Glencoe educator writes ‘Tier 1’ novel

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

12-22-2022

By Emma Kirkemier, News Editor

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

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

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

“When my wife got cancer, that was a hard process,” Hall said. “She wasn’t even 30 at the time. It was just rough. We had a four-year-old and a barely one-year-old, and we were going to all the doctor’s visits.”

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

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

Hall said he was reminded in that moment of something he read in “No Hero” by Mark Owen, a member of U.S. Navy SEAL Team Six. During Owen’s SEAL training, he was tasked with climbing a sheer rock face hundreds of feet in the air. When Owen suddenly looked down and panicked, his instructor said something that has stuck with him the rest of his life.

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

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

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

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

Though not a military man himself, Hall saw the courage, grit and “mental toughness” of narratives like Owen’s mirrored in his wife. This idea became the basis of “Tier 1 Christianity.”

Hall had three goals for the book, in this 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 truly understand how awesome my wife is,” Hall said.

While Hall joked that everything from the camo on the cover to the often-masculine military stories make “Tier 1 Christianity” seem like “a total guy book,” it is intended for women as well.

“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 on women who really stepped out there.”

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

“Like I said, I’m not a writer; I’m not claiming to be,” he said. “It’s just something that God put on my heart, and I’m trying to step up and share that. I’m hoping that when people read it they don’t see me, but they’ll just see Jesus on every page.”

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

“The special operations community, those guys are the best of the best,” he said. “‘Average’ is not in their vocabulary. The idea for the book really came out of the stuff my wife went through, but then forming this book, it was really under the idea (that) our world is accepting mediocrity more and more. We’re not striving for greatness, and I don’t believe that’s what Jesus told us to do. Jesus told us, ‘If you’re going to come after me, you’re going to carry your cross.’ There is nothing average or mediocre about that at all. That was kind of the deal, to take these lessons that these guys have learned living in that world and fighting 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 on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Apple Books.

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