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From delinquency to ministry, boyhood friends earn M.Div.s

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Six fifth-graders creeped through the Catholic school. No teachers in sight. No students. No one would ever know they had stolen the jewelry.
The children, known by teachers as the “dirty half-dozen,” were actually returning the pilfered products. With consciences aflame, they attempted to replace the gems before anyone noticed.
Kenneth Turner, one of the perpetrators, kept watch as Chad Clint quietly lifted the metal curtain to the jewelry case — too late. A janitor-turned-policeman had caught them red-handed.
Misbehaving together was nothing new for Clint and Turner. In fact, as children in Prescott, Ariz., the two May graduates of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., did everything together. They served as altar boys together. They played sports together. And they were suspended for stealing jewelry together.
Whether sneaking drinks of communion wine or placing tacks on teachers’ chairs, the boys wreaked havoc on church and classroom order. “At every PTA meeting, our names came up,” said Turner.
Their joint delinquency did not diminish in high school. Popular and pompous, the boys earned reputations for partying and drinking. “We were proud of being the worst in high school,” Turner recounted.
From the fourth through 12th grade, Clint and Turner were inseparable — even working the same shifts at Sizzler. Nothing could part the depraved duo — that is, until their senior year.
A girl had caught Turner’s eye — a girl who happened to be the daughter of a Southern Baptist minister. During Turner’s second visit to the her house, the pastor asked Turner, “If you die tonight, where would you go?”
“I had never thought about that,” Turner said. “I was getting on with my life. The last thing I wanted was some strange man asking me [about Christianity].”
The question confounded Turner, and Christianity developed into a curiosity for him. He began attending the church youth group on Sunday nights.
“The usual thing was to get drunk Saturday, go to Catholic church Sunday and then go to youth meeting,” Turner said.
But the pastor kept encouraging Turner to read Scripture and become more involved in church. God soon converted him.
Turner’s transformed life drove a wedge between himself and Clint for the first time. “When Kenneth started going to church, I remember thinking it was the strangest thing. Here was my best friend, and he was so different. I remember always trying to pull him back and actually rejoicing when he would slip up,” said Clint.
Turner began inviting Clint to church. And the pastor began engaging Clint with questions as well. At a meal in the parsonage, the pastor asked Clint to define grace.
“I said, ‘Well, it’s kind of like a ballerina who moves gracefully across the floor,’” Clint recalled. “The pastor didn’t crack a smile. He proceeded to explain that grace is a free gift — something that God gives that we don’t deserve.”
Clint accepted Christ at a family camp that Turner had invited him to attend.
“From a human aspect, we had no reason to get involved in religion. We had everything a teenager would want,” Turner said. “But obviously we lacked something — we didn’t have Christ.”
The two entered a new phase in their lives. After attending separate colleges in Arizona, both decided to come to Southern Seminary. Turner enrolled one year before Clint.
At seminary, the two have served in some of the same churches, have roomed together and have matured spiritually. “I feel like we’ve grown a lot together spiritually,” said Turner, who explained he and Clint regularly prayed with each other and kept each other accountable.
“Chad is my spiritual hero,” said Turner. “He is one of the godliest men I know. It’s neat to see how we were and how the Lord transforms somebody.”
Now, after 17 years, state lines will finally divide the two. Both graduated from Southern Seminary on May 21 with master of divinity degrees. Chad, who married Melanie on May 29, will serve as a youth pastor in Greenville, S.C. Turner will stay at Southern to obtain his Ph.D.
“It’s going to be tough not having Chad as a roommate,” said Turner. “I feel like I’m losing a big part of me.”
“Kenneth has always been there for me,” said Clint. “If you remember the story in ‘Pilgrim’s Progress,’ I think that would kind of describe our life [together]. The Lord provides faithful friends on our journey to the celestial city.”

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  • Bryan Cribb