Editor’s note: This is part of our six-week sponsor series highlighting Compassion and the work that some of their epic bearded gospel men are doing to serve pre-bearded children and churches around the world.
From serving in the military to serving children in poverty, Jesse Futrell embodies the spirit of a true Bearded Gospel Man.
“My biggest regret is that I didn’t trust you and Mom when you said God was going to provide and that everything was going to be okay.” For Jesse Futrell, hearing this statement from his 16-year-old daughter was like receiving a message straight from God’s megaphone: You are right where I want you. I have everything under control. After a 17 year career in various capacities with the military and establishing a comfortable life in southern Arizona, he had wondered if accepting a job for a nonprofit ministry, taking a pay cut, and uprooting his family to Colorado was really the wisest move. But like any true Bearded Gospel Man, he followed God’s leading into an adventure unlike anything he had experienced before.
Jesse’s bearded journey began when he was in the 7th grade. His “beard” in those early years was more Joey Fatone than Willie Robertson, but it gave him an image of maturity beyond his years. His first job as a 15-year old newspaper delivery boy drew some criticism as people wondered why a “college kid” was delivering papers on a bicycle. When he was finally old enough to enroll in college, he spent one day there before dropping out and enlisting in the Army.
In the 17 years he served with the military, Jesse was deployed four times, the first time just a month and a half after the September 11th attacks. While he was glad to serve his country, he found shaving every day (and sometimes twice a day) in the deserts of Iraq tedious and painful. Thankfully, an opportunity to switch roles and do more special operations allowed him to both serve and grow a beard, which actually gave Jesse the advantage of blending in better during his deployments to Afghanistan. Although Jesse wasn’t part of the specific team that took down Osama Bin Laden, he did take part in the capture of other terrorists, and looking like a local proved to be beneficial in this line of work.
While serving in the Army, Jesse met his wife, Jessica. They have three children: Madison (17), Jordyn (14), and Gabe (12). Although his military career offered his family stability and a good income, and he was only nine months into a new promotion as the Deputy Operations Officer at a Military Intelligence School, Jesse felt God pulling on his heart in 2017 when a friend mentioned a job opening with an international nonprofit called Compassion International. When he looked at the job description, he saw that the first requirement was to maintain a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. “I’ve never even considered a position that starts with that as the first requirement,” he says, and he was intrigued but not initially interested. However, in the way He tends to do, God confirmed that He wanted Jesse to move in this new direction, so the Futrell family left everything that was familiar and moved to Colorado Springs.
Now, instead of tracking down terrorists or training military spies, Jesse manages the training team for Compassion’s USA marketing department. An approachable guy with a splendid beard and a welcoming smile, he is just as comfortable sitting down with a new hire or discussing procedural changes with long-time employees. He says he loves being involved with a ministry that has an unwavering commitment to Christ and a tried and true model for bringing children, their families, and their communities out of the snares of poverty. But the moment of leaving government service and joining Compassion truly showed God’s love, faithfulness and provision for the Futrells as He led them down this unknown path.
Compassion has quickly become one of his favorite causes to support. The Futrell family sponsors three children, Lia from Dominican Republic, Diego from Bolivia, and Tiara from Indonesia, whom he met during a sponsor tour in 2019. He shares the story of how she became his sponsored child: “We were at one of the (child development) centers and they do a little presentation to welcome you… we sat down and this young three-year-old boy comes up and in Indonesia, a sign of respect to elders is kids will take your hand and put the back of your palm to their forehead. The next level is that they’ll put their cheek up against your cheek. This little boy climbed into my lap and put his cheek to my cheek, and I just melted…The next morning, we were going to do home visits of kids that aren’t sponsored, and we roll up to this house, and that little boy (named Kelvin) was there at the house and I instantly recognized him. His sister (Tiara) was the beneficiary that didn’t have a sponsor.” Jesse knew that he was meant to sponsor Tiara, and she became part of the Futrell family.
Jesse encourages all Bearded Gospel Men to support Compassion’s ministry, because “like beards, it’s awesome. The most amazing thing to do with your face is to put a beard on it, if you’re a guy. If you’re a man of faith, the most amazing thing you can do is to pour into the spiritual development of a young person in need…Sponsoring blesses the sponsor as much as it blesses the child, if not more.” When asked if someone can even call himself a Bearded Gospel Man if he doesn’t have a heart for the poor, Jesse’s response was an emphatic “No! Because Jesus had a heart for the poor, and commanded us, directed us, encouraged us, and set the example for us to have a heart for the poor, and specifically children. And of course, the King of kings was the OGBM – that is Original Gospel Bearded Man!”
After all that he has gone through, Jesse’s faith has grown. Not only that, but he has set an example for his family on trusting God’s leading, even when it’s scary or doesn’t make sense. Jesse’s experience with Jesus Christ has solidified the words of his life verse: “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil 4:11-13