The First Year
When we began our new “careers,” pastor and pastor’s wife, we were 35 and 30 years of age, respectively. Having endured a war and the birth of four children, we were a little the worse for wear. Evidence for all to see was my growing bald spot. Hidden evidence was Alva’s stretch marks.
The hectic first twelve years of our marriage had been successfully navigated with the Lord’s help. Hopefully, with the Lord’s continuing help, we would successfully navigate the next fifty eight years of our marriage.
Though we approached our totally new situation with some fear and trembling, we were all healthy and eager, and dove into the ministry with enthusiasm.
My first priority was to take on Pastor Callahan’s duties of preaching Sunday morning and evening messages, and overseeing the Wednesday evening prayer meeting. When this and other incidental responsibilities around the Chapel fell into place, I began to build our house. I loved both the spiritual and the mundane activities and felt totally blessed by the Lord!
Alva’s first priority was to take on Mom and Lois Callahan’s supervision of the Sunday School without compromising the mothering of four young children. Not to worry-Alva just made it all into a party. She had the greatest gift of delegation I have ever seen. People flocked around to help, and were made to feel by the Spirit in her that they were the luckiest persons in the world to thus be laboring for the Lord. It was uncanny. The same with the children-she mothered them in the process of having them serving the Lord in preparing materials for Sunday School classes or whatever. She managed famously. She could even handle hospitality for all comers as she would give them the “privilege” of helping with this or that.
One of the first changes we made was to begin “Children’s Church.” Of course Alva had to handle that, as I was preaching to the adults. Alva accommodated children from pre-kindergarten to seventh or eighth grade. The younger children would take the offering, recite memory verses and such, older ones would lead the singing, act out Bible stories and help the younger ones with crafts. It was an instant hit. The distraction of young children was eliminated from the adult service so the parents could enjoy themselves, and the children learned to worship on their own level and loved it.
A few parents with a Presbyterian background didn’t like it, feeling that the whole family should sit together in the adult service, but almost everyone, child and adult, thought it was wonderful. The kids looked forward to Sunday with great anticipation, would say to their parents each morning, “Is it Sunday yet, is it Sunday yet?” What more could you ask for?
We were privileged to have Perry and Vivian Baker in the congregation. Vivian had a supernatural gift for loving and caring for infants. She was in charge of the Chapel’s nursery. She kept the premises surgically clean, refused to receive sick babies (which the parents came to realize was proper), knew every baby by name and somehow knew instinctively what each baby needed. It was uncanny. After the parents had claimed all the babies, Vivian bundled up all bedding and took it home to wash it. She was such an asset to the Chapel that I put out the directive that anything Vivian wants, Vivian is to get!
The children’s ministry under Alva’s supervision and with all the dedicated helpers accounted for most of the Chapel’s steady growth through the years.
In those days the snow line was at Confidence. We got occasional snow in Twain Harte, but it usually melted quickly. As a result, with considerable help from contractors in the congregation, I was able to make good progress on our house during the winter. If I remember correctly, we were in our new house by the end of spring.
With the completion of the house, my time at the Chapel doubled. I was able to make more pastoral calls. I did various remodels on the Chapel building to increase or improve space. I began to upgrade different areas of the premises that were pretty crude (the Chapel as originally built was done by amateur builders). There was even time left over from all of the above for me to pick up some of the household tasks. I routinely did the dishes, took care of the trash, and performed all the heavy lifting chores. When Alva was particularly busy I would fix meals, do house cleaning and whatever else might keep her from being stressed out. Both of us combined efforts to have brief family devotions after the evening meal.
Our kids were growing. Susan and David loved the Twain Harte school. All of them loved Twain Harte, which combined the amenities of a city but felt more like living in the country. Then there was Twain Harte Lake in summer. Whoopee!
Pastor Andersen’s fears did not materialize. Rex Heath, the “other candidate,” was called to be the pastor of the Rawhide Community Church, the Callahans had gone to help him, we were all still friends and at peace. We were able to live on the $375/month salary even though it was half what I got from North American. People brought us fruit and vegetables they had grown, we were supplied with beef from the Baker’s ranch and helped in so many other ways. Jesus had seen us through the first year and we were settled in for the long haul!