Chance Ledford exemplifies the qualities of a leader truly dedicated to serving others through the influences of his Christian beliefs. A devoted and passionate disciple, Chance spends much of his time mentoring young men throughout his community and taking part in various mission trips overseas to spread his faith.
Born and raised in Georgetown, South Carolina, Chance now lives in Pawleys Island after spending the past six years in Myrtle Beach. In 2013, he became a teacher at Christian Academy of Myrtle Beach, a school that provides academic excellence in a Christ-centered environment. He left Christian Academy in 2018 to further his education, taking classes through Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary to pursue a Master of Divinity, along with online classes through Columbia International University to gain his doctorate.
“I really feel a calling towards teaching older students,” Chance said about pursuing his Ph.D. “My goal is to hopefully be able to teach and impact students at the collegiate level.”
Chance had met his wife Lizzie while serving in the U.S. Army stationed in Fort Lewis, Washington. During that time, Lizzie was a student at Erskine College in Due West, South Carolina. They married in 2011 and have two sons, Tate, 6, and Wyatt, 2, and are expecting a daughter (Ellie) in June.
Chance explained how his experiences in the military opened his eyes to the importance of connecting with people overseas.
“I joined a couple years out of high school. I really joined for selfish reasons, but God still blessed me through it. I come from a pretty humble home, and we just didn’t have the funds to allow me to finish college, so I decided to join the military,” he said. “Although I joined for the wrong reasons, through my military service I became a patriot, someone who loves our country and loves that I was able to serve. I had never shot a gun before in my life, so when my friend and I joined I wanted to be in the medical field. But he wanted to be in infantry, which we ended up picking, and through that I had great leaders that poured into me and encouraged me to do more schooling.”
Chance said because of those leaders it provided him the opportunity to attend U.S. Army Airborne School and Ranger School located in Fort Benning, Georgia.
“I’ve been to Iraq and Afghanistan. When I joined I was only 19 years old and by the time I turned 20 I was already in Iraq. I stayed there through 2006 and 2007. During that time I really had to grow up quick. My life was on the line, doing what I did. But what was great was that in my first deployment, my section sergeant was a Christian, and he was very mindful of reminding me that we were in Baghdad, of all places in Iraq, a place where the Garden of Eden potentially may have been. That Christian influence really got me thinking that, ‘Hey, I can do more than just carry a gun over here. I can help people overseas in another way, a mightier way.’”
A MENTOR TO OTHERS
Chance is able to share his faith and support those younger than him by being a mentor to young men around the high school to college age.
“Where I really see God using me is being a mentor to these young men,” Chance said. “I feel that’s why I was called to Christian Academy, not necessarily to teach for 20 years, but to grow bonds with those students. It’s always good to have somebody who is walking with the Lord, and I think a lot of the students saw that there. I tried to be authentic with them and do what Jesus always does, to keep from judging others and look past what someone has done and look at their heart,” he said. “And that’s what I try to do for these young men now, to be an outlet where they can talk and share. A lot of them really don’t have much to say spiritually, so they’re looking for some answers. Especially being in college, so many of these kids aren’t plugged into churches, and it’s very hard for them to connect with others in the way that they should. We need to see the next generation of young men taking back what God has had planned for us since the beginning. We’re really drifting from that in our country and our culture.”
Chance explained the way that his experiences growing up led him to recognize the importance of having Christ-centered men in the household to ensure the well-being of families.
“I really appreciate my ability to mentor these young men because my parents divorced when I was young, and I ended up staying with my mother even though I was very close with my father. I wanted to be with him, but that didn’t happen, and eventually he moved to Nebraska. So from the time I was about 10 until I graduated high school and joined the military I didn’t have my father present. I love how a lot of pastors emphasize that one thing we’re missing today in America is fathers being in the home. That’s what I really love, that I can hopefully be a sort of father figure to these young men. If I had stayed in my family’s ideology of having multiple marriages — my parents together have seven marriages between them — if I hadn’t found Christ, I probably would’ve been in that same boat,” he said.
Chance said he’s able to connect with, and relate to, many of the young men he mentors through stories of his own trials and family life.
“I grew up with very humble beginnings,” Chance said. “My family ended up moving in and living with my grandmother, who actually was the one who ended up bringing me with her to church and introducing me to Christianity. I have a brother and sister from my mom and two sisters from my dad. My family has faced many trials through the years, with a brother that struggled with and ultimately died from a drug overdose, dealing with the alcoholic men in my mother and sister’s lives, and a broken relationship with my dad. I hope I can be there for people who consider themselves struggling and looking for some type of hope. I share my story to relate to them and to say, ‘Someone out there has it worse, these are the cards you’ve been dealt. God isn’t trying to punish you, he’s trying to grow you.’ I want to be that encouragement to others, because I know what a difference it can make in someone’s life. I’m doing well because God’s been the one to bless me not because of my past, or because of my life’s circumstances, but because God’s grace is sufficient.”
CONNECTING THROUGH MISSIONS
Part of what has grown Chance’s love for mission work has been the influence of his wife, who comes from a “mission-minded” family.
“Lizzie and I got married when we both finished school, and we really wanted to get on the mission field right away,” he said. “So that’s what we did. We got married and then started missions and lived in India for about six months, which was basically our honeymoon.”
Influenced by the Bible, Chance uses his faith to connect with individuals in other countries who have not yet been reached by Christianity.
“In Matthew 28, The Great Commission, it tells us to go and make disciples,” he said. “For that, you don’t need a lot of talent, you don’t have to be the richest guy and you don’t necessarily have to go to India. You can go to your neighbor or a family member who doesn’t know the Lord and that’s doing mission work. But we really feel called overseas to the people that are unreached. Some of our trips to China were working with the Zhuang people, the largest minority group in China. Also in India we spend time with those who are the outcasts, the Dalits or the ‘Untouchables.’ To work with these people, it’s not that my wife and I are special, we’re just willing,” he said.
