At the beginning of my sophomore year in high school, my father announced that he was going to seminary to become a minister. Everyone, including my family, was stunned.
Our family knew the dairy business. We lived on a 1,000-acre farm with 500 milk cows. My father had spent his youth and adult life delivering and selling milk, both to stores and through home delivery. We had always lived on the farm, but my mother had always dreamed of a new house with all of the modern conveniences. We finally moved to that house one year before the announcement.
We soon discovered that we would be leaving Virginia and going to Fort Worth, Texas, so my father could enroll at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He was forty-one years old with a wife and three teenaged children (his oldest daughter was married and had two young boys). He tried to explain “The Call” he had received from God to embark on this journey; he believed God had been calling him from the time he was eighteen. Time and circumstances delayed his response. He tried to justify the delay by becoming a deacon, teacher and Director of Sunday school in our home church. He finally gave in to the call and we headed for Texas.
My father believed, until the day he died, that God would provide for all of his needs and the needs of his family. My father did not attend college – the last time he was in a classroom was during his senior year in high school. He entered the diploma program at Southwestern, taking a full course schedule. He knew he needed to find a job to support the family, but none came. August gave way to September, then October, and finally November arrived. Other classmates had already gone home, lacking the skill and money to stay.
My mother was given a silver dollar by her Sunday school and was told that if she kept it, she would never be broke. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, she traded the silver dollar with a next door neighbor and purchased tuna fish and bread. Even today, that was a great Thanksgiving. My father continued to believe that God would provide and he would not have to return home. On the Friday after Thanksgiving, my father received a check for $500 from a friend in Norfolk. The note stated that the individual had a strong sense that he could use the funds. My mother retrieved her silver dollar. On Monday, my father got a job at the largest dairy in southwest Texas, loading trucks at night. He was told by his seminary friends and advisor that he should reduce his class load and plan on taking three years to complete the course of study. He explained that because he had delayed in responding to “The Call” for so long, he had no time to waste. He wanted to begin preaching as soon as possible. So for two years, he followed a strict routine: class from 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM, work from midnight to 7:00 AM. He read, wrote papers and studied for tests in between loading trucks. He finished the program in two years and returned to Virginia where he accepted to call to become the pastor at Matthews Baptist Church in Hudgins, Virginia.
During their twenty years in the active ministry, my mother and father lived in very nice parsonages. They were cared for by their congregations. All of their needs were met and more.
Needless to say, that “Call” had a profound effect on my life. I too believe that God’s call, especially to ministry, endures for a lifetime. If one is faithful, the joy, enthusiasm, strength and resources will be made available as they are needed. Returning to River Road as the Interim Minister to Youth has refreshed my spirit and reminded me that the God who began the good work within me will see it through to the end.