Trading The Pulpit For Boot Camp

A 45-year-old East Texas man has decided to join the military. Pastor Randy Potter has been at Southern Oaks Baptist Church in Tyler for the past nine years.  His decision to join the Navy is something he's been pursuing for two years.

"We did a Bible study called 40 days of purpose," said Potter.   "And during that time, I believe God prompted me to do this."

Pastor Potter has been a minister for 25 years.  It's been two years since Pastor Potter decided, he wanted to become a chaplain in the U.S. Navy. But because he was 43 years old, one year over the age limit, he was turned down.

"I called them and said, 'I think I need to be a chaplain in the Navy' and they said, 'OK, let's fill out some paperwork.'  And then they said, 'Well, they're not going to grant you an age waiver'," said Pastor Potter.

Eventually, Navy officials changed their minds and flew him to Washington, D.C. for a grueling interview. "What was my weakest point? Did I have any ethics? What was my second weakest point? I didn't enjoy those questions very much," said Pastor Potter.

Pastor Potter's wife was born at a U.S. base in Japan. His youngest son, who's 17 years old, plans to join the Navy. And his 21-year-old son and his 19-year-old daughter are also in the Navy.

"I know first hand what it's like for these kids to be in a place where it's not home any more. I know exactly what they're experiencing," said Pastor Potter. "I know what young kids are going through in the navy so I want to be able to help them. That's my heart. That's my calling and that's what I gotta go do."

Pastor Potter says he'll miss his friends in Tyler, but he looks forward to seeing the world.  He is set to hold his last service at Southern Oaks Baptist Church this Sunday. Then he heads to Rhode Island for a 12-week training course. Following that, he believes he will be stationed in Virginia Beach, VA.

Oralia Ortega, Reporting.