Chance said his perspective of the world has been changed in many ways through his mission work.
“I’ve become more realistic with what the world really is, and I’ve been able to recognize how blessed of a country we really live in,” he said. “I always tell people that you don’t need to feel guilty or ashamed of that, but you do need to understand that there’s a responsibility for those who’ve been blessed to give blessings to others. Seeing the other side of the world, in India a family can get by for a month with five dollars, where over here it could be thousands. It’s wild to see other cultures and all the different aspects of people’s lives. I really enjoyed that in the military, too, so I’ve come to respect different ways of life. But one of the biggest ways I’ve been changed has been seeing people in the Chinese culture or the Indian culture and you realize that, ‘They’re different from me, but they’re God’s children just the same. God wants them to come to know Him, too.’”
Chance said when he is in those countries, he is no longer identified as an American, but just as a person.
“Here in the United States we have all of these denominations, but you can’t go to an Indian village and talk about being a Baptist because they have no concept of what that means. But I can say that I’m a follower of Jesus Christ because they can relate to that. Especially with the minority groups, I’ve been able to see a lot of heart change. Some villagers have this idea that we’re better than them just because we’re American, but it’s great to go and break this barrier and say, ‘No, we’re not better. We’re created equally by God.’ Seeing them learn that what they’ve been taught is wrong all this time, that’s been the best change,” he said.
Chance explained how grateful he’s become of his ability to express his faith through his mission experiences.
“In China it’s outlawed to follow Jesus Christ, and yet there are tons of believers. What they have to do is meet underground, which doesn’t mean they actually meet underground, it’s just the concept of meeting in private without the government knowing. So we’ve had the opportunity of joining a few of those, and we were attending one in China where there were about 200 of them in a very small room. And at the end, everyone was pulling out a piece of paper, which I came to find out was each a piece of the Bible. They were trying to connect their pieces together by saying things like, ‘Ok, I have the second chapter of Mark; I need the third and fourth chapter.’ To see 200 people doing that, all hidden, it was so crazy to see. They can’t just be walking around with a Bible, because they could be thrown in jail or even killed. So they all got the piece of the paper they needed and started to hide it in their pocket or their bag where it couldn’t be found by government officials,” he said.
“I literally have a dozen Bibles in my office, which genuinely opened my eyes to how blessed I am to live in a country that gives me religious freedom,” Chance added. “And there’s a tremendous responsibility I’ve been given, we’ve all been given, to be a blessing to others because there are people in the world whose lives are on the line daily simply from having a Bible in their possession.”
MESSAGES TO SHARE
Chance believes everyone in the world has been created to be able to serve and be a blessing to others in their own unique way.
“I always tell people that God’s given you time, talent and treasures. For me in this season of life, God has given me the gift of time. So that’s something I can give back to God and to others,” he said. “I always try to get my students and even my own children involved through service opportunities, like at the Community Kitchen of Myrtle Beach. They do a post every month of the needs they have, so a big part of our service is to be able to say to our kids, ‘Let’s go to the grocery store, but not for us today.’ And when I was at Christian Academy, I would take the seniors and we’d help with Soldiers’ Angels at the Ralph Johnson VA Medical Center, where we would spend the day giving food to veterans who were there to receive it. Those are things where I thought, ‘Hey, we can do it, so we should.’”
Chance said it is important to be thankful in all things so you can be a blessing to those around you.
“Paul said in Philippians 4:13, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ Physically, he couldn’t at the time, because he was under house arrest in Rome. But what he was really trying to get at was that although he wanted to be out planting and visiting churches, Christ was with him, and had him there for a specific reason. And if he wasn’t on house arrest and under guard and unable to travel, we wouldn’t have many of the Epistles he wrote in the New Testament. Like Paul, I think it’s so important to leave a legacy for Jesus Christ. We don’t need to be buckets, we need to be funnels. We’re getting filled with all kinds of great stuff, but we need to be giving it out to other people,” he said.
To those who are not sure if they should take part in mission work or in service to their communities, Chance explained the importance of finding causes and groups of people that you truly connect with so you stay passionate throughout your service.
“Find causes you’re connected with. If you love food, well, there’s tons of food shelters. If you want to be there for the elderly, then there are plenty of assisted living homes that need helpers. With mission work, do your research and make sure the leaders of your missions are people who are solid, who know what they’re doing and are really trying to make an impact. When it comes to missions, everyone needs to understand that even if it’s just for a week you are making an impact,” he said. “I always tell people that when it comes to the Gospel, you’re not dealing with life and death, you’re dealing with eternity. We’re all going to live, breathe and die, but we’re not all going to Heaven. The only way those people are going is if they choose to follow Jesus Christ. But you don’t need to be a genius or someone extraordinary, you just need to be willing to help and have a servant heart.”
Anyone can be changed in powerful ways through simple service in their community, Chance said.
“My favorite verse is Mark 10:45, which is, ‘Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many,’” Chance said. “That’s my life verse. There’s the idea that this guy, who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords could’ve come down and been the ruler and the king and held all the armies at His will; yet He came to be a child of low peasants, a child who had to be born in a manger. I love that we have a Savior, Jesus Christ, who can relate to us on every level because He’s already been there. He’s suffered more than we could ever imagine. So for Him to do that, it should be easy for me to serve others. We all have time, talent and treasures, and I’m going to use that to lead a life of service in honoring Jesus, rather than leading a life of being served. I think a lot of people want to do that; they want to help others and I think if they just start doing it they realize how great it is and how much of an impact they can make. You’ll see so much real joy in your life once you start giving up some of your blessings.”