The man asked me if I would preach in view of a call to this church in Saginaw, Texas (not part of dallas). I said "No, I am not interested." He persisted. By the time he had talked about fifteen minutes, I was thinking it would be a good chance for me to visit my parents, so I consented.
I hopped on a plane alone, made the trip, preached, and visited my parents. To my great surprise, without meeting my family, the church voted that very Sunday night to call me as their pastor. They telephoned me at my parents' home and gave me the news. I told them I was not very interested, but they insisted: "You are the only preacher out of a dozen others that has received 100% of the vote. We think you should at least consider it." I said, "I will think about it."
By the time I got back home, I was convinced that the Lord was in it and abruptly resigned my church, loaded up my two children and drove to Fort Worth. My wife stayed in Omaha to sell our house while I bought a house in Texas. I was preaching at Bethesda Baptist Church in Saginaw the very next Sunday.
About three weeks later, I was wishing I had stayed in Omaha. The people turned hostile. Tensions were so high that I got physically sick. By that summer they were leaving in groups. To this day, I do not know why. Maybe I preached too much truth.
Baptists have historically split over odd issues. This church had virtually fired the former pastor over comments made by his own wife about his wandering eye. I think she had asked the other ladies of the church to pray for him. By the time that reached the menfolk, there was a furor taking place. I came just in time to get the brunt of all that.
We quickly regained the membership and then surpassed it. The Lord blessed with a wonderful growth over the next six
years. Then, boom! The man I had trusted, taken in and ordained to the gospel ministry split the church and set out to proselytize every member we had.
I prayed for the Lord to move me to another pastorate. I actively searched for other opportunities. My very best preacher friends forsook me. And something unexplainable happened. The past no longer mattered. I began to love my flock. I started preaching with greater compassion. The church began to grow in grace and in unity.
We had our struggles. In 2007, vandals broke into our building and set fire to the sanctuary. For five years we fought with the insurance company that had our coverage and finally completed the renovation in early 2012. Due to a lack of funds, my grandson, J.D.. and I had to do most of the work, and in the height of the struggle on December 21, 2009, my only daughter passed away. We had started her in music lessons back in Omaha and she had been our piano player here for fifteen years when the Lord took her to be with Him. I am still grieving over it.
Early this year my dad passed away and my mother is at the time of this writing recovering from a fall that broke her hip.
We are assured in the bible that everything works together for the good of those who are the called of God, but the purpose is not always known to us. We are told to believe. We are told to trust. We are told to set our affection on things above. And that is exactly what I have learned to do.
As I look back over the last thrity-five years, would I do anything differently if I could? Of course. I groan over many mistakes and regret my failures. But I trust that I am a better man and a better pastor. I can honestly say that I love the Lord and my flock more than ever before.
My greatest desire is for Jesus to return so that all of us here can once again be with those who have gone to be with the Lord. I think about it every day and try to live and preach as if this were my very last day here on the earth (and it could very well be).
We have His word on it and His promise cannot fail. That is why I pray continually for His coming. "Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus." Revelation 22:20Ω