Abbott and his wife Michele were still hurting from the death of their infant son just three years prior. They also were in a dark place with their marriage, and both struggled with alcoholism. Feeling that his lifestyle did not match the standards of Southwestern, Abbott approached the task cynically. He soon learned that God would use the experience to transform his entire family.
Abbott, the Manhattan Construction project manager for both the chapel and the seminary's new student housing, shared his testimony during an Oct. 8 chapel service. He expressed his gratitude to Southwestern as the catalyst by which God changed his life.
"My peers in the industry kind of a joke coming in before we started," Abbott says. "'You're gonna go out to Southwestern Baptist, and you're gonna find you some Jesus.' And that's what happened.
"I thank God first of all for putting me here ," Abbott says. "...I didn't want to be here, but He used it for His good."
Following the death of their son in 2007, the Abbotts both turned to alcohol. Their marriage and family spiraled out of control as a result.
"I really hated the man I was at that time," Abbott says. "I was trapped in this sin. And my family was a wreck. And I was really sick and tired of trying to live the lie that I had it all together."
Halfway through the chapel construction, Abbott's wife entered rehab. Though Abbott initially planned to use this as a catalyst for divorce, he soon realized that God had a different plan.
" really began to point out the fact that I really deflected everything onto my wife," Abbott says. "I wasn't the man I needed to be."
While attending church one day, Abbott heard a sermon on comfort from 2 Corinthians 1:8-9. In those verses, Paul relates that he and his companions endured suffering "that might not rely on selves but on God, who raises the dead."
"At that service, it clicked," Abbott says. "I accepted Christ as a child, but I really never truly surrendered my will to His will. I'd been running the show for 30 years, and it wasn't working. So that following day I made the decision that I would turn my life over to Christ.
"At that point, everything changed," he said. "It was phenomenal. And this is why Southwestern Baptist is so special to me, because it was while I was working here that I found my true purpose in Christ. It was while I was here that I learned to be the spiritual leader of my family. It was while I was working here that my entire family ... found salvation. The chains of addiction were broken."
Abbott said he and his wife have celebrated two and a half years of sobriety. The couple also is serving as leaders in their church's Celebrate Recovery ministry.
"He just turned our life around," Abbott said.
In addition, God blessed the Abbotts with a son in the summer of 2012.
"I don't tell you this, though, to boast," Abbott says, "but to give glory to God and to thank you guys. As a little baby Christian trying to find my way, Southwestern's been a haven where I can really grow in my knowledge of Christ.
"God used Southwestern Baptist to really water the seed that had taken root. And for that I am eternally grateful."
Alex Sibley is a news writer for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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