It took college to help a southern boy really experience cross-cultural relationships, and I loved it! I had my first black friend in my first semester and wondered why not before now?! My schools all included many international students, including a Christian Arab roommate for me one year! The summer mission experiences in Seattle and New York included multiple ethnic groups. Two years in Miami gave me some Cuban influence, and a church in a Dallas “changing” neighborhood allowed me to minister to black youth, but not without criticism from a least one deacon. And then the three mission trips to Mexico and south Texas; and later one-time projects in Trinidad, Canada, and Kenya. In Miami and Dallas I picked up Spanish phrases. I purposefully learned some Swahili last year for Kenya and I’m learning more this year. My school languages were Latin and Greek. I look forward to learning the Jola-Fogny dialect soon.
I have only July, August, and September in Nashville to finish my business here before leaving for Africa. Thus I need to know as soon as possible of any problems with my application. The first part of October I’m going to Kenya, then 5 days after returning from Kenya I will be in Missionary Orientation at MLC. Then off to The Gambia! That is why I need to sell the house and have my furniture stored by the end of September! I also need to know before September your regulations on shipping books and other personal things to Banjul.
Charles Everett “Charlie” Doggett
Nashville, June 29, 1999