Faith Is Not always Easy!
God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12 NLT)
Getting Married Right Out Of High School
The summer before my senior year in high school I got a job as a “runner” at Citizen’s National Bank in Meridian, MS. It was my job to take returned NSF checks to businesses or run errands to bank branches. I then trained as a computer operator.
I had extra high school credits and only needed two classes to graduate my senior year in high school. Since I had a job and a car to pay for, I needed to get out early after my two morning classes to go to work. Mr. Clyde Norris had just become the new principal at Clarkdale High School and he would not allow me to do so. Linda was so smart that she had extra credits as well, and wanted to get out early also. Since the principal would not allow us to get out of school to go to work, we both transferred to Southeast Lauderdale High School since Mr. Little would allow us to get out early after our two classes so we could go to work. Linda’s grades were so good she was class Valedictorian our senior year at South East Lauderdale High School. Linda worked at Lerner Store and then started a Cosmetology class I would drop her off and then go on to my job. I remember going to Highland Park, sitting in the car watching the ducks, and eating sandwiches that her mom made us for our lunch. I still remember how good those ham or roast beef and dill pickles sandwiches really were.
Linda and I were madly in love and we were engaged just before high school graduation in 1966. We graduated on Friday night and got married the next Friday night. Her mom did all of the work and even made bride’s maids dresses and Linda’s Wedding Dress. We didn’t have a lot of money nor much of a honeymoon, but we had a lot of love! Our first home was a small apartment in the back of a grocery store in Zero Community, not far from where we grew up.
I remember the day Citizen’s National Bank installed Meridian’s first IBM bank computer system. I was moved from being a runner to a computer operator. I worked at night to process the day’s work. Working at CNB was a great experience and I also attended Meridian Community College.
In 1967, I began to sense God’s call to the ministry. Our pastor, Rev. J.W. Coker, took us to visit the campuses of William Carey College in Hattiesburg and Mississippi College in Clinton. The day we visited Mississippi College, a friend whom I had worked with at Citizens National Bank was now working for a bank in Jackson, called my mother and said, “I heard Tommy is coming to Mississippi College. Tell him to call me because I want to hire him as a computer operator.” I worked at Mississippi Bank and Trust in Jackson during college years. I went to school during the day and worked at night. I was alone in the building as I did my work. I remember late one night as I was taking the backup discs, sorted checks, and printed reports to the vault, the elevator got stuck between floors and I was all by myself in the building. I was able to crawl out the top in a small crack and was able to call for help. There were no cell phones in those days!
During college days I was able to preach all over the state of Mississippi with Baptist Student Union Teams (BSU). I served several churches in the North Mississippi Delta as interim pastor. I cannot imagine any church asking me to preach and then “asking” me to come again! I can’t even imagine what my sermons must have been like! I would preach on Sunday morning, stay in the home of a member for lunch and then we would drive back late at night to Mississippi College after I preached in the evening service.
In 1967 our first child, Michelle, was born during college days. Our son, Tom was born 5 years later when I was pastor at Toomsuba Baptist Church, Toomsuba, MS. After Mississippi College graduation in 1975, I eventually went to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. By this time I was serving as pastor in Laurel, MS. While there, I went back to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to earn my Masters in Religious Education (MRE) degree. After graduation, I served as minister of education in Natchez, MS and then went back to our home town of Meridian and served 17 years as minister of education at Poplar Springs Drive Baptist Church. I then served 8 years at Heritage Hills Baptist Church in GA before retiring in 2012.
Linda graduated from Mississippi State University and taught elementary school for 19 years. After serving as a pastor for 17 years, I served as minister of education for 25 years, a total of 42 years of ministry. God has blessed us over all these years and we still have dear friends in former churches.Because of my love for cars, as a young adult I fully restored a 1950 Ford Custom Coupe standard shift with overdrive. I found it in Brewton, AL where I was preaching a revival service in 1976. I also restored a 1950 Chevy pickup that I bought from a barber in Laurel, MS. The truck had been owned by a retired gentleman who drove it to work for years to Masonite Corporation in Laurel. It was a great truck for restoration.
While we lived in Laurel, we enjoyed go-cart racing. We only had one go-cart so Tom raced and I even raced a few times. I even have a trophy for a second place win! We both had dirt bikes and I had a street bike as well. We would take fun trips and stay in a motel one night and camp the next. Linda even rode with me for a trip to Biloxi and Gulfport. Of course, we stayed in motels. Linda does not like camping.