It’s been five years since I last wrote on this. However, tonight I was writing another post and realized that this chapter – the 9th chapter was incomplete. That post was written in July of 2007, just two years into our ministry at Preston Wesleyan Church. Like I mentioned at the time, I was the senior/lead/solo pastor there. I would play guitar and sometimes piano and occasionally my bass.
Table Rock Wesleyan Retreat Center
By the time we had moved to Preston, I had completed my FLAME training and was ordained just a few weeks before moving. One of the things that God had really prompted me to do, is to reinvest in the lives of those who followed me in FLAME. The church was gracious in allowing my to travel to FLAME twice a year during our four years there. There were many stops on the FLAME tour during those years – Stroudsburg Wesleyan Church, Stroudsburg, PA; Victory Mountain Camp, Sophia, NC; Table Rock Wesleyan Retreat Center, Pickens, SC (several times); Frankfort Wesleyan Camp, Frankfort, IN (several times). I had the opportunity to lead several great bands at each FLAME.
Leading worship at FLAME with my relatively new Ibanez Acoustic/Electric, bought in 2005 just before we moved to Martinsville.
While we were at Preston, I also had the opportunity to attend an Emmaus Walk. That was a real highlight. An Emmaus Walk is a 72-hour spiritual retreat/walk, designed to deepen your faith. Several months later, I would have the opportunity to be on the leadership team, playing bass. I was not able to be at the actual walk because of some critical family matters. It was during this time that Pam’s mother became critically ill, eventually passing away and these were tough and difficult times for Pam and I wanted to be there to support her.
Ringing the bells for Salvation Army
In Martinsville, we also ended up working with The Salvation Army. For the eight years since I was called to Fort Miller, I had worked bi-vocationally at Radio Shack, but the atmosphere at the Martinsville Radio Shack wasn’t the best and seemed no matter what…no matter what change in managers or personnel…to be filled with drama. The Preston church was involved in a huge community yard sale and one of the members found out that Salvation Army was in need of a reliable truck driver. She hooked me up and I interviewed and several days later, once I got through the background check…I was hired. It was a good job and I had a chance to meet with many in the community. While we were in Martinsville, we ran the bells during the seasonal Red Kettle Campaign. It was also interesting because many of my helpers were doing court-ordered community service. Sometimes I had great help and sometimes not.
James in one of the many racing exhibits around Martinsville during race weekend.
Martinsville was cool because twice a year, NASCAR would come. During the early years when the economy was better there was quite the circus atmosphere all over town. Many of the sponsors would set up racing simulators and fan experiences and car mock-ups all over town. James and Pam would check them out each time. As the economy got tougher the sponsors stopped doing that, so that was kind of sad. One of our highlights while we were in Martinsville was during the 60th Anniversary of the track. James and I got to take our Kia Sedona – behind a pace car and drive about five laps on the famed 1/2 mile oval. That was cool.
Since the Preston church is in the Shenandoah District of the Wesleyan Church, we would attend the yearly district conference. As part of the conference we would have rallies very similar to campmeeting, with contemporary worship and some great preaching. Several years in a row, I took songs we learned at District Conference and taught them to our congregation. I continue to do this even now.
It was during this time that I was first asked by our District Superintendent to lead worship for our Minister and Spouses Gathering. This was a great privilege. In fact, in later this week, I will be leading our district minister and spouses again. That trip took us to Staunton, VA. I remember saying to Pam that I loved the city of Staunton. I knew that we had a church here and that at least for a while they were looking for a worship and youth pastor. It had a very cool vibe. Little did we know that coming that year would be instrumental in the transition to the next chapter in our journey.
There’s a couple of other things. Martinsville is one place where bus ministry is still alive and well. Churches of all sizes send out vans and buses to pick up students, bring them to church and then take them home. That was a great ministry while we were there. Sometimes it wore us out, but we touched the lives of over 100 children from K to 12th grade during those four years.
While in Martinsville, I also started blogging, influenced by my good friend, Mark Wilson. It’s been an amazing 6 year run.
The other thing I remember about Martinsville was the bowling league. I had never bowled in a league before, but I got pretty good at it. For pastor’s appreciation two years in a row, the team chipped in to buy me a ball and shoes. It was great. Martinsville also taught me to never stop praying for someone who needs the Lord. There was a man there who ran from God for over 60 years. His mother had prayed and prayed and prayed and went to heaven praying for her son. Near the end of our ministry there – though a set of crazy circumstances, he came to the Lord and was saved. Several weeks before we moved to Staunton, I had the privilege to baptize him.
So just how did we get from Martinsville to Staunton? I think I’ll save that for the next chapter, which is currently still being written…but now we finish chapter 9. Seize the Day!