On Sunday, January 28, 2018, a great man of God, Apostle F. Nolan Ball and his wife, Shirley, announced to the congregation at The Rock of Panama City that after over 60 years of service to the work of the Lord (with 48 of those years in Panama City) they had made the decision to retire from active ministry.
Nolan and Shirley and their four children--Donna, Cheryl, Kathryn and Mark– moved to Panama City in July 1969 to accept the call to pastor what was then known as Dirego Park Assembly of God. The church name has changed since then, but one thing remains the same, and that is the purpose of Yahweh that He had in mind when He placed a man in this city to become His oracle. Yahweh brought Nolan and his family to Panama City, a town that was well-nigh on the way to nowhere, and it became to them a certain place, a place where Yahweh’s Kingdom voice would be established, heralding His word throughout the earth.
The long and winding road that led Nolan and Shirley to Panama City began with Nolan, when at the age of seventeen, he heard the call of God to preach. He had no knowledge of the God who called, but the God who called, knew Nolan Ball. He did not immediately pursue the call; he did as Mary did, he hid the words in his heart. In the meantime, with his steps ordered by the God that he still did not know, he met and married Shirley Babette Marie Reed Navello, a dark-haired British beauty. Yahweh had ordained that Shirley would be the woman with whom Nolan would share a great adventure.
In 1953, having been married just over two years, Nolan and Shirley were living in Alexandria, Virginia, where they were the typical young couple, both working jobs and happily expecting the arrival of their first child. In October of that year, Nolan and Shirley made the choice to submit their lives to God at First Assembly of God in Alexandria, Virginia. As soon as he received salvation, the call of Yahweh that had lain dormant in Nolan’s heart was awakened to permeate and dominate every moment of his life and to set in motion a chain of events that continue to this day.
The call of God was confirmed and yet Nolan still did not know how to follow this call; he had nothing in his hand with which to do the will of God, he had no teacher, and no guidebook to show him the way. But he took a step of faith and decided that he and Shirley and their baby girl would move to Lakeland, Florida where he would attend Southeastern Bible College and begin preparing for the ministry.
They were six years in Lakeland. It was there that Nolan was schooled in the doctrines and tenants of the Assemblies of God. He was a student in the classroom, and to anyone who would listen, he was a teacher under the shade trees on the campus lawn. With his family living in a very small home, in addition to attending classes, he worked and provided as best as he could for his family, which by now had increased with the births of their second and third daughters. Going on little sleep and lots of commitment, Nolan Ball became Pastor Ball when he began pastoring his first church there in Lakeland. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Southeastern College in 1958, and with honors from Florida Southern College in 1959.
Leaving Lakeland, they went to Angel City near Merritt Island, Florida to pastor a small church. In 1960, they moved to Talledega, Alabama. After the two situations in Lakeland and Angel City where they had poured all that they had without much apparent success, they were a young family in need of a place and a people where they could enter into a time of a rest and refreshing. Yahweh provided that for them in the city of Talladega—and a people who made up the congregation of First Assembly of God—a people who received them and loved them. It was here that their fourth child, a son, was born.
In 1966, Pastor Ball and his family accepted the invitation to pastor Hayden Road Assembly of God in Tallahassee, Florida. Tallahassee was another pivotal place for him, because it was here that he began to receive the revelation about the importance of praying in the Spirit. This unveiling revelation would be the key to opening up the purpose of God that lay ahead for Nolan and Shirley.
In many ways, the years from 1954-1969 were the hardest years of their lives, but Nolan and Shirley would tell you now that they were vital in the process of shaping them into who they were to become. The call of God still rang loud and clear in Nolan’s soul, and it kept him pressing on, through the long hours working various jobs to support his family, nights of not enough sleep, and difficult days of pastoring. But he would tell you it was worth it all, to follow the call.
Following the call is what led Nolan Ball here to Panama City. In 1969 he accepted the invitation to fill the position as pastor at Dirego Park Assembly of God. The story has been told many times of how one of the church’s members, Al Cobb, said that when he saw the new pastor had dried paint under his fingernails, he knew they had a good man who wasn’t afraid of a little hard work. Those were prophetic words in a sense, because soon after Pastor Ball commenced his ministry here, he began the work of building a new sanctuary building. Little did he know at the time, but he also began working on a building of a different sort, the house of the presence of God, a job that would take a man who was not afraid of a little hard work.
However, Pastor Ball had never expected to be in Panama City a long time. Like every other denominational preacher who tried to do a pretty good job, he just hoped it was a stepping stone to something bigger and better. His thoughts were of moving to a large metropolitan area to put down roots where he could build something for the future. But the Lord had other plans.
In August of 1980, as he and Shirley were driving down a long Arkansas highway, Holy Spirit clearly spoke to Nolan, telling him to make a commitment of his life to this place and to this work. That day, Nolan Ball did what he had preached again and again: he simply heard the voice of Yahweh, and obeyed. He came back to the people of Dirego Park Assembly of God and laid out the three-fold vision that he had been given: evangelize Bay County, build a great church, and build a base from which to touch the world.
Pastor Ball had been given the mandate to build the house of the presence of God, so that His glory would fill all of the earth. But how was a man to set about doing that? The next few years, he had to deal with the pressure of the people resisting change, he dealt with the nagging thought of why can’t we just be a nice church, and at times, he even stared doubt and unbelief face to face. Once again, he did not know the how or the where, but deep in his soul he knew that it was Yahweh who spoke the word to him in 1980, and it would be Yahweh who would surely help him to bring it to pass.
After preaching the vision, God immediately began moving Pastor Ball into the most radical changes of his life. It all began with the message of restoring correct order in finances, for the church and for the home. In this message the foundation for Yahweh’s house was laid, with each subsequent revelation being stacked like brick upon brick. The unfolding of the revelation of Yahweh’s name, restoring the recognition of the five-fold governmental ministry, and preaching that the Kingdom of Yahweh is above and beyond the tentacled grasp of denomination – these were landmark steps into establishing the Ekklesia as Yahweh intended it to be. Along the way, Nolan Ball never built a monument to mark these revelations, never merchandised the unveilings of truth, never turned the manifestation into an exhibition. New, fresh, oftentimes radical, each revelation became the stepping stone for the next one to come.
But far and above, perhaps the most defining moment for Nolan Ball was the day he accepted the truth that he was indeed an apostle in the faith. His vision became, as a true father after the heart of Yahweh, to establish men in their own ministry, allowing the seed to be planted for fruit that will remain. Along with establishing men in the U.S., he worked with national leaders in Peru, Jamaica, Kenya and Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) to establish churches.
Adding to his accomplishments, Apostle Ball authored three books: "God's Plan for Financing the Ministry" (available in English, Russian, and Spanish), "Quotes from a Modern Day Apostle," and “The Kingdom.”
Over the past 48 years, through changes and revelations and teachings, ups and downs and highs and lows, victories won and battles lost, Nolan and Shirley Ball remained committed to the will and purpose of Yahweh. Because of that commitment, a new generation of people have been and are being changed from glory to glory, becoming the habitation of the glory of Yahweh. From Angel City to Panama City, literally thousands of lives have been changed through their life and ministry.
In a world where faithfulness is a rarity, the people of The Rock of Panama City salute this faithful man and woman. Apostle, Miss Shirley, we celebrate the blessing of knowing you. We salute you for your many years of dedication to the work to which you were called. We are truly thankful for the privilege of being given the opportunity to walk with you as we become those in whom Yahweh’s glory is being revealed.