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Local pastor open to new life purpose after suffering stroke

Lendell Nolan, executive pastor at Grace Community Church, lost his ability to speak after a mild stroke. With his voice back, Nolan said he is stepping out more from his behind-the-scenes role at the church to preach. (Timothy P. Howsare Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

We all know people who can contradict themselves, sometimes in the same week or even the same day.

But can God send us contradictory messages? Perhaps to test our faith?

If you ask Lendell Nolan, executive pastor at Grace Community Church on West Mescalero Road, the answer is yes.

In his role as executive pastor, Nolan is responsible for running the business end of the large non-denominational church, which draws around 1,000 people each weekend to its three services.

In 2016, while attending a leadership conference in Florida, Nolan said, “I felt like God was calling me to preach instead of being more behind-the-scenes, to move to an out-front role.”

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A week later while driving back from Phoenix on Interstate 40 with his wife, Patricia, Nolan experienced a mild stroke that temporarily left him without the ability to speak.

“After the stroke I lost my ability to speak,” Nolan said. “I am a man of faith and God was telling me to preach, but I had lost my ability to speak.”

According to doctors, the stroke was closed by an “unclosed hole” in his heart.

Before a baby is born, the fetus’ blood does not need to go to the lungs to get oxygenated. A hole called the ductus arteriosus allows the blood to skip the circulation to the lungs. However, when the baby is born, the blood must receive oxygen in the lungs and this hole is supposed to close.

If the ductus arteriosus is still open, the blood may skip this necessary step of circulation.

Just as described in the above medical definition, Nolan’s “heart hole” never closed the way it was supposed to.

The Nolans had traveled to Phoenix to drop off their daughter at Grand Canyon University.

Ironically, just a few days before dropping her off at GCU, their daughter experienced a heart problem of her own while behind the wheel.

“My daughter had heart surgery a few days earlier for ablation, which is a neurological problem with heart,” Nolan said. “Her heart was racing. She had passed out and had a wreck but was not seriously injured.”

Nolan recalls that he felt his stroke coming on when the couple was driving in or around Gallup.

“My face went numb and I was not able to speak,” he said. “I pulled over to side of rode and my wife drove us to the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque. The doctors discovered I had a mild stroke.”

Nolan, who has served as a pastor at Grace for 12 years, said he will soon have a surgery to close the hole.

The pastor is from Bixley, Oklahoma, a small suburb of Tulsa. You’ve probably never heard of Bixley, unless you have ordered sod to be shipped for your yard.

“Most of the sod used in this part of country is grown in Bixley,” Nolan said. “The sod for own yard came from Bixley.”

Nolan said he loves living in Roswell, where he finds the people very down to earth. As a motorcycle enthusiast, he loves the local whether because he can ride year round.

Nolan holds a doctorate from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Along with his full-time job at Grace, Nolan is an adjunct professor for a fully online seminary school, called Rockbridge Seminary, and owns a part-time business as a life-purpose coach.

The class he is teaching right now allows students to explore whether they wish to continue in seminary school and ultimately serve God as a pastor.

“This class can save them years of time and thousands of dollars, because they can decide in the first year whether seminary is right for them,” he said.

Nolan said he now is stepping out more from behind his desk and computer screen to preach.

“I went to Senior Pastor Rick Hale and he is mentoring me, coaching me,” I am working with the pastoral staff to help them find and fulfill God’s purpose in their lives.”

In summarizing the recent events in his life, Nolan said: “God is leading me to step out into a key role and I am open to whatever that is.”

Community News reporter Timothy P. Howsare can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or vistas@rdrnews.com.

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