In the summer of 1966, just one year after we were married, we embarked on an unforgettable adventure to Tennessee. Early in June I drove our new Ford Galaxie 500 to Chattanooga and Connie followed two weeks later on the train, with our cat Floyd. This journey to the old South was so that I could take summer school classes at Temple Baptist Seminary. My credits were transferred back to Central Seminary in Minneapolis and allowed me to accept the position of Assistant Pastor in Normal, Illinois beginning that September, and graduate from Central the following spring.
What an experience that summer was for two rookie yankees in rebel country. We lived in a little apartment above a workshop on a wooded lot just two blocks from the Georgia state line. No air conditioning in the house or car, but we had a mean patch of poison ivy in the area where Floyd roamed. One day Connie collected Floyd out of the undergrowth and acquired a horrible outbreak from the toxic stuff. She learned to spend many hours in the air-conditioned Cierpke Memorial Library on the Tennessee Temple campus to avoid the heat and the wretched poison ivy.
During that summer we were introduced to the amazing Highland Park Baptist Church, led by the indomitable Lee Roberson. That was the heyday of Dr. Roberson’s long and effective ministry. We met the noted song-writer Charles Weigle, who we learned years later lived previously in Sebring, Florida, our current hometown. Dr. Weigle was a lifelong friend of industrialist George Sebring who founded and built our community in Central Florida. Today Weigle’s earthly remains are buried in the local cemetery less than a mile from our Village.
Another fascinating experience we enjoyed was to spend a day at JumpOff Baptist Church, one of over 60 chapels connected with the Highland Park church. One Sunday, Connie and I rode with Larry Ressor and Randy Faulkner to experience the truly unique church perched on top of the mountain near Sewanee, Tennessee. Larry was a seminary student and the pastor of this chapel. Both of these men have gone on to serve the Lord faithfully in fruitful and notable ministries over the years, and we fondly remember their passion for serving those folk in that humble backwoods chapel.
During that day we were introduced to the unique person and ministry of Dr. Philip Marquart. This brilliant man was a Harvard trained M.D., with a proficiency in psychiatry, and a teacher of psychology at Tennessee Temple College. Dr. Marquart had been teaching the adult Sunday School class in that simple country church for many years. During his class teaching time we witnessed this kindly and scholarly gentleman patiently coach the grown class members to read the scripture passage for that day’s lesson.
It occurred to me as I watched the dynamics of that teaching hour, that Dr. Marquart was not only teaching these folks the Bible, but he was teaching them how to read. Probably the only reading instruction some of those adults had ever received in their life was in this Sunday School class year after year.
Following the services that morning Connie and I had the privilege – or the frightening occasion – to ride back to Chattanooga with the good doctor. He engagingly lectured us all the way down the mountain on the old three-lane U.S. highway 41. The problem was that only one lane was devoted to going down the mountain and elderly Dr. Marquart used as much of the road as he could to drive and to teach. Never will forget that day.
Twelve years later I returned to Chattanooga to meet Charles Walker, as part of my duties with the American Association of Christian Schools. In 1978 Charlie was the relatively new executive director of the Tennessee Association of Christian Schools, and I was the brand new field director for the AACS. We became fast friends and about 15 years later Connie and Charlie conspired to introduce our daughter Kristy to Charlie’s son Brian, and the rest is history.
Now we travel to Chattanooga as often as we can to see our precious granddaughters, Ariel and Amelia Walker, along with Kristy and Brian, of course – and the whole Walker clan when possible. After 15 years of childless marriage for Kristy and Brian our gracious heavenly father chose to drop two needy little girls into our family. We have never been the same since. Those girls are now fine young ladies and true trophies of God’s grace. You can read the rest of their story at: https://gracejourney.blog/2019/04/28/grace-journey-for-two-girls/