Our family has enjoyed many benefits from being in full time Christian work. In Murfreesboro these included:
A Flexible Schedule: Our schedule was generally flexible – if we planned ahead. Yes, there were weekly services to lead and meetings to attend, but most of the time spent doing required office work, study and meeting with individuals and small groups could be flexible. Thus I could take our daughter, Carla, to school most mornings. If the weather was “bad” I could spend extra hours in the office. If the weather was good…and nothing was scheduled, I tried to be with the family.
Supportive Church Members: Our family was warmly welcomed by the people wherever we ministered. Many opened their homes and hearts to us, and treated our children like their own children or grand children. As an example, in Murfreesboro, Dr. Ernest Hooper loved to take Carla, age 6, and Jenna, age 3, to parades! He was an incredibly warm, encouraging person, as were his wife, and their daughter, Mary, a favorite baby sitter. Virginia Saunders took care of our months-old son, Dirk, so Sally Jo could go with me on retreats and to other student functions. Dot Crenshaw was in charge of the ceramics lab located on the second floor of “The Morgue”. We still enjoy using the plates the girls painted under her guidance. And there were other people who were very special in our lives, like Burns and Martha Carroll. B.B. Gracie was paralyzed from the waist down – and taught me so much about how to relate to handicapped people.
Students Want Family: Through the years we accepted and affirmed young people and they accepted and affirmed our family. In Tennessee, students were often in our home and our kids could crawl all over them, sing with them, eat at their cook-outs and participate in their retreats. One particular retreat comes to mind. Our family, except Dirk, went with the students to a large, beautiful state park with nice rental facilities. The cost was low because we did all our own cooking. On Saturday afternoon, after being assured by the park ranger we could do so, those who wanted to set out on a hike around the medium sized lake made by damming up a river. When the dam was built, the water came up and the trees died. Over time the shore had became a tangled mat of stumps and branches. In the area of the state park the shore had been cleared, but the shoreline of the rest of the lake was a mess. After we had hiked for a couple of hours, we realized the ranger was simply wrong! Soon after we turned around, it started to snow and the temperature dropped – not in the weather forecast! Hiking around, through and over wet stumps and branches was almost impossible. We were in trouble and we knew it. We hiked from the lake into the dense forest and headed for the road we had driven in on – a risky idea, but really our only alternative. We kept going in a straight line by using a technique I had learned in camping. Carla and Jenna were carried by the students. Carla still remembers the students putting her in a large sweatshirt with the sleeves tied shut. Two hours later we arrived at the lodge just as it was got dark, really dark. Those who remained at the lodge fixed a hot meal – and were ready to call the ranger for help. Everyone was tired, safe, and ready to eat. We did it! Our family shared and remembers this challenging, unity building experience!
New Interests Begun: The Sikes family had lived on the same farm since the Civil War – there were blood stains on the floor and bullet holes in the walls of the big old house. The Sikes family raised horses and ponies…and ran a horseback riding program. Here it was that Carla was introduced to horses. The Sikes gave us a Shetland pony named Dolly, with her very young colt, Tinker Bell, to put in a small fenced area at the back of our 200 foot deep yard. Carla learned to take care of the pony. In the morning I would go out the back door and call out: “Hello Dolly” and the mare would whinny back. Carla went on to raise and train a Chincoteague pony and eventually become an instructor for the Camp Horsemanship Association – she certified instructors for the organization in both English and Western riding.
Just as the Lord has used Sally Jo and me – and our children! – to enrich the lives of many, a very large number of people have enriched our family member’s lives – a result of living In Partnership With God.
Are there experiences you can provide for those who minister in your life?