Today, March 4, 2011, marks the 55th anniversary of a significant event in my personal family history. On that date, my father acknowledged and accepted God’s call to become a preacher. He was almost 30. I was almost 9, the oldest of four (later to become five). His decision on that date was even more dramatic against the backdrop of his life to that point: he had started drinking in high school, and after entering the Army Air Corps in World War II, had became a “hopeless alcoholic” (his words).
|Our family in 1954, before Daddy's decision|
I remember with sadness (and still some tears) those early days of my childhood with an alcoholic father. But I also remember the day, shortly after March 4, 1956, when he came into the kitchen and said to his three daughters and baby son, “How would you kids like to have a preacher for a daddy?” A preacher? Are you kidding? No longer the embarrassing taunts from neighbors’ kids about how they were not allowed to play with us because of our father’s condition (often passed out)? “Yes! I would love it!" I remember answering. I never complained about, and was always thankful for, being a “preacher’s kid.” I had been something else, and I knew the miracle that had happened in our lives.
Daddy had made the choice to turn his life over to God, a poignant story I’ll save for another time, a few days before March 4 (on February 29, 1956). At that time, he had promised God that if He would take away from him the desire to drink, he would do anything God asked. God asked for his service in the ministry.
So, Daddy and Mother, and us four kids moved to Arkadelphia, Arkansas, later that same year, for Daddy to attend Ouachita Baptist College, to prepare for ministry. He began preaching wherever he could find the opportunity, and became pastor of his first church while still in college, in August 1956. Daddy graduated from college in three years, with a major in New Testament Greek and straight A’s on his transcript.
|From Daddy comes my love of learning|
My two sisters and I began singing, first in two-part harmony and then shortly thereafter in three-part harmony, and we sang “special music” a lot of times when Daddy preached. Thus began the important role of music in our lives, that continues to this day, in my siblings and our children and grandchildren.
Other than how my young little life changed dramatically on March 4, 1956, how was that date a turning point in my personal history? Because Daddy followed God’s call to be a preacher, when he finished college, he began looking for a church to pastor in Missouri, where he could continue his studies at a seminary. The church that called Daddy to be their pastor was Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, Jefferson City, Missouri.
In that little church there was a wonderful family named Ford. They had four children as well: three boys and a girl. Daddy’s first day as pastor there was June 28, 1959. That evening, after church, I staked my territory (remember, I had two sisters). “The oldest Ford boy is mine,” I said. That was the day I met and fell in love with that stinkin’ cute Russell Ford (he was 14; I was 12). (My sister next to me later fell in love with another of the Ford boys, David, and they got married three years after us.)
|Pleasant Hill Baptist Church|
So, because Daddy turned his life over to God, accepted God’s call to be a preacher, followed God’s call to college, to his first pastorate, and then to Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Missouri, I met the man God had ordained for me. And because of that, we have had a wonderful marriage for 45 years so far, two absolutely wonderful children (Mark and Sharida), their two wonderful spouses (Kristy and James), and our four absolutely perfect grandchildren (Tory and Conner, Alyssa and Dawson). And how will the story continue? Only God knows. For one thing, Daddy has a grandson in the ministry and a great-grandson who has already accepted God's call to ministry, not to mention other direct descendants and family members who serve God with their entire lives. But, even though we cannot know all the ways the story will continue through the generations, the origin of the story will never change.
|The love of my life, 1960|
I am a thankful child of God—a thankful daughter, sister, wife, mother and grandmother. I’m thankful that God called Daddy. I’m thankful that Daddy was willing to answer. I’m thankful that God allowed me to personally witness the awesome miracle of a changed life. And I’m thankful that the changed life affected history from his time forward. That’s the way it works.
One thing about growing older, you know—you have the special perspective of looking back and actually seeing how God “works all things together.”
Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”