Psalms 37:23 reads, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord and He delighteth in his way.” My father grew up in East St. Louis, but moved to Michigan during the early 1900s. Through the faithful witness of someone in the local Baptist church, he trusted Christ as Savior. Aspiring to become a preacher, he left his work at Dodge Motor Company in Detroit, and enrolled in an eastern Pennsylvania seminary. Though there were many fine believers there, there were others that said that the blood of Christ had no atoning value. Therefore, he left and moved to Tennessee to attend college in Jefferson City. It was there he met Mary Emma Sharp, the daughter of a Baptist preacher whom he eventually married.
Dad was greatly impacted by the imminent return of Christ, which in turn influenced me. Through his own study, he saw the truth of the weekly Lord’s Supper, the priesthood of all believers, and other NT church truths, long before he had any contact with those who practiced these principles. One Sunday afternoon, when I was just nine years old, my father spoke to me about the urgency of trusting Christ as my Savior. Convicted of my spiritual need and the urgency to respond before the Lord returned, I also trusted the Lord and was later baptized. The biblical passage God used in my life at that time was I Thessalonians 4:13-17.
At the close of World War II, we moved to Murfreesboro, Tennessee where Dad was offered a principal’s position in a rural school. Little did I realize, that this would lay the foundation for my future work in education. Through all these events, we could trace the hand of God at work in our lives.
In 1952, I graduated from high school and began college at Middle Tennessee State. I took biology and English classes and was soon offered a lab assistant position. Around that time, we heard of special tent meetings conducted by T.B. Gilbert, an itinerant Bible teacher. The gospel was powerfully presented each night as well as solid bible teaching about God’s pattern for the local church. Notable people were present at these gatherings including a state congressman in the U. S. House of Representatives and others who had come to know the Lord. It made quite an impression on me of the gospel’s power to save and the importance of observing NT principles.
I was in ROTC during my college years and upon graduation in 1956, I was commissioned as a second lieutenant, serving in the army Medical Service Corps for more than two years, first in Japan, then in Korea. While in Japan, the battalion commander assigned me to the position of Company Commander of an ambulance company. This was a major period of testing since I could not find any fellowship with believers but God faithfully preserved me.
When I returned home from being overseas, I taught a seventh-grade class for four years in the Murfreesboro school system, followed by four years as principal of Mitchell Neilson Elementary School, a position I held until 1966. It was during that tenure, that one of my associates who was teaching an aerospace course, told me that Dr. Werner Von Braun, an eminent German scientist, was coming to the college as a guest lecturer. He had come to the States with other scientists after the war, having worked for Hitler in developing Germany’s V1 and V2 rocket program. It was quite an experience for me to meet a person with such lofty credentials in the scientific community, as well as to hear later of his testimony of a personal Creator. God does not leave Himself without a witness (Acts 14:17).
Two big events occurred in my life during my time as principal at Mitchell Neilson. I married Cora Jean Blair in December, 1960, whom I had known for some time. The other was when a work associate challenged me to pursue doctoral studies. Because the GI bill had come through at that time, as well as an assistantship at the University of Alabama, we could afford to pursue this endeavor. My wife Jean was offered a teaching position and the Lord provided us a nice home at a very reasonable expense. Again, we could see the hand of the Lord ordering our steps – first by being challenged to go further in my professional work and then in directing our way, providing for our needs to be met.
At that time, I committed to make it a regular practice to wake early each morning and spend an extended time in prayer and Bible reading. Without question, this exercise is the key to spiritual growth in the Christian life.
After completing my studies, I taught at the University of Alabama – Birmingham. My focus was science education (teaching elementary teachers how to teach science), first as an associate professor and then as an assistant professor. While at UAB, I chaired a team of fellow associates to further develop the science teaching capabilities of teachers throughout the State of Alabama. School systems that initiated this program saw science scores improve significantly. We give all the glory to the Lord for the abilities He gives His people. To be a further witness in the academic environment, it was my regular practice with all my classes, even on the graduate level, to insist that there was no bad language or suggestive jokes in the classroom. The words of Philippians 1:21 have always been a guiding verse in our testimony for the Lord, “For me to live is Christ…”.
The Lord opened many other doors for Jean and I to serve Him. For many years, both in Tuscaloosa and then in Birmingham, we held a home Bible study for young adults. Both of them paved the way for the Lord to establish a New Testament assembly. Today many of these people have gone on for the Lord and are in fellowship in various meetings in Alabama. We enjoyed happy fellowship in Alabama, before relocating in 2005 to Chambersburg, PA to be near family.
The Lord has taught us many lessons in life: be available to serve Him at any time; go deeper in our walk with Christ; and always give Him the glory. We are thankful for the reassuring words that we are “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession unto the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:13-14). We are also thankful for the simplicity of the Gospel, “He that hath the Son hath life and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 Jn. 5:12).