NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - An Australian pastor and his family moved to Nacogdoches after accepting a pastor job at Oak Grove Baptist Church where he gave his first sermon on Sunday.
Craig Ireland and his family traveled more than 8,000 miles to the Piney Woods just four days ago where they are now adjusting to the cultural norms.
"In Australia everyone's mate or a nickname. Very rarely do you actually call someone by their actual name and if you it's only ever their first name," Ireland said.
Back home in Brisbane, Ireland and his wife has planted a church, but as that church grew and made progress, Ireland knew it was time to pass the buck onto someone else he had mentored.
"It became apparent to me that the Lord's will was in fact that I would leave and that would give him the church that we spent so much time and energy building," Ireland said.
And so their journey to Deep East Texas started earlier in the year during a trial visit when he started searching for jobs.
"I felt burdened to go to a church where I could feel useful," Ireland said. "Not just step and take over for someone else, we keep forwarding with the momentum, but rather I could step in and be a blessing and a benefit."
Through the miracle of the internet, Ireland connected with board members and on Sunday he made lengthy preparations for his first sermon knowing it was the right decision.
"It felt very quickly as I stood up there, like a penny drop, I'm at home, I ok here," Ireland said. "These people are going to understand me and it felt very comfortable straight away."
One church member describes Ireland's sermon as eye-opening.
"I'm not going to lie to you. He scares me. He preaches the word of God as if it should be and I'm deeply convicted," said Rick Autrey, a church member.
Ireland said one of the things he's looking forward to exploring in East Texas is not only food but also raising his family.