Tomorrow morning, we will be going to a funeral just outside of Dallas. Ron was in his mid-forties and finally died of cancer after a long, long battle. I knew him and Judy for many, many years. Ate wonderful beef stew from their table on many occasions when I was still single. Laughed with him (he was a cheerful guy who loved to laugh) on many other occasions. Many years ago, he led singing where I preached in a small town in Pulaski, Tennessee. (The picture above is the courthouse just as it looked when we were there). I will always remember those trips together.
Pulaski is about an hours drive from Florence, Alabama where we were living at the time. Charlotte and I were newly married, still in school, and would make the hours drive to Pulaski every Sunday morning. The church was small about 75 on a good Sunday. It was located on Minor Hill highway (I think that’s right) just across from the "round" bank. We were literally in a store front in a small strip mall shopping center next to the antique store. On Sunday mornings, the "young adults" had their class across the street in a bank meeting room. This was a really thoughtful group of people. They had a room for us at the local motel each Sunday afternoon. (Since we were an hour from home, it really wasn’t possible to drive home and then come back that night for another assembly). We had one room, Ron and Judy had another. It was a great place to rest and then preach again that night.
This was a special time. Dennon, Joy, J.W., Bill and Sylvia, Jewel, Mary, Byron and Brenda, Jimmy, the Gulleys, Delaine and many others were so encouraging to us. These people were very, very patient. It was a place where we would learn. We actually lived in Pulaski for a year. Charlotte taught at Minor Hill School. I tried to figure out what I was supposed to be doing.
This was a place of new experiences: Helping people become Christians. Standing on a windy hill doing my first funeral for a 26 year old woman who died of cancer. Seeing the faces of an older couple (who had not been to church in years) light up when they heard that God’s grace meant that he had not given up on them. Being in conversation after conversation with people who were looking for something more in their lives. Preaching sermons that were decent and others that were awful and seeing God work through all of that.
There were funny experiences as well. Helping to lead a young man to Christ and then hearing him ask me if as a part of repentance, he should burn down the church down the street from us. Bill, the funeral home director who was always making jokes about his profession. Laughing with Dennon who spoke of "easing across town." (Those words helped me relax).
Tomorrow, when we go to this funeral, I will be thinking about this time in our lives. I will always be thankful that we shared it with Ron and Judy.