One of the sweetest surprises Ray and I have received since we came to Jackson County, Tennessee, fifteen years ago has been the local church we have come to love. As I have told you before, Ray began filling in for our minister last August. After our minister went home to be with our Savior last December, Ray continue his role of filling in.
For the past four months, our church has been seeking a minister to come to work with us full-time. Four experienced ministers have visited with us on four separate weekends this year. The fourth minister was with our church on May 5.
Later that evening, I was sitting at my computer when Ray came to me, bent down, and looked at me with a serious expression. Frankly, I was a bit frightened. He obviously had some serious news. To my surprise and delight, Ray told me that he was thinking about telling his fellow elders, John Richard and Gary, that he was willing to become our new minister (John Richard and Gary asked Ray to join them in that role several weeks ago and Ray has been serving as an elder now for about a month).
As I said, I was surprised. Ray told the congregation months ago that he had no desire to take on this role. From time to time, I had asked him, “Are you sure you don’t want to become the minister?” His answer was always a certain “No.” When other members of our church told him they wished he would stay on permanently, he smiled and gently told them he just couldn’t do that.
When Ray told me about his change of heart, I was happy. My only concern was for him. Would this be too much work for him on top of the full-time work he is already doing in Notgrass History?
Ray began to pray about his decision, and in just a day or two, he was sure it was the right thing to do. He asked John Richard and Gary what they thought about it this past Wednesday night. They were thrilled. They and Ray decided to make an announcement on Sunday morning.
Yesterday morning John Richard told our church that Ray had decided to offer his services to our church as its permanent minister. Ray then shared with our church about what he was thinking. In one way, I felt sad for the congregation that we have had to go through this four-month process, but I am confident that Ray and our church needed this time of seeking an answer to be confident now.
Ray invited me to go to the back of our auditorium after church yesterday morning so that we could greet folks as they were leaving. To see the tears of joy in their eyes and hear their words of love and appreciation for Ray made for an especially wonderful Mother’s Day for me.
As I mentioned, Ray is adding this responsibility to the full-time responsibilities he has with Notgrass History. He is offering this service to our church without pay. He plans to take off one Sunday each month so that he can have a break and so that we can continue traveling when we have opportunities. Ray wants to continue the ministry that our friend Wayne devoted himself to for the past fifteen years. Our church wants that, too. Ray hopes that the money the church will save will allow it to serve our community more.
Last night Ray got an email from one of our friends. She said, “I think that you are like Esther. You were put in Gainesboro for such a time as this.”
But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord,
I say, “You are my God.
My times are in Your hand . . .”