Glencoe educator writes novel “Tier 1”.

Photo: Drew Hall, right, poses for a photo with his family. Gena Hall, left, holds 2-year-old Sadie, while 5-year-old Emory Kate stands between her parents. (Courtesy of Drew Hall)

22-12-2022

By Emma Kirkemier, managing editor

After a decade as an educator, coach, and youth pastor, Drew Hall felt called to a new career path: that of an author.

“Being an author has never been on the to-do list,” said Hall, who currently teaches at Glencoe Middle School. “It was just kind of a burden that God put on my heart, and I was just trying to be faithful to Him.”

When Hall’s wife, Gena, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer about two years ago, the family was plunged into a life-changing struggle.

“When my wife had cancer, it was a difficult process,” Hall said. “She was not even 30 at the time. It was just tough. We had a four year old and a just one year old, and we were going to every doctor’s visit.

Gena has been battling cancer for several years now, and while she is not yet cancer free, she is regaining her health and strength. Her mental toughness as she endured grueling cancer treatments while raising two young children and holding down a full-time job inspired her husband to tell their story.

“There was a moment after one of the first doctor’s appointments where we were told it was cancer,” Hall said. “We got back to the car and I just lost it. All the emotions, all the fear, it all hit me and I couldn’t function. Gena told me, “Hey, Drew, you can’t do this now.” So I said a little prayer and said, ‘God, I just need to be strong for her. Please help me be strong.’”

Hall said at that moment something he had read in “No Hero” by Mark Owen, a member of US Navy SEAL Team Six, came back to mind. During Owen’s SEAL training, he was tasked with scaling a sheer rock face hundreds of feet in the air. When Owen suddenly looked down and panicked, his instructor said something that stuck with him for the rest of his life.

“Just focus on your three-foot world,” she said. “Focus on what you can influence. You keep looking around and none of that can help you right now, right?

The same advice came to Hall when he needed it. Hall said he heard God telling him to “control what you can control and trust me with the rest.”

“So we did, and now it’s become our family motto over the last few years,” Hall said.

Hall explained that he has long enjoyed reading history books and memoirs by members of the United States Special Forces, and Owen’s book is no exception. Hall even made a nod to the pseudonyms used by these writers by publishing under the name “Drew Alan Hall,” his full name that he only used in college, where he met his wife.

While not a military man himself, Hall saw the courage, grit and “brain strength” of narratives like Owen’s mirrored in his wife. This idea became the basis of “first level Christianity”.

Hall had three goals for the book, in that order: to share the gospel of Jesus, to inspire others, and to honor his wife.

“If nothing else, I hope people see Jesus in this, but I hope they really understand how amazing my wife is,” Hall said.

While Hall joked that everything from the camouflage on the cover to the often-male military stories make “Tier 1 Christianity” look like a “total boys’ book,” it’s also intended for women.

“In one of the chapters, we talk about being bold,” Hall said. “And there’s a lot of men in the Bible that you could have pointed to, but I chose to do that chapter about women who have really come forward.”

Hall’s message was originally intended to be delivered as a series of sermons to the Glencoe First Baptist youth group, where he served as youth pastor for several years, but he felt called to turn it into a book instead.

“As I said, I’m not a writer; I don’t pretend to be,” she said. “It’s just something God put into my heart, and I’m trying to step it up and share it. I hope when people read this they won’t see me, they will only see Jesus on every page.

According to Hall, the book’s title stems from the idea that “Level 1” special forces are the most devout of all, something he believes Christians should emulate.

“The special operations community, those guys are the best of the best,” he said. “’Media’ is not in their vocabulary. The idea for the book really came from the things my wife went through, but then forming this book, she was really under the idea[that]our world is more and more accepting of mediocrity. We’re not striving for greatness, and I don’t think that’s what Jesus told us to do. Jesus told us: ‘If you follow me, you will carry your cross.’ There is nothing mean or mediocre about it. It was kind of the deal, taking these lessons that these kids learned living in that world and battling in that world and drawing those connections to the gospel.

“Tier 1 Christianity” is available at christianfaithpublishing.com/books/?book=tier-1-christianity. It can be found at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Apple Books.

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