After I completed my Masters in Religious Education, the seminary asked me if I would like to work towards my doctorate. The church was slowly coming together, our expenses were low due to our large garden and gifts of potatoes, carrots, and tough dairy cow beef, and there was always more to learn. Well into that second year we realized that our money was just about gone. I do not remember that we worried about our situation, and we are pretty sure we did not tell anyone of our need.
On April 7, 1968 John knocked on our parsonage door. This was the man who had generously given towards the construction of the new church, and the husband of the seldom attending church member I had to tell would no longer be a member of the “Official Board” – IPWG #19.
John handed me a check for the church. He then handed me a second check, saying “Chuck, this check is a gift for you – it is not taxable”. I thanked him. He then turned and walked away. I took the check for $1,000 to Sally Jo. She smiled and said “There is the money we need to pay our Social Security tax, and to pay back my father for the car we are driving, but we still do not have money for food.” I laughed and said “The day is not over yet”. That afternoon I went up to the church and found an envelope with a cashier’s check for $100 and this note: “In grateful appreciation of your work in the church and in the community.” I ran all the way home! God had provided for our needs at the zero hour – and again strengthened our confidence in the ability of God to care for us in His special ways.
We were not totally surprised by God’s provision. When we left Dothan, Alabama two years earlier we believed we should serve a church while I attended school. The ministry would help cover our living expenses. Not knowing where the church would be located, we shipped our earthly possessions to Hartford where the school was located. We then headed for Honey Rock Camp where I would be teaching Christian Education for Wheaton College for the summer.
Soon after arriving at Honey Rock, I was asked to consider becoming the pastor of a healthy 200 member church located an hour from the Seminary. Sally Jo and I agreed that I could not accept this pastorate and go to school full time. As the weeks went by, no further job opportunities came – and we were admittedly becoming a bit apprehensive. During our last week at Honey Rock I received a letter from the Methodist District Superintendent. He had gotten my name from the seminary and in essence said “I have a Methodist Church that no Methodist Minister will take – and you are a Presbyterian minister and there are few opportunities for you near Hartford. Perhaps we can make a deal.” This looked like God’s provision. A week later we drove to Sally Jo’s sister’s house in New Jersey, dropped off our daughter, Carla, and went to meet the Methodist District Superintendent and to see the church and parsonage. The offer: $4,000 a year plus house and utilities. IPWG # 15 picks up at this point – our arrival in Bakerville, living in the motel, in the church office, and the slow beginning of our ministry there. Four years later about 100 people were in church each Sunday, a nursery school was begun, a new parsonage was built, and the church was free of debt. Bakerville was God’s provision for us – and we were God’s provision for them.
Our story is not unlike Chief Ron and Anne Mackey’s. They had been through two difficult pastoral situations when I asked them to consider coming to work at DL for the summer. Ron would head up tripping. As the weeks went by it became apparent that Ron and Anne had no clue what their next step should be. Camp ended and the Mackey family continued to live in the Lane Cabin. Soon after the school year began, Ron was asked to become the Associate Pastor of the Loudonville Community Church – a truly great church on the north side of Albany. After five or six years of fruitful ministry, Chief Ron told the senior minister that he would be leaving to become the Director of Deerfoot Lodge. The senior minister’s response: “I always knew we would lose you to Deerfoot”.
I do not consider our experiences to be unique. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has not changed! As we seek to do what is right before the Lord every time, He can redirect our path and He has many ways to provide for our needs.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. — Proverbs 3:5-6.