Friday, March 4, 2011

Turning Point in My Family History

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 become a “hopeless alcoholic” (his words).

studio pix 1954 bef Daddy's decision
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 February 29, 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.

1956 at helena a few mos aft Daddy's decision
Our family in Summer 1956
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.

 mother and daddy at jessieville church in 59 daddy's preaching at jessieville 59
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.

Pleasant Hill Baptist Church where I met Russell 6-29-1959 600 dpi
Pleasant Hill Baptist Church
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.)

Russ feb 14 1960 after soph homecoming
The love of my life, 1960
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), and our four wonderful 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.

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.”


ROC REV said...

Powerful. True. Irrefutable. Amazing. And also... That pic of Dad could be Conner!!!

Val O'Bannon said...

Thank-you so much for this good report! It was very encouraging to hear about such things! I really love history, and especially when it's personal historical accounts, and best of all when it's the history of God's on-going story of salvation and transformation. Such nice old pictures stepping back in time. Thank-you, Lord, for Your faithful and good plan for this family.

Barbara said...

Thank you, Val, for your nice comments and for the reminder that, yes, it truly is God's faithful plan!

Stephanie (and Walter) said...

Barbara, this is such an amazing story. As I read this to Dan, he said "As in Mark's song, 'Where would I be now?'." Without God's love and the fact that God came into your daddy's life and changed forever the direction that it had taken, our lives would not have been touched. He knew the plans that He had for you, and through those plans, we have been saved also! God bless your wonderful family, and thank you so much for sharing not only this story, but your awesome family and ministry with us. God truly blessed us when He brought the Ford family into our life, and we thank Him for that every single day.


Keith Wilson said...

This has to be the best piece of writing I have ever had the privilege of reading. Perfectly composed. I say that not just because you're my sister, but because this writing stands up under any scrutiny.

Now, having covered the mechanics. . .this story--very much in part my own story--is one that needs to be told over and over again. Thanks for putting it down in writing, and for preserving this amazing block of our history.

ROC REV said...

I read it again. This is a treasure.

Barbara said...

Thanks to my brother for one of the highest compliments I've ever received.

Stef, your post is a reminder of how God's work as a result of Daddy's decision is far-reaching, broad in scope, and ongoing. What a cause for praise!

Barbara said...

Thanks, Mark, I'm honored that you view this story as a "treasure," because I know you will pass on the story to your grandchildren as well!