Called To Save
We drove up in the driveway to our Parsonage and Connee gave a big sigh of relief. We had been out for hours, making Pastoral Calls, trying to flush out more people to come to church. We had pretty good crowds in the other three churches on the Pittsburg Circuit, but Ebeneezer was what you might call: “slim pickin’s.” I was real glad to be home, too, and lookin’ forward to some quality time with my sweetheart. But, actually, all the way back from that last visit with the Porters, I’d had a real uneasy feelin’.
I scooped up Wendy from where he was sleepin’ so sweetly in the back seat. Connee had baby Wessie in her arms and we were pretty quick to get into the house and get both little boys bedded down. You know how fast you can get somethin’ done when you know that great time is about to happen when you can forget all those undone things on your list and just—be with the one you love!
But, tonight, I couldn’t forget. The undigested feelings about Herman and Ida Mae Porter came up to worry me. The visit had been cordial, but there was a lot more, I just knew. All of a sudden, I had this stronger pang. We had left too soon! “Connee”, darlin’, I said, “I know this is crazy, but I gotta go back.”
She did think I was crazy. “You’re tired, we just left there, they’re probably in bed by now. Wait ‘til tomorrow, Ferris. “But, then, she said something that made me know why I married her.” Oh, there were hundreds of other reasons, but, I tell you, when she said, “but honey, if you feel God is telling you to go back out there, I guess you should.” And she kissed me.
Believe me, I never thought I’d drive that little ol’ Henry J car as fast as I did that night. Once when it began to rattle and I looked down at the speed and it was 80 miles an hour, I shook my head to clear it and slowed—for a little bit. Ha ha!
I kept remembering what one of the members had said when I asked if the Porters went to church much. “Nope, he said, “We haven’t seen them darken’ the doors in years.” And then he’d added, “Just as well!” and his wife didn’t say anything but just shook her head.
I mulled that over. Actually, our visit had been pleasant, They both spoke highly of the church. Gave us coffee and we met their four kiddos, Connee and I both told them how glad we’d see them back in church. They smiled and thanked us. What in the world was I gonna say when I appeared again at their door? I tell ‘em I got a hunch from God and they may say, “We got a hunch you’re touched in the head.” Right?
Well, I was almost there, I’d turned off the highway onto a dirt road. No lights on in the house. I pulled up the dirt driveway and my car lights picked up something in the pigpen there by the barn. I backed up a bit and the lights were on it again. It was someone on their knees in the middle of the pig pen! I didn’t think, I just grabbed my flashlight, jumped out of the car and started over there. And, Oh my God in heaven. It was Herman. He was kneeling in that dirty wallow the pigs had made and had a gun pointed at his head.
I kept my light on him and said over and over Herman, listen, man, you are God’s child. God loves you, think think , your life is a gift of God! Your children need you, your wife needs you. Herman, I need you! This is my first appointment, you and I can build ol’ Eberneezer up again and it’ll be so great. Come on, Herman, stand up, throw away that stinkin’ gun. Man, I went to war and came back and said, no more guns! It’s filthy, throw it away, Get up!
And he did! He threw away the gun and I ran and held him and he cried on my shoulder, deep anguished crying. In the house, Ida Mae had seen the car lights. Heard me yelling. Herman sobbing. She came to us and we helped him inside. And oh, they both were ripped open emotionally. Herman confessed he despised his life, they told me they hadn’t had a sober Christmas in four years. Ida Mae poured out how she had turned to men, more than one and how they had both lived on booze and hate of each other and their lives. We all three knelt. They asked God’s forgiveness and God freely gave it. I prayed, they prayed. They promised to start a new life and that they would be in church the very next Sunday. Their tears, now, were beautiful, faces washed clean with their tears. And their hearts were cleansed and they held each other. Each time I remember that night I’m renewed in faith!
We became fast and dear friends- the four of us. They kept their vows. Their children, and that’s another miracle, they were so good and so happy and it was as if they forgot those dark years when their parents were not there for them. The entry back in the church was hard. Hard for people to accept, but they did. (and it helped that, Ida Mae played a real mean piano and Connee still led the singin’ but it added so much to have that piano, too). Herman was strong and he won the trust of the men and the church grew!
As I said, they became our friends. Herman loved to tease me through the years because I pulled out all the stops when I told him I needed him in this first appointment. He said, “If I hadn’t been cryin’ I woulda flat laughed at your beggin’ me to help you . . .”
But, it worked, not because of the words I said, but becauseGod called me to be his instrument of saving grace! And I thank God for that! I thank him with all my being.
(names changed) – Ferris Norton
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Ferris Wendel Norton, Jr. and I were married 30 years. He served God through the United Methodist Church as an ordained minister. I served those years– in Full Time Christian Service. We each had our own missions and honored each other’s. After he died, I found a questionnaire on his desk that was filled out but not totally completed. One question was: Are you satisfied in the role of Pastor? His answer: “I’d rather be Pastor of a local church than Bishop of an entire Annual Conference! There is rent to pay and it isn’t always easy, but I’d give my all, again, for the joy and satisfaction of pastoring the flock.”