On Friday evening, ten days after being asked to resign, Sally Jo and I were having dinner with friends when the telephone rang – it was Clayton Bell. Clayton and Peggy became close friends in Dothan, AL where Clayton was pastor of 1st Presbyterian Church, and I was his assistant. Clayton was now the Pastor of Highland Park Presbyterian Church, and we had been with them often during the previous seven years. Clayton said that he and Peggy would like our family to join theirs for four days on Matagorda Island. We had no clue what or where Matagorda Island was, but…we’d go.
Two days later the Bells and the Giesers joined members of the host family, with staff from their Dallas home, boarded a large private plane, the interior of which was much more like a family room than the inside of an airplane. We flew to their private landing field on Matagorda Island – which was 38 Miles long, located about 30 miles north of Corpus Christi. Several years later the family gave the island to the state of Texas, and it is now on maps as “Matagorda Island State Park and Wildlife Management Area.”
Welcome to a dream world. We were warmly welcomed and taken to our rooms, located on a long wing of the house where the ocean breeze would blow through. Our rooms were simply, but beautifully furnished, down to the last detail, including fresh flowers. We were soon taken by 4 wheel drive vehicles to see the island – which birds, which included flocks of roseate spoonbills, deer and other wild animals shared with the cattle and cowboys. For four days this was our private play ground.
When we went surf fishing, an experienced fisherman was waiting on the beach with the fishing trailer. He gave us lessons, baited our hooks, unhooked the fish, and then packed them on ice – for us to enjoy at a coming meal. This was also true when we went crabbing. We enjoyed the body surfing, shelling, mini-bike riding, feeding deer, and watching Carla gallop down the beach on a horse chosen to match her riding ability. When we returned to the long white house, we all knew there was a large stainless steel refrigerator full of all kinds of drinks…help yourself.
We dressed for dinner. Every meal was served on a plate appropriate for the meal. Round plates with the star brand on which to eat steak, fish shaped plates for the fish we had caught – I do not think we ate on the same pattern of plate for four days. As there were children, food was always prepared the children would enjoy – including macaroni and cheese!
In the evening deadly coral snakes lay on the warm surfaces. No one went outside at night! After an incredible meal, a kid-friendly movie was shown. I remember that during the movie a large velvet box of candy was passed around, refilled and re-circulated – a nightly ritual. Adults were welcome to watch the movie, play games, or talk together.
Four wonderful days placed in the middle of a time of internal confusion. A gift from God!
Even as I write this I am aware that many live in, or go through, extremely difficult situations, be it dealing with a family situation, a serious accident, an illness like cancer, or dementia or Alzheimer’s. We cannot provide a Matagorda Island experience, but we can provide a hug, a meal, or perhaps a silent presence that says “I am here for you. I love you.”
As we live In Partnership With God, we also live with human beings, the work of His hands. This world can be a brutal place. Jesus said “I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.” — Mark 9:21