That’s the way I remember an old song out of the past which goes on to say “than to be in Carolina in the morning.” Well, Ellen and I experienced that for a couple of weeks recently, and I’d like, on a personal note in this post, to share with you a few of our experiences.
First, we attended a Gospel Fellowship Association Conference in Greenville, South Carolina, that was planned and designed for the Interim Pastors branch of GFA. Marshall Fant heads this program up and I have been a part of it since I stepped back from the senior pastorate in 2019. There were a handful of men active then as interim pastors, and it has grown to 20 pastors that are now serving or ready to serve local churches who are in need of an experienced, qualified pastor to assist them, to shepherd them in the interim period as the church seeks God’s direction about the man of God they will eventually call as their pastor. The men and their wives that we met are “top drawer,” Godly men with seasoned experience, most of them decades as under shepherds of local churches, and any church needing assistance in an interim period would be well served by the GFA Interim Pastor ministry. Marsh Fant has timely podcasts that are also highly instructive and inspirational. In a recent “You and God” I quoted some stunning statistics about the number of pastors leaving the ministry every month, hundreds and some estimate thousands! That was a credible source that shared this information, and that was before Covid-19 made its ugly appearance in 2020, so one might guess the number to be even higher now. Many, many churches are now without pastors to lead and feed them. If you are a member of one of these congregations or know of such a local church that would want a sound, Biblicist pastor, fully-vetted as to his theology and practical experience, I would encourage you to give to that church the following contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org. The conference we attended was a spiritual shot in the arm for both the pastors and their wives. This GFA interim pastor ministry that God, through this sound mission board, has raised up for such time as this as a service of helps to local churches, is extraordinary.
The rest of our two weeks in the Carolinas was spent visiting family that we had intended to see in the spring of 2020, but the day we planned to drive from Maranatha Village, an exceptional retirement community for believers of like precious faith located in Sebring, FL., everything shut down over-night due to Covid-19, and it was impossible to find even a McDonald’s open for a cup of coffee or a rest room break. So, our delayed trip to visit family in the Carolinas was put on hold for a couple of years. We enjoyed a brief visit with a grandson who lives and works in Greenville, SC, Parker Nye. He graduated from Bob Jones University and is working in the business field. He is single, smart and handsome and loves the Lord and works actively in a local church there. He loves Greenville and has chosen, for the present time at least, to make that his home.
Then, we traveled to King’s Mountain, NC, where Eddie and June Bridges have lived all of their married life (50 years plus). June is one of Ellen’s sisters. We were only able to spend a couple of nights there, but thoroughly enjoyed that time. King’s Mountain is an historic place where the local mountaineers, during the Revolutionary War, soundly defeated a well-equipped British brigade in a battle that played a significant role in turning the tide of the war against Great Britain.
Our next stop was in North Wilkesboro, NC, where Ellen was born and where she lived until she enrolled in Bob Jones University as a freshman in 1963. That is where we met when I was a junior in the ministerial class. In those days we were assigned tables in the McKenzie dinning common, and attendance was required three meals a day, beginning at 6:45 a.m. and men had to have their ties on and women their appropriate dress attire for the day. As I remember, the table assignments were changed every six weeks. It was at table T-1 that I met the girl I fell in love with and would marry in 1965, 57 years ago, and counting by God’s grace. Ellen has a sister, Brenda (Terry), and a brother, Greg (Deborah), who live outside of North Wilkesboro, each of them having built houses on mountain tops adjacent to the Blue Ridge Mountains Parkway. We stayed a week and a couple of days with Brenda and Terry, and our bedroom was on the 2nd floor and we could look out each morning at a beautiful sunrise with pink and blue streaks above the tree tops over which we were looking. It was a totally different world with no sirens or busy traffic to hear, nothing but peaceful quiet. We were able to see and to visit with some of Ellen’s relatives in the area, and also to attend a couple of different churches. It was amazing that almost every church you would drive by, either in the town or in the rural, mountain areas, was a Baptist Church. Many of them were probably Southern Baptists but in recent years there have been more independent Baptist Churches established. We first visited the church that Brenda and Terry attend, and to get to it one has to leave the paved road, driving on gravel and eventually dirt, thinking that there is no way a church would be located at the end of the road. But there was and it was full of people and the preacher delivered a Bible message that any sound Baptist Church member would have been blessed by–we certainly were. It was a great experience. The following Sunday we attended a church where Terry and Brenda’s son and grandson attend. It was even further into a “holler” than the first church and it was hard to believe that a church of any size would be at the end of that road which wound three or more miles up and down a mountain path before, wouldn’t you know, in a beautiful clearing the nicest white church building with a steeple, and a cemetery located behind the church building, appeared. A cousin of Ellen’s preached a stirring Biblical message and we left rejoicing for having had the opportunity of worshipping there with those folk, who, by the way, were families, mostly younger, with children. It was a truly amazing experience and we were reminded that God has a faithful remnant and they are located everywhere. These communities are not far from Boone, NC, and it is beautiful Blue Ridge Mountain terrain and we love it!
Our trip home August 1 was eventful also. The airline flight that we were on from Charlotte to Indy had to navigate through some turbulence and we discovered that, amidst screams, one could hit the ceiling of an airplane cabin and at the same time have his seat belt securely fastened! We arrived safely and were glad to be home again.