On Saturday, August 1, 1964, Kitty, our two children, Elizabeth and Mark and I loaded up our car and headed out on a 5 hour, 200-mile trip from Anderson, IN to Decatur, IL where I was to become the new pastor in town — a city of 94,000 and 150 churches. That seemed like a big pond for me considering where I started out and had been.
Will I be a little fish never learning how to swim in such a big pond? The first Sunday, both morning and evening services went well. What furniture we owned and had purchased new was in its proper place in the parsonage on our arrival.
On that very hot summer day, we arrived tired and hungry. Due to the thoughtfulness and love of that wonderful congregation, whom I served as pastor for more than 25 years, the cupboards were stocked and the refrigerator had all we needed in it. On the dining room table was a large delicious cake that was lettered across the top, “Welcome Home Pastor!” Dorothy Bart, one of the best cooks in the church, prepared the cake.
Pastor and people were off to a good start. Bob and Dorothy Bart’s daughter, Bonnie and husband David Baylor, now live Africa. They and all the families of the church blessed our lives.
On Monday afternoon, I made the first of hundreds of visits to the Decatur Memorial Hospital. As I recall, it was on the fifth floor where I met a beautiful and sweet teenage girl. She answered my question with about the sweetest and most satisfying words I had ever heard. Shortly after I walked into her room, I asked, “Do you know who I am?” With a heart-melting smile she sweetly said, “Yes, you are my pastor.” What an honor. She recognized me as “her pastor” and in my heart was this prayer, “God, please help me never to fail her.” I wish I had her name and knew how to locate her now. I will try to find it so I can again thank her for her loving kindness that has been a hallowing experience all of my years since that day.
Over the next 25 years, somebody who believed I could help them called me at every hour of every day and night. We had three hospitals in our city. I think I must have been in one of them around the clock. It involved people of my flock as well as people I had never met.
My dear friend, Dr. C. Lowery Quinn, a great missionary leader who traveled the world for Christ, became a pastor again, this time in Denver, Colorado. Kitty and I were with him for a week and repeatedly I heard him respectfully speak of, “My Denver, my Denver.” He had ownership in that magnificent city.
It was not long until I was saying, “My Decatur, my Decatur.” It was not so much that I owned Decatur as it was that “Decatur owned me.” Our courtship or getting acquainted days were wonderful and soon we were married to each other. That was probably the best 25 years of my life as a pastor, all of it in that beautiful city with thousands of wonderful people whom I met in some way.
You know you are the pastor when you love the church more than most anything else in this world. Most pastors think in priority terms of God, family and church. That is when you know you have been called to be a pastor. Please remember that October is Pastor Appreciation Month.
- © 2013 Wm. C. Ellis
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