It was a day of remembrance last week when I was invited to Marion Presbyterian Church to preside at Sam Colburn's funeral.
Sam was among the finest Christian men I've ever known and I was sad to learn of his malignancy. I'd planned to visit with him this month but his cancer was pronounced and moved more quickly than we'd thought.
It was Sam who invited me to speak at his church in 1998 when I became a faculty member at Judson College. He introduced himself to me at the new faculty reception and told me his pastor at Marion Presbyterian had left a few weeks before.
"Can you come Sunday and speak for us?" he asked.
I was surprised and reminded him I was a Baptist.
"That doesn't matter," he said. "We're all God's children."
So I accepted his invitation and spent nearly four years as what we'd call today an "undocumented" Presbyterian, or "stated supply" in Presbyterian-speak.
I remembered to the congregation last week how patient the church was with me. One Sunday I asked the worshippers to stand and greet one another--something we commonly do in Baptist churches. After services a sweet lady schooled me a bit. "Dr. Brooks," she said, "we're Presbyterians and we don't do that." I guess I made the folks nervous and they thought I was bringing out snakes next!
But the fine folks in Marion continued to support me as I labored among them.
Sam and Jack Snow were elders and I got to spend two hours every month with them. They prayed for me, for one another and for the church. The men took turns leading a Bible study and I grew as a Christian being in the presence of these special men.
After the church called a "real" Presbyterian I was invited to speak at Pine Flat Baptist Church in the Marion suburb of Suttle. I remember negotiating with the deacons about a little travel expense for the 13 mile trip, telling them I had walked to Marion Presbyterian.
"Michael," Roger Fuller said, "you can walk to Suttle. You just have to start earlier!"
We stayed at Pine Flat for 12 years before our move to Birmingham. At our farewell luncheon, the late Jean Watters said, "Michael, you spent 12 years here?"
"Yes, ma'am," I said.
"If you spend 12 years at the new place, you'll be about done!"
David wrote, "He fills my life with good things" (Psalm 103:5, NLT). God was good to Donna and me in our years in Perry County to give us two wonderful congregations who enriched our lives. He is, indeed, a God whose plans are good, and who specializes in serendipity.