The Lord's Call May Be different from One Person to Another
After Reunion on that Sunday, July 7, 2013, as all segments of the family were saying their last good-bys, Jeremy ask me, "Dad, I'd like to hear your story about your "Exhorters License." In November 1951, our family had been driving to Quanah, Texas to attend some of the services of a Revival Meeting at the Church of the Nazarene. The pastor and his family, the Calhouns, had been our friends for many years. The evangelist, Rev. Joe Norton, was pastor at the Ryan, Oklahoma Church of the Nazarene, when we first met him. Any time we could meet with any of them, it was like having a great reunion. There was a lot of coordnation that needed to happen for us to make the tirp. We had to get home from school, and or finish the days work, the do the evening chores. That meant bring up the cows, do the milking, have supper, clean up and get dressed., then drive the eight miles to Eldorado and cross the Red River to Quanah, thirteen more miles.
At the close of the Service that night, Brother Norton gave an opportunity for anyone to pray at the Altar Bench. I had already given my heart to Jesus in August, 1948. So I wasn't sure why the urge to pray, but went forward and soon felt a clear call to the Christian Ministry of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
When I was seven years old, I remember asking Mother, "How does a person know if he should become a preacher?" She suggested I ask Uncle Elbert. He was her second brother and just younger than she. I let it go, and never asked him.
There have been several preachers in the background of our family, but the closest I knew of in those years, (execpt Uncle Elbert) was Uncle Abe Tucker, Granny's brother-in-law. And that was before I was ever born. He preached a Revival Meeting at the Midway School in the Summer that Mother was 17. I don't know if she had been attending the services, but on a day of that week, as she swept the floor, the Holy Spirit spoke to her heart and whispered, "Why don't you let Me sweep the sin out of your heart, like you sweep out the dirt from the room?" She said, "At that moment I determined to go to the meeting that night and surrender my life to Him."
A few years ago Uncle Elbert with others and I were at Pallie and Darrell's for several days. He told some of his story. After Mother gave her heart to the Lord, she gently urged him to give his heart to the Lord. I don't remember when he did. What I do remember was this: In the summer of 1939 there had been another Revival Meeting at the Midway School. On Sunday night, after the last service of the Revival, the pastor announced that he didn't feel right about closing the meetings. He ask the men of the Congregation to come the next morning at 10am for prayer.
Uncle Elbert was at that service and told me about it. His birthday was June 26, 1920. Mother Shumaker had given him a new pocket watch for his birthday. He said, "I don't know how she ever had enough money to buy the watch." On Monday morning, following that call to prayer, Uncle Elbert was alone in the cotton patch west of their house chopping cotton. He stopped for a moment to rest and wondered about the time. He took out his new "watch that Mama gave me" and saw that it was 10:00am. He remembered the pastor's announcement and knew the men were there to pray. He said, "At that instant I heard the Lord call me to preach."
He argured that he couldn't preach. He said he would be a good Christian man. He promised to follow the Lord all his life. He offered to be the best tithing man in the congregation. He pled to be the greatest Sunday School Superintendent the place had ever seen. But for all his resisting of the call, the Lord wouldn't let him go. Finally, he gave up.
He couldn't read well. He always had trouble with math. He still had the twelth grade to attend that fall and finish in the spring. He didn't know how to preach or how to start. He didn't have any money and his family didn't have any either. From his point of view, it was a hopeless prospect. But he believed in God and believed in prayer. He began the pastorate of his first Church in 1943. He did retire after many years, but has continued to be called on for funerals, weddings, and pastoral supply. He has preached more than 500 funeral services and this summer had his 93 birthday.
Twenty-five years after that day in the cotton patch, he received a letter from Uncle Everett Davis. The letter said: "Elbert, I never told you, and wanted you to know. On that Monday morning in the Pastor's call to prayer, at 10:00am. I asked God to call you to preach." I don't know what his response was to Uncle Everett. I do know that when Uncle Everett and Aunt Pearl's son, A. Y. Davis, was lost in action during WW II, Uncle Elbert officiated when they held the Memorial Service at the High Point Methodist Church.
A rattlesnake struck Donnie about the middle of her calf on her left leg. I think that was May 18, 1948. After our Parents left taking her to Dr. Crow in Olustee, I lay with my face in the back of the couch and promised God, if He would save her life, I would give my life to him. He did and I did. The Methodist Church in Eldorado was having a Revival Meeting in August that year. Our family was attending most of the services that week. One night when the Evangelist gave the altar call, I responded. That night at age eleven, I went forward, knelt at the mourners bench and gave my heart and life to the Lord.
Brother Staught was Pastor of our Church at High Point. Soon after he came, he asked if anyone had been saved since the last pastor left and was in need of baptism. I raised my hand. There were others and I suppose the timing was a factor, because a group of older persons were baptized in a farm pond belonging to one of the Freeman's soon after that, about a mile east of the Church. I remember Midge Richie as one of the adult persons being baptized. Later in the summer, my cousin Milton Shumaker and I were baptized in Custer Freeman's farm pond.
After Brother Staught was transfered, Brother Ray Altaffer was our next pastor. It was during his pastorate that I received my call to preach. One Sunday morning, May 18, 1952, he called me to the front and from the side of the pulpit he gave to me An Exhorter's License. At age 15, I was now authorized to Exhort on the truths of the Word of God. There have been other licenseings along the way.
The long road from that day to this went by just one day at a time. Some times the day seemed to be as long as a year and some years have seemed to pass as quickly as a day. There have been days of sadness, but over all, I must say the whole journey has been filled with very rich gladness. I have not stood in the pulpit every Sunday, but I have been faithful to the calling of God to proclaim His word as opportunity afforded through these 61 years. And He has been my most faithful Shepherd, Heavenly Father and constantly abiding Holy Spirit. I give all praise to Him!