Keith Myatt said his Christian faith didn't become personal until he was in college.
Myatt, a McCallie School graduate who grew up attending Brainerd Baptist Church, said he was pursuing a business management degree at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and "not living a life pleasing to the Lord" when he became involved with a college ministry at Brainerd Baptist in 2010.
Soon afterward, he felt a strong need to affirm his faith - he was baptized for a second time at age 20 - and immediately began feeling a call to the ministry.
"I could not get out of the Bible," he said. "I consumed it."
Still, Myatt decided to complete his business degree at UTC before exploring his options for post-graduate ministerial training.
Today, Myatt, 32, has the title of teaching pastor at Third Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and he credits a faith-based philanthropy here in Chattanooga, the Generosity Trust, for paving his path to the pulpit.
Myatt is one of more than 450 Christian divinity degree students who have received Dora Maclellan Brown Ministry Scholarships through the Generosity Trust since 1965. One of the stipulations of the annual scholarships, named for the founder of the trust, is that recipients be from the Chattanooga area. Dora Maclellan Brown, who died in 1974, also was one of the founders of the Maclellan Foundation here.
"[The scholarship] was so instrumental," Myatt said. "To see the providing hand, in the right amount, at the right moment, through the right relationship. It was like [God] knows our troubles and he is going to provide."
Myatt said he and his wife, Heather, whom he met at church, were married in 2013. The next year, the couple moved to North Carolina where Keith began work on his master's degree at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forrest.
Myatt said the couple made ends meet through generous help from their families and jobs, such as Myatt's part-time work at a local YMCA. But the ministry scholarship, which Myatt was awarded on a second-chance application in 2016, allowed him to remain a full-time student at a time when resources were stretched.
"For one reason or another it wasn't the right timing [on the first application in 2015]," Myatt said. "We were told to try again next year ."
With the scholarship money in hand, Myatt said Heather was able to stay home with the couple's first-born child while he finished his master's of divinity degree. (They now have three children, Kara Jane, Kendrick and Hope.)
James R. Barber, the president of the Generosity Trust, describes Myatt as "humble, intelligent, articulate and the man that every father prays his son will grow up and become."
Myatt preaches almost every Sunday at Third Baptist in Murfreesboro and is working toward a doctorate.
The deadline for applying for the 2022 Dora Maclellan Brown Ministry Scholarships is April 20.
Life Stories publishes on Mondays. Contact Mark Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org.