63 Years Ago
It was on Palm Sunday, 1952, as an 18 year old, and saved only about a year, that I surrendered to preach. Dr. H. C. Walton, my pastor and the one who led me to the Lord, called me out of class at Memphis State College early that week saying he wanted me to preach my first message on the following Easter Sundy night! He promised to help me with an outline and preparation, which he did, and as a trembling young preacher I preached my first message one week after surrendering to preach. The next summer I was invited to conduct a revival meeting in a rural church near Memphis; then other invitations came. For the remainder of my college years in Tennessee and graduate school at Bob Jones University, I preached revival meetings during the summer and sometimes during the school year. For over 60 years the Lord has kept me busy. Many evangelists have accomplished much more in less time, but I praise the Lord that He has allowed me to serve Him and has given some increase of fruit to His glory. The failures have been mine — the victories His!
We look back with great joy and thanksgiving to God for all the blessings. With longevity in the work, I must be approaching 2,000 meetings and somewhere around 15,000 messages – including the repeats. Churches and their pastors have been our life, our joy, and that joy has been shared by my God-given wife, Shirley, for 60 of those years. Churches love her more than they love me and I can understand!
I took my young bride in a VW Beetle to meetings in those early years. How we packed I do not know and how we endured the heat with no air-conditioning! I remember we loved to find a Root Beer stand with those wonderful frosted mugs! Most often we stayed in the home of a family in the church and to this day, we still count them as dear friends. Our love offerings might be $75.00 or even $200.00, but a dollar was worth more in those days. I might add that gasoline was under a dollar a gallon. One church didn’t have a checking account and gave us our love offering in a glass canning jar – it was filled with bills and change – uncounted! But we were young, winning souls, seeing churches blessed, and felt privileged to Preach the Word!
We’ve conducted meetings in almost every state, some 7 or 8 foreign countries, plus many of our Christian colleges and Christian day schools – maybe that makes it about 20,000 messages preached.
One of the greatest blessings in more recent years has been Grandpa’s Kids. Since we have no children and no grandchildren, we adopt the children 12 years and under in our meetings and they sing a little chorus nightly. Now we meet grads of GP’s Kids who have finished college and are out serving the Lord. Read Psa. 71 to know my heart.
I still love serving the Lord. Shirley tells me I’m getting old and would you know a much younger pastor introduced me as the “Antique Road Show!” Still, another said I was older than dirt! Well, I’m in good health and still have a desire to preach and serve. The fun and excitement of packing and unpacking has certainly diminished and hours on the road do seem to take its toll on both of us. Last fall, when driving around Chicago, I felt like I was going around Purgatory and I don’t believe in Purgatory! We have enjoyed flying in the past, but now with all the security, smaller planes, and delays and maybe lost luggage, it has lost its charm. I will hasten to say, however, it’s all worth it if we can still serve the Lord and preach.
We are getting some Sunday only opportunities, which we enjoy, but it takes just as much travel and the honorariums are not as generous as love offerings! A couple of local churches are sending us monthly support – which we did not solicit – but it greatly helps. Our home church in Tennessee gives us enough to cover our medical insurance and that is a great benefit, especially with ever increasing medical costs.
Pray for our good health and for open doors. Pray for wisdom, power, compassion, zeal, boldness, joy, patience, freshness, and a deeper daily walk with the Lord. Will “my course” be run in 65 years or 70 in the ministry? The important thing is to finish well. That is my utmost and greatest desire.