In the summer of 1957, I served as the interim minister of the Clements Street Church of Christ in Paducah, Kentucky while the church's regular minister, Frank Gould, conducted his summer meetings and perhaps took a little vacation. For several years, the Clements Street church had had an arrangement of using a young preacher from Freed-Hardeman College in this capacity. The summer I preached there I was nineteen years old, between my second and third years at Freed-Hardeman, with plans to be married at the end of the summer.
What a tremendous experience that summer proved to be! I preached every Sunday morning and evening, taught the Sunday morning and Wednesday evening auditorium adult Bible class, and conducted a Monday through Friday fifteen minute live radio program on WPAD. Ray Mofield, a preacher of the gospel and later Professor of Radio and Television at the University of Southern Illinois, and still later at Murray State University in Kentucky, was the manager of the station and, as I recall, the announcer for the program. The program was near the noon hour. I would drive downtown, park my car at Clarence LaNeve's Gulf Service Station, and walk to the radio station and do the program. Clarence was the song leader at the Clements Street church. I also produced a weekly church bulletin and visited the hospitals on a regular basis. I wrote Jan every day and looked forward to receiving her daily letter.
I made many friends that summer in Paducah. Among these were Ed and Thelma Steger. (Recently, I shared with my readers a story from Ed about "The Burnt Biscuit.") Ed serves as an elder at the Central Church of Christ in Paducah. His and Thelma's son, Randy (who was three or four years old the summer I preached in Paducah), later established "Healing Hands International," a humanitarian relief organization headquartered in Nashville. Other friendships developed that summer included James Swinney, Solon Williams, Clifford Thomason, Farley Freeman, John Baker, Roy Jackson, Rudy Jackson, their wives, and many others whose names have now faded from a memory affected by the passing of well over fifty years. Most of these have now passed over to life's other side.
My living arrangements inPaducah that summer were somewhat unusual in that I lived in the men's dressing room next to the baptistery in the church building. The Stegers' oldest son—Rhodes—was about eight years old at the time, and he asked his mother and daddy if I took my baths in the baptistery! Well, of course, I did not, but it was a curiosity to a kid as to where I did bathe. The fact is that every afternoon I had a standing invitation with various ones of the four elders and other members to come by their home and use their bathroom to take a bath. When you are young, trying to save some money for continuing your college work, and planning to be married, you find innovative ways to reduce expenses! In fact, the living arrangement had been suggested by Robert Waller, Sr., one of the elders, with the hearty approval of the other elders and with the full knowledge and approval of the congregation.
During that summer in Paducah I had the opportunity to hear some very fine preachers as they conducted gospel meetings in the numerous congregations scattered throughout Western Kentucky—such men as H. A. Dixon, H. A. Fincher, Paul James Waller, Jewell Norman, and Frank Gould. All of these men became a great source of encouragement to me. Brother Dixon was the president of Freed-Hardeman College, and I had already studied for two years under him in Henderson, Tennessee. H. A. Fincher was the son-in-law of one of the Clements Street elders; Paul James Waller was the son of another elder. Fincher and I developed a friendship that extended for several years. Paul James Waller was an outstanding preacher who left us all too soon, dying of a heart attack when he was less than forty years old.
As a result of that one's summer's work in Paducah, I became acquainted with a number of the churches in that part of the state and have maintained a relationship with many of them. I have conducted numerous gospel meetings and spoken on various other occasions at several of the congregations. As I wrote a few years ago in my autobiography, "The Lord Has Been Mindful Of Me." His gracious hand of providence has been evident in so many of the things that have unfolded, and continue to unfold, in my life. Paducah, Kentucky was a part of that providential plan and it will always have a place in my heart.
March 27, 2012