Let Me Tell You a Story!
Carolyn and I were “mere kids” (at 32 and 34) when we moved away from 11 years of mission work in Canada, to the pulpit of the Highland Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas. Even in those days Highland was one of the largest and most visible congregations among churches of Christ. Needless to say, we were in way over our heads. But those wonderful shepherds “took us to raise.” For example: One of the older elder/shepherd couples was Buddy and Maureen Wade, (long since gone home to Jesus). Our first few nights in Abilene, we slept at the Wades’ home. Across the years since, we have eaten countless meals at Maureen’s table. Our daughter—now a grown grandmother and an elder’s wife (a co-shepherd in a church)—still remembers how gracious, loving, and “grandparent-like” Buddy and Maureen were to us.
Buddy Wade was a good shepherd—a tall man with a humble heart and a warm voice, a man the church loved to hear pray. Brother Wade occasionally invited me along on crisis calls. I recall vividly how one of those calls took us into a hospital room where an aged minister lay dying, burdened by a load of guilt as he was “setting his house in order.” The critically ill brother bared his soul to Brother Wade, confessing his painful seasons of major personal sin. Buddy Wade gently sat beside him on the bed and held the man in his arms, almost as if this aged preacher was a child. He wept a moment and prayed, reminding the aged minister, over and over, of peace through God’s amazing grace.
Buddy Wade was not only ministering powerfully to that elderly minister that day, he was mentoring this younger one as well.
Another time, Buddy Wade called me after midnight to meet him at the home of some of our church members who, he said, “Have been drinking and fighting for hours.” When we walked in, Brother Wade hugged them both, then sat down and listened. After a bit he noticed a nearly empty whiskey bottle on the coffee table. When the couple assured him they didn’t intend to drink more of it, he walked over and poured the last of the whiskey down the sink. Then sat down again and ever-so-gently asked questions—and listened. He listened to them talk till they sobered up enough to make sense.
With the coming of daylight, he made arrangements to return later in the day to “think through next steps.” Then he prayed over them, hugged them, and we left. That day, the couple began a journey that would eventually lead to lives of sobriety.
Thank you, Lord, for the indelible impressions, the life-shaping shepherding memories, which began more than four decades ago, in the Wade house on Bird Avenue. Amen.
This is the first of several stories I will be telling about some of the shepherds Carolyn and I have known; Elders who have helped shape our hearts—and countless other hearts as well, including those of our now grown children.
So, watch this space. Next time: more stories of real, live shepherds.