By last Sunday evening, as I finished my IPWG “Let us Live Thankful”, I was very encouraged about what I anticipated my response would be if the results of my surgery were seriously “not good!”
On Monday the bottom fell out, it really did! I have a friend at church who has had nothing but trouble with his hip replacement – which had to be replaced. Now every step is painful. Then there is Harriet Hutchinson who had a staph infection after her surgery. Soon my mind was running wild. I was ready to cancel the surgery – no joke, I was. I was, flat out, filled with fear.
Then I remembered how the Lord had gone before us as we transitioned from Dothan, Alabama to a church in Connecticut.
After earning my Master’s in Divinity and while serving as an assistant pastor, Sally Jo and I realized the time had come for me to further my education through earning a Master’s degree in Christian education. While in seminary I learned about the Hartford Seminary Foundation which had an excellent religious education program. I knew the school was “liberal” theologically, and figured this would be a good challenge. The school was in New England, and living in New England was appealing. I applied and was accepted.
The school agreed to seek out a small pastorate where I could serve while a student. Soon I had a communication from a very active church with a regular attendance of about 200. Would I consider becoming their pastor? Sally Jo and I realized I could not pastor a “large” church and complete a master’s in one year. We turned down the opportunity, but shipped our furniture to a warehouse in Hartford. I confidently waited for another opportunity. None came in the next two months. No problem. Wheaton College had asked me to teach Christian Education for the summer term at Honey Rock Camp. While teaching at HRC we kept checking the mail box. Nothing! During the last week of teaching we received a letter from the District Superintendent of the Methodist Church in Connecticut. He knew that I was a Presbyterian and there were no Presbyterian openings in the area. He had a congregation of 219 members – with an average attendance of 8. He could not get any Methodist minister to take the pastorate. The Bakerville United Methodist Church was located about 30 minutes from the grad school. Perhaps we could make a deal!
We left Honey Rock Camp for New Jersey, where we left our daughter with Sally Jo’s sister, and headed out to meet the District Superintendent. He led us to Bakerville, a town with one blinking light, a gas station and an auto-body shop. He took us to the church – which turned out to be a typical New England church with granite stairs, four pillars and a clock in the steeple. The church was set back on a beautiful lawn, surrounded by woods. Incredible! We went inside. Here was a perfectly kept, old style sanctuary – light blue with clear windows up the sides, two pulpits, doors on the pews AND a Mohler pipe organ. We took the job! We would live in the old parsonage, have our utilities paid, and receive $4,000.
Eleven years before the old facility burnt to the ground. The new facility had been essentially a gift to the church. For the previous ten years the congregation had a minister who did not believe the Bible was God’s word or that Jesus Christ really was God’s son, or in personal salvation. But he did believe that the people should not smoke or drink or work on Sunday – and they must tithe.
What a privilege to introduce these people to Jesus Christ. The church was desperate for the Good News we could bring – and we were getting desperate for a place to serve that would also provide a roof and some food. God had cared for the people of Bakerville and for us. If God did this for us once, He could do it again. I also realized that His care might be what I had in mind – but it might be like the care he brought to Stan and Norton. “Come here boy, let me tell you of the goodness of the Lord” I once again enjoyed peace.