My birth was in a cold house located in one of the poorest counties of Southern Ohio. My parents were poor country folk who had to drop out of school to help keep things going at home. Dad was able to move onward and upward with hard work and perseverance, retiring from 32 years as a union carpenter. Dad owned three modest houses in his lifetime, all since I turned seventeen. The years before church were filled with suicidal attempts by both parents, and I grew up with a lot of insecurities, keeping my distance from authority figures.
I came out of this background into the normal world, when God brought me a Christian wife, who introduced me to a whole new way of living, financially, emotionally, and spiritually. As I soaked up this love and kindness from the wife, her family, and the church, God gave the call for the ministry. I have given a brief overview of the early years of training and as a Pastor on MY Spiritual Journey Pages. The Mission Years Pages will be about my travels Stateside and in Africa for foreign missions work.
The call for Africa came during a general conference in Louisville, Kentucky. It was a lengthy process of securing the approval of the organization, but I jumped through all the hoops successfully. It was now time to raise the funds, which involved travelling to many churches to ask for mission pledges to cover the years overseas.
We owned our home, so we needed to put it on the market. To my surprise the house sold within a few weeks, so we needed a place to stay, while we gathered supplies for the mission, before we started the actual travels to raise the funds. We found a house close to the church which we were able to rent for a three month contract. The men of the church helped us make the move and the purge, as we gave a lot of furniture away to members of the church. We would not be taking it with us. These next three months were busy with lots of meetings with the church family and finding a new pastor for the church. We had spent seven years with these people and they were our family, so it was very important that they knew we were not forsaking them without proper care.
We made enough profit from the house to buy a new van and a travel trailer to enable the whole family to travel together as much as possible. The kids named the van Fred and the trailer Abigail. When our schedule was released for our travels, we loaded up the van and trailer with what we would need on the road, gave the rest of the belongings away, said our goodbyes with a lot of tears, and headed for the folks for a brief visit. The kids got to stay with the grandparents for brief periods of time over the next six months, but they would be with us for the majority of the many thousands of miles of travel.
Deputation, as it was referred to when a missionary traveled to raise funds, proved to be very educational in many ways. As a Pastor I had traveled to many different States for General Conferences, and preached for other pastors out of state, but this was a whole new ballgame. The schedule had me preaching in a different church every night of the week, except Mondays.
I was already worn out from non-stop ministry efforts for the past twelve years. Now, we were looking at a grueling schedule of night after night for a full year. Even Mondays were spent in traveling to the next destination, so it wasn’t much of a day off, except I didn’t have to give a sermon for one night. I even preached twice at two different churches on Sundays.
Deputation was good for the family. We all became very close inside the van called Fred and at nights inside the travel trailer named Abigail. The kids played games and read books in the van as we motored along the many miles of highway. We usually had some kind of Gospel music playing and we sang a lot along the way. We also would stop at each State line and take a picture of T and G standing in front of the signs. We would pull Fred and Abigail to the side of the road, the wife and kids would jump out, pose, snap picture and jump back into Fred. We had fun doing it, I still have some of the pictures. (I think the daughter should take it upon her to get all of these digitized-hint)
T and G also got to meet a lot of different ‘PKs’ (preacher’s kids) this way and experience many different levels of living. We were in small churches as well as large churches. We saw poor pastors and rich pastors. We experienced the different nuances of the English language firsthand in the different States and Canada. (I have been very comfortable talking with a hillbilly draw ever since) The food and customs of different areas of the country was an education for all of us. We got to sample collard greens, hushpppies, boiled peanuts, fried catfish, benne wafers, jambalaya, gumbo, in the South, and buffalo steak in the West, and clam chowder in the North East and in Canada, Tourtiere, a French Canadian meat pie, Canadian Bacon and Ham, Cod cakes and tea biscuits. Of course Mr. Chicken was killed and served everywhere! (We will speak of my old age tastes later)
We tried to plan our route of travel so that it would take us by any theme parks if possible. We never had much time at these parks, but at least the kids got to see experience them a little. I remember that we got to visit Busch Gardens which had a nice African section. The kids had their pictures taken siting on a live elephant. There was Hershey Park where we had just bought a bag of Hershey candy and then gotten on a ride together, and somehow when we got off the ride, we realized that we had left the bag of candy on the ride, but we didn’t notice it missing right away, so by the time we remembered it, it was too late to go back for it! Lol
The kids and I flew kites at one preachers house, and we got to ride snow mobiles in Canada at another preacher’s house. Then another preacher took his kids and our kids ice skating in Canada. It was bitter bitter cold that afternoon, and no one stayed out very long. There was a family in New Brunswick who had several kids who interacted well with T and G. While we were all sitting around after church that evening, we heard all of this laughter, and we looked up to find out what was going on, we found all the kids dressed up in adult clothes and acting like clowns with their faces made up, hats, scarves, gloves…it was a riot at that house!
Needless to say we had our share of laughs, even though the schedule was grueling for the wife and I. Sometimes we would leave the kids with the grandparents while we were making trips to churches within a hundred miles or so of their houses. Both grandparents lived in the same town.
We ended up traveling in a total of thirty-seven States by the time the mission funds were raised. The original schedule was for one year on the road, but God had given us favor and we were able to raise the funds within six months. This meant we could leave for the mission field sooner, only it didn’t work out that way.
I will cover a few other events about the deputation travels in the next post and explain why we were delayed from leaving right away for overseas.
To be continued…