What Are The Experiences That Have Marked You?

We had been in Nashville for several days.  Finally, we left for Florence, Alabama, about a two and a half hour drive.  We decided to drive through Pulaski, Tennessee, a small town where I first preached many years ago.  The church met in a storefront (formerly a convenience store).  

 
I will always appreciate this community and that church.  Those people were patient — very patient — with their young, newly married, transplanted minister from Texas.  At that point, I had graduated from a university in Texas as well as a Bible college in north Alabama.  Much more school would follow this brief ministry, but it would be deeply impacted by the experiences with this church in this town.

 
As we drove through Pulaski, I remembered some of these experiences.  Some of them marked me deeply.  I will always be thankful for what I learned through these moments:

 

  •  The love and encouragement of so many of these people such as Dennon and Joy, Mary Cordell, the Gowans, and so many other people. 

 

  • Seeing small-town culture up close for the first time in my life.
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  • Going with Dennon to meet person after person in that town who I would otherwise never meet.  He opened many doors for me to people in that community.
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  • Talking with a woman whose husband, a very visible person in that community, had committed suicide the year before.
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  • Meeting with a young man, an African-American about 25 years old, who worked in a nearby factory.  He approached me one day and asked if I would teach him everything I knew about the Bible.  We met together each week for a number of months.  I’m sure that I learned more than he did.
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  • The experience of seeing every kind of human emotion "up close."  I recall having to deal with their fear, anger, pride, etc.  At the same time, of course, I was learning to recognize and deal with these same emotions in myself.
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  • Learning to live and minister among a group of people.  I preached twice a week and taught two Bible classes.  That was very difficult but also humbling.  I realized how little I really knew.
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  • Preaching my first funeral, for a 26-year-old woman who died of cancer.  To this day, I can remember standing on the hillside in the cemetery, one windy day.  In fact, I can almost still hear the sound of the funeral home tent flapping in the wind.     

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4 thoughts on “What Are The Experiences That Have Marked You?

  1. Pulaski is a tough place to preach the gospel–rookie or not! Jesus said make one man out of two. Pulaski used to prefer to keep the men seperate based on the color of skin. Nothing like learning in the midst of hostile fire!

  2. I remember many of the seeming, small mundane moments– like the afternoon I stopped at a local fruit stand to sit for a few minutes and speak with a parishioner, who had cancer. We small-talked about melons, bricklaying, and the getting-ever-busier intersection in town. I realized as we were chatting that I was in the midst of a sacred moment.

  3. Thanks Ben.  The racial aspect was difficult.  As I think back to that church experience, I can remember three moments of intense conflict.  Two of those moments dealt with the race issue.  

  4. Allan,Even as I read your post I thought of more seemingly mundane moments like the ones you mentioned.  Is is amazing how these moments end up being so significant.