My grandchildren still do not understand why I left their church. Since Grant is 10 and the twins, Abby and Erin, are 8, I am the only pastor they have ever known. Yet, a year ago, at the age of 64, I resigned the pastorate of the First Baptist Church of Kenner, Louisiana, to become Director of Missions for all the Southern Baptist churches of metro New Orleans. I still live in the same house and have even retained my church membership at Kenner. But these days I’m preaching all over, in all kinds of churches–big and small, formal and informal, in the city and on the bayou. And that’s what puzzles my grandchildren.
Yesterday Erin asked my wife, “If Grandpa can still preach, why did he leave our church?”
Margaret went for the simple answer: “Because God told him to.”
Erin countered, “Couldn’t he have said ‘no’?”
Good question. Could I have turned God down? Was this one of those “okay if you do, but all right if you don’t” issues?
Thursday, May 5, the National Day of Prayer, I drove across town to attend the noon gathering near the Kenner, Louisiana, City Hall. The lovely little park sports a pavilion large enough for a hundred people and we fairly filled it up. The temperature hovered in the low 70s, the humidity was low, and a breeze stirred the lovely trees just beyond the memorial flag display. I could have stayed a week.
An interfaith women’s group has been assigned responsibility for the annual prayer observance, and they did an excellent job. Only two or three of us knew that the little white-haired lady on the second row, Josie Lanzetta, actually started these prayer observances nearly 15 years ago. She took it upon herself to call the mayor’s office and ask if we could use the park and the pavilion for the prayer service. Sometimes a dozen of us would meet, and once or twice a school-bus load of children. In time, the idea caught on and now others have taken the leadership. Miss Josie is so kind and unassuming, she simply shows up as a participant and would never in a hundred years tell that she originated these observances in Kenner.
Even though the program exceeded the noon hour, each speaker/pray-er was outstanding and brought a special contribution to the proceedings. These included the mayor, a judge, several ministers, a medical doctor, a local television personality, and a deacon from the Hispanic Apostolate Church. I wanted you to know about this last one, the deacon.
Deacon Luis Campuzano is perhaps sixty years old. He said, “I am from Honduras. Had you told me 20 years ago I would someday be addressing this group of community leaders, I would not have believed it.” Then he told us about his mother.
Funny how those little decisions you make with hardly a thought have a way of redirecting the rest of your life.
Best friend J. L. Rice and I were coming up on our junior year at Winston County High School in Double Springs, Alabama, and thought of something that might be fun. We had come through the science fair together and loved to kid around, imitating Don Knotts on the old Steve Allen program (with a wide-eyed, “Nooo!”–okay, you had to have been there), when one of us had a bright idea. We would take short-hand the following year.
Gregg Shorthand was taught in almost every high school in the land back then, always by the “business” teacher, the lady who instructed in typing and office skills. Shorthand class was intended to prepare future secretaries to earn a living, and thus no one but girls enrolled. J. L. and I became the only boys in the school’s history–before or since–to sign up. We took the class for two solid years, made excellent grades, and loved every day of it.
Had you asked, we would have told you we were preparing for college. Neither of us knew anything about college, but we had always imagined there would be lots of lectures which necessitated note-taking. J. L. went to work up north after high school and never used his shorthand, whereas I found out pretty quickly that you don’t need shorthand for college classes.
Jonas Salk was in the news a few weeks ago, fifty years to the day after announcing his vaccine which halted the epidemic of polio in its tracks. How well I can recall the dreadful plague known officially as infantile paralysis. Every time you turned around, you heard of another precious child being afflicted. “Don’t swim in that pond,” we would hear. Our parents were certain that the disease was caught or spread through infected swimming pools. As a child in the 1940s, I joined with others from our school as we filled the little March of Dimes cards with coins to help fight polio. And we breathed a great sigh of relief when Salk’s announcement was made.
Now it comes to light that Dr. Salk was only the point man of a vast team of researchers and scientists. While that is not particularly surprising, what is unusual is that none of them got any credit for their part in the discovery and perfecting of this vaccine. A half century later, those researchers and their families are still hurting over the slight. Dr. Salk is long dead, but his son now apologizes for the glaring oversight.