In some ways Sally Jo and I can relate to Abraham and his family. The Lord said unto Abram “Leave your country, your people and your father’s house and go to the land I will show you. I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you. I will make your name great….so Abram left, as the Lord told him” Genesis 12:1.
When Sally Jo and I were married we left our area of the country and our father’s houses – and seven times we went to the land God would show us. This was never easy!!!! When we moved from Bakerville to Murfreesboro and Middle Tennessee State University we moved from “our” beautiful new home, complete with pond and view – to a house 1/3 the size, located 500’ from the entrance to the University – no pond, no view!! Our family room was the converted attached garage, and the only heat in the house was portable electric heaters. Imagine yourself moving from an incredibly wonderful church family the Lord had used you to bring together – to a town where you knew absolutely no one and to a job that was, in reality, only an idea. Mentally move yourself from a nice office in the church and a beautiful office in your home – to where there was no office for you, none at all. Imagine how Sally Jo felt when she arrived at an unfurnished house she had never seen. At least when Abraham went he was able to take his nomadic tent home and his large family with him.
God had made it clear to both of us: Go! God did not promise to make of us a great nation, that he would bless us, that he would make our name great. God’s directive was simply: Go! And we went. This was truly blind obedience! And so we began to build a new life for our family, to begin a ministry to college students, and to begin a co-operative Christian education program for seven scattered small and large, country and city churches – with people who did not know us and had no reason to trust us.
The beginning of our ministry in Murfreesboro was just the opposite of the beginning our ministry in Bakerville. In Bakerville no one welcomed us! In Murfreesboro when our furniture was moved into our house wonderful university students were at our door, and in our family room. Church members arrived with smiles, food, and a readiness to help in anyway they could.
Early one Sally Jo was able to begin a Bible study in the family room. No office? True. But there was a very large, old house on property purchased by 1st Presbyterian Church for an expanded parking lot. The house was not in great shape …but you go with what you can get. Permission was granted to put the office there. Burns Carroll, a church elder and father of one of the college students, stepped up to help…and he never quit helping. Quickly two rooms at the side entrance were emptied, painted, and two desks and a wonderful secretary moved in.
I do not remember how it happened – but the university students moved into the rest of the house. The large living room had a high ceiling and wide, varnished dark wood trim around the windows, doors, and up the open staircase. The room was painted by the students and the large fireplace, not used for years was readied for use. Comfortable furniture was brought in, a small stage was built, and the old kitchen was cleaned for use. The students named the building “The Morgue” in recognition that it most recently been a funeral home. A man in the church made a very large, symbolic fish to mount at the front door.
A room behind the office a room was organized for all of the Christian education materials from the seven churches. A conference table that could seat at least 30 people was built for an adjoining room. Upstairs two rooms were converted into meeting rooms for the church young people, and in the other two large bedrooms was placed a fully equipped ceramics lab managed by a church member whose daughter was in the student group. And up the outside of the building students lifted, with strong ropes, two donated, beautiful, old pool tables. Church members were excited by what was happening and opened their hearts to us. We were in business!
God continues to call His people to challenging situations!! Obedience may be rewarded with a very slow, painful beginning as ours did in Bakerville. Or quickly! Obedience to our Almighty, all knowing, all wise God is both wonderful and tough!
Let us remember God’s instructions to Joshua: “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. Be strong and very courageous. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night…do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” Joshua 1:5-9
We must live In Partnership With God!