Life’s Journey: Brought Gregg from near death in Oklahoma, to a career in Alaska to a new life in Idaho through ministry
The vast majority of Boise Bible College students are recent graduates from High School, though perhaps 10-15% of our students are “non-traditional.” This group may have attended college or started a career and for some reason later in life decided that ministry was a good option. Many of our non-traditional students felt a calling from God to attend Bible College. Gregg Turner was one of these students that lived life for several decades before God placed on his heart the desire to attend Bible College.
Gregg Turner was born in 1959 and grew up in Oklahoma. He gave his life to Jesus at 13 and was baptized. He finished high school and started living on his own, but his faith didn’t really translate into a born-again believer until about 30 years later.
Gregg and his later-to-be wife had mutual friends. In fact, Gregg was dating Suzanne Lassiter’s girlfriend before he started to notice Suzanne. Gregg was involved in a major traffic accident where one of his friends died and he was seriously injured. His injuries were so bad he could not function on his own and he moved back to his folks for about 10 months of recovery. As he was recovering, Suzanne invited him to live with her and her son and she would help him in his recovery. Soon his brother, who lived in Alaska, invited Gregg to come for a visit. He enjoyed Alaska so much he invited Suzanne and son to come and visit – and they all stayed for nearly 25 years. They are celebrating 40 years of marriage this year!
Gregg worked for an oil company and traveled around the state drilling to check for new deposits, to evaluate for pollution, and to examine the structure of the land for both future building and environmental control. He enjoyed his job and found himself in a rough crowd that enjoyed drinking and hard living. Gregg lived in addiction for nearly thirty years. He denied that his lifestyle had any issues and kept living life to the “fullest” until one day he came to see that life was so much more without a bottle in his hand. He quit drinking and was first sober in 2002 and has been since! This admission and his seeking Jesus to really rule his live changed everything for him and his family.
After years of wandering from the Lord he found his way back to the Church and got involved at Wasilla Christian Church in Wasilla, Alaska. Several factors influenced him as he became more and more focused on God and His Kingdom. He attended AA and seriously chose not to drink. The Church took him in and made him feel welcomed. He went with a group from Church to lead a Bible Study at a prison and that led to a desire to prepare to work in prison ministry. And there were a couple girls in the Church that attended Boise Bible College. Rachel (Kelly) Stevens (BS’10) and Amanda (Hightower) Knighten (AS’08) told him about this little Bible college in Boise and before he knew it, Gregg and family had sold everything they owned and were moving to Boise to start classes as a 50-something-year-old who had never attended college in his life.
They rented a house a couple blocks from the school and he began walking to classes and feeling somewhat out of place as one of the oldest students. Some of his professors were much younger than he. But he felt God called him to study and prepare for a life of ministry and he worked hard to keep up. His first impressions going to classes were, “Am I really up for this challenge? I know I am not a scholar! What do all these young kids think about this old guy?” There were nights when he and Suzanne literally cried as they thought about God’s calling and how inadequate he felt. But he stuck it out and in 2013 he graduated with a BS degree in preaching.
Gregg and Suzanne moved on to campus one year after arriving and were the Resident Directors for three years. During that time Gregg also worked around the campus doing maintenance and yard work. He especially enjoyed the yard work and did much to beautify the campus gardens and yards. He was known for wearing his shorts all year around to class and work. (It seems the weather must be so much warmer than it was in Alaska.) Living on campus and on call 24/7 for students had its challenges, but Gregg says it taught him to be more flexible than what his first nature is. That has prepared him well for the work he has been called to do. And the rewards of being available to students far outweighed the inconveniences.
Gregg remembers that all of the professors went out of their way to help him. Rich Schell was much more than his advisor and encouraged him through tough times. He was amazed by Chuck McCoy’s Bible knowledge and his ability to teach the redemption story of the Bible so well. John Whittaker really helped him improve his communication skills and challenged him to practice his faith. Ross Knudsen may have challenged him as much as anyone with his “firehose” presentation of information that came too fast to take notes and to even recall everything later.
Gregg remembers a particular day when he was struggling and his face must have showed it when a fellow student shared with him Hebrews 10:35-36: “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. To this day, Gregg carries that verse, along with others, in his pocket had he is reminded that his confidence and hope is in the Gospel. He also acknowledges he would not have made it through without the help of Suzanne encouraging him to keep on and her proofing his papers!
Gregg worked with Gary Anderson at Capitol City Christian Church while he was a student, and spent time helping at Foothills Christian Church. He started a Celebrate Recovery group at Capitol City. As a senior, he heard of an opening in a local prison for a chaplain and applied for the job. He worked part-time until a full-time position came available. He originally worked for Three Oaks Ministry, which supplies chaplains for prisons and other organizations. He now works for MTC Idaho CAPP at an Adult Correction Facility with about 440 prisoners. He coordinates volunteers and activities. COVID has kept most volunteers out for the last year giving Gregg much more to do. Normally he is helping facilitate the visits of all types of religious groups. The residents represent many different religious beliefs from sects of all kinds including Satan worship. Much like our own neighbors, the inmates watch his every action and attitude and he preaches the gospel every day through how he treats people, both the inmates and his co-workers. He enjoys helping coordinate the raised gardens where they grow vegetables to give away. Perhaps his greatest enjoyment is the one-on-one opportunities to share and pray with inmates and other staff.
Gregg enjoys doing garden work around the house. When not in the yard working, he can often be found in the garage building something out of wood, perhaps a corner table or a bookshelf. He plans to work a few more years before retiring. Gregg especially lives out our college values of community and humility as he serves as a chaplain.