I want to say "Thank You" to some people who have shaped and formed me in ways they may not have ever realized--but they did. These great people are the "shepherds" that have helped guide and guard my spiritual life. I can't name them all, but there are some who are particularly noteworthy, and I want to honor them.
Tommy Rosenbloom was the Senior minister at the Greenfield Church of Christ. On a Tuesday night in June, 1968, I went forward in the "Gospel meeting" and gave my heart to Jesus. I repented of my sins--the best a six-year old would know how--and asked Christ to come into my heart. He did. I followed Him in obedience to His command and was baptized in water that same night. (That was also some of the Coldest water I can ever remember being in.) He was my "pastor" for about two or three years after that event.
Pastor Dewey Smith was my pastor during my very early teenage years at the Virginia Boulevard Church of God. That congregation is now "Life Church International" in Huntsville, Alabama. Brother Smith was just a giant of a man to me. A great preacher, and just a very kind, warm man. His late wife, Christine, was one of the kindest people I've ever known. She treated me as one of her very own children. I'll always remember that.
Pastor Billy Nettles was my pastor at the West Huntsville Church of God of Prophecy in the mid 1970s (around 1975-1977, if my memory serves me correctly). What a kind, gracious, gentle man! What a great preacher! The first time I ever heard someone "sing in tongues" it was Brother Nettles. It was such a moving, spiritual experience for me. I knew this man was full of God's Spirit and power...He had such a kind, generous heart. He treated me as the "son he never had." But then again, he treated all of us younguns' like that. He made sure that I went to my very first youth camp when I was fourteen years old---an experience that helped ground me in my walk with the LORD like few other things ever did. He came to visit us, even though we lived WAAAY out in the 'sticks" when I was very sick...and I'll always remember what a tender, kind shepherd he was. He is now in glory. His widow, Beth, is still one of my dearest friends on this earth. She keeps me 'thinking right" even though we often disagree on political matters. She is my "mama" in so many ways, and I adore her.
Pastor Raymond Wallace followed Pastor Nettles at the West Huntsville Church. Even though he was only my pastor for a year, this gracious man was so very good to me. He was kind in every possible way. He had a great sense of humor, and was just a terrific person.
Pastor Mildred Roden was my shepherd at the Rock Cliff Church of God of Prophecy--about three miles walking (around a country road) from my house (in the sticks). It may surprise some of you, but yes, I FULLY support women in ministry. If God calls them, WHO am I to deny them the freedom that God has given them--as long as they are preaching and teaching God's truth as revealed in God's Word. Sister Roden was just a terrific pastor. She was a great preacher, and had the kindest heart of anyone I can think of. She faced multitudes of persecution and hardship, but there has never been a more faithful person to lead a congregation than this giant in the faith. She tolerated me more than once when I just didn't know what I was doing. (I was also the ONLY teenager in her congregation for the two years I was there under her leadership). We had a revival meeting going on the very week of my high school graduation (I was also the first one to graduate while a member of this church), and she excused me for graduation ceremonies on that Friday night. Sadly, this precious saint of God left us (and the church who loved her) for the City Whose Builder and Maker is God, that same summer in 1980. She's been there now almost 30 years, and I still miss her.
Pastor J E Brisson was my pastor during my first two years of college at the Peerless Road Church in Cleveland, Tennessee. He will go down in history as the very best pastor--in every sense of the word--that I ever had. Tremendous preacher--and I do mean TREMENDOUS! A wonderful shepherding heart, and a great sense of humor. I still remember things he preached some 28-29 years ago--and I can't remember what I had for dinner last night. Sister Brisson is one of the most talented and gracious people I've ever known. What a precious, precious couple.
Bishop Sam Clements followed the Brissons at the Peerless Road Church, in the summer of 1982. He, his wife Linda, and their three boys were our new "parsonage family." It was a bit of an adjustment for me---because I adored the Brissons--but these people soon won my heart. A completely different style, but some of the kindest and most gracious folks would could want in their "spiritual family." Linda and I are good FACEBOOK friends, and I treasure them to this day. I last saw Bishop Clements, who is now at the denominational headquarters in Tennessee, in November 2007. He is the same jovial, good-natured, humorous man he always was as my pastor. I was part of his congregational regularly until September 1986.
At this point, I entered active duty in the United States Air Force in September, 1986, and moved around quite a bit in the ensuing ten years.
My next blog post, I'll continue saluting these wonderful people who have meant so much in my life.