Ken was 25 years old and just out of seminary when he with his wife, Bonita, came to our little rural church many years ago. I was just 11 years old! What a joy it was to visit them a few days ago. They moved into a retirement village last year and celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary a few weeks ago. Ken was born and raised in an affluent family in the Bronx; Bonita was one of eleven children from the impoverished mountains of Tennessee.
They spent three short years in that little church and made an immense difference in many lives, including my own. It was their “servant ministry” that first prompted the inner whisperings of the call to ministry within me. One summer when my mother had just come home from the hospital they came to visit us. On the back porch were three or four bushels of peaches awaiting “canning.” Realizing that my mother would not be able to accomplish the task, they jumped right in, giving each son or daughter (six of us) a job, and canned those peaches! That act of kindness and that kind of ministry (both words and deeds) spoke to a deep place within me.
I was baptized, along with my father and mother and several of my siblings, during Ken’s ministry in that little church. I recall telling Ken of my interest in the ministry back then and his response: “Be open and search out all other professions first,” he said, “and if none of them fit you, you can be sure that your call is genuine.”
|Ken and my father--Seminary graduation|
Through all the years since, through every chapter of my journey, Ken and Bonita have been there with me and for me. The full story is much too long to record here. When the whisperings concerning the ministry continued to be heard within, it was Ken who encouraged me not to take any short-cuts in terms of education. Ken and Bonita were there when I graduated from the same seminary he had attended. I was with him when he retired from his ministry of over 50 years. They were with me and our family when my father died, and he officiated at my mother’s memorial service almost two years ago at the age of 85. I was with them and they were with me just a few days ago! I am so grateful that they came to that little rural church sixty-two years ago.