30 Years of Memory, Mission and Joy
I have started writing today's blog no less that 5X over the last few days, stopping short with each try. Why? Well, frankly, it is hard to put into words - at least a few words - all that I am feeling as I look back over the events that have transpired since 30 years ago today.
The night before, on March 25, 1989, Paul Abney and Bill Richardson sent the other men home (Scott Olivier, Kyle Gooch, Jack Holder and others) then prepared themselves to spend the night protecting the small, 'borrowed' sound system, pulpit and chairs. The next day was Easter Sunday, and for our first service we'd pitched a tent at the Northeast Corner of Frankford and Midway Roads. We were directly behind the Chevron station and by permission were borrowing electricity by running an extension cord from their station to the tent. Less than 1/4 mile away, the Bent Tree West Clubhouse had also been prepped by us. Several of our families lived in the community so this was being used to house our children's Sunday School and worship for the next day. The, as the sun began to set on that Saturday all seemed ready, so I gathered with those who'd worked to pray, then went home to a sleepless night anticipating all that the morrow would bring.
The next day, March 26, I awoke to a cloud-filled sky, dressed, then left my home in the rain. I was worried. Would anyone come to our new church? What would we do? Those who'd arrived early kept looking up at the sky, hopeful. The rain, though not hard, was steady. It was Easter all right, but - in truth - it was a dreary, cold, rainy day. Not the kind of day I'd hoped for at all. But then, you guessed it, that's when the miracle happened!
One by one cars began to pull onto our muddied lot. Our parents - all of them - had come to be with us, swelling our crowd to over 100 worshippers. As people drove onto the muddied grass Tom Herman waved folks up close - to the tents entrance - then walked each of them into the tent under a large umbrella. He then returned to each of their cars - after all were safe - to park them one by one. People were smiling. Giddy with excitement over our beginning. A word made its way back to us from the Club House. Our children were having a blast. Mary Martha Holder was teaching our children songs about Jesus, and they 'couldn't be having more fun.'
On Saturday last I watched as members of our new mission gathered for much of the same. The sky was cloudy and plans for planting new shrubs and cleaning out the basement of the church-house to make ready for the children to come were being challenged by threat of rain and drizzle to boot. But, in the same way, I observed much of what I'd witnessed 30 years before. People were all smiles, and filled with the excitement and hope that comes from getting ready for our next day - the LORD"S Day, Sunday, March 24 at... The Church at Junius Heights.
So, yes, it is hard to put into words how I feel as I think over the last 30 years. Certainly, precious memories are Belinda's and my great treasure and joy. But, tonight, as I think over it all, I must add that our greatest gift has been watching YOU - seeing you - whom we have come to know in countless visits, meetings, projects and on mission - as you have accepted the call of Christ to serve His Kingdom for His glory alone. Some we've known are now called home. And we know we will see them again - in heaven. Yet others of you remain. At ParkwayHills, at The Church at Junius Heights and at many, many other places along our way.
For yes, this coming Sunday I will baptize once again - in a baptismal tank that is borrowed. Good people, serving people, will go get it and bring it to an old building nearly 100 years old, to set it down on a spot where a church has stood since 1911. Then these good folk will fill it and likely do so all smiles. Are the people the same? Why, yes, indeed they are! The very same! They are people who are on mission - called by God to serve the purposes of God and God alone. For the gospel, indeed, is for everyone - that whosever will may come. And, as for it all, I am grateful that B and I have been around to see some of it - in fact quite a lot it - over the last 30 years through people like you.
Yours for memories, mission and joy -