On August 18, 1958 my dearest friend and I planned a trip that would last a lifetime. We haven’t made that milestone yet, but on August 18, 2009 we had concluded 51 years of blissful traveling and enjoyment.
It all began when I was introduced to a beautiful young lady, whose friend was a state policeman from where she went to church, but who attended my church every Wednesday evening when he was in town for business. Being from about 45 miles away and because of two lane roads we had in those days, he always stayed over, and being a single myself we would often spend time afterwards at a café for fellowship.
On one evening he unceremoniously asked, “Why aren’t you married? Every preacher needs a wife!”
“I have never gotten the right one to propose to me yet,” I jokingly replied.
The truth of the matter was, unbeknown to him, I had been engaged to a wonderful young lady but with time we both learned we were not compatible enough for married. (I later learned also had been spoken for but it too ended.) Nearly a year had elapsed before we would even meet each other.
We talked a bit about some other things then he came back with, “There is a young lady in our church I think you ought to meet. On your next free Thursday night come over and I will introduce you to her.
I was pretty shy back then so was reluctant in immediately accepting his invitation, but as he continued to tease me until I said I would.
Thursday night came and I drove my 1949 Hudson Hornet to his home and he took me to meet her. He had not even told her, so we drove into the yard without giving her any time for preparation. She already was prepared for bed since it was about 8 p.m. with her hair in rollers already. Not a good time to visit a person who wants to present her best look.
But she undone them and he took us to an A & W and then said to us, “You know I just remember I have to get something ready for work tomorrow. Alton, would you drive her home?”
We looked at each other when I said, “Do you believe we have been setup?”
She smiled and we were soon happy he left.
Six months later we were married, which was hardly accepted in those days and especially for a preacher.
(I learned after we were married this gal always wanted pre-warning.)
Our first years, we like so many during our generation, knew money was limited and my church only paid me $15 a week, so I had to have a second job selling suits in a men’s store which added $25 to my salary. There were very few vacations at that time for us, but we were truly in love and traveling had never been in our lives beforehand. If fact, she had only been to one other state which was only 30 miles from where she had grown up.
Well, 51 years have passed and we enjoyed 19 years as a pastor before entering into the various roles of denominational work. She was a remarkable pastor’s wife and respected by the ladies in the churches we served. At my last pastorate I met an officer of a large independent publishing house from Wheaton, Illinois who persuaded me to join their ministry of offering the printed page to the “Whole World” which was a portion of their mission statement.
Then she made a gracious first lady when I began to serve the denomination in other roles. First, as the State Executive Secretary in Ohio for 20 years, and secondly when I became the President/CEO of Randall House Publications in Nashville, Tennessee.
During these roles we were able to catch up on all we had never been able to see or visit, traveling into all of the 50 states, but Nebraska and North Dakota; all but 5 of the provinces of Canada, and 35 foreign countries and some of them as many as 19 times.
The Lord has given us a remarkable life and I know of nothing I would be ashamed of standing before the Lord.
During our life’s trip we had two sons and now two daughters-in-love whose marriage have given us five beautiful grandchildren.
Life is a journey and my life-mate has made the trip much greater because of her.
During the last three years of my illness I have learned to love her even more as she has continued to dress my operation wounds twice daily without any complaints or excuses.
I can truly say of her, copying something Jesus once said, “Well done that good and faithful servant……”
As we have now grown older we are not able to do what we did, but we know there is “a rest for the weary.
“There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.” --Hebrews 4:9
“Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth.” --Psalm 71:9 Therefore, “I will sing of the mercies of the LORD for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations.” --Psalm 89:1