Copyright 2006, Terry F. Phillips Sr.
All rights reserved.
After church – oh joy of joys – her family, the Rogerses, invited me to their small farm for dinner/lunch.
I quickly learned the noon meal was always called dinner, not lunch, and Sunday school was never called Bible School. Bible School is the summer event I had grown up calling Vacation Bible School. They used that term, too, but Bible School was never held on Sunday mornings.
The Rogers had a spacious kitchen that doubled as their dining room. An arch was all that separated the dining and living rooms.
Although the house was very old, it was well maintained, with wallpaper that just made me feel homey.
I have since learned to trust the feeling I get when entering a new building.
As Kent Rogers told me years later, many times you can walk into a church or a house and immediately know the emotional climate of the people who gather there.
I had a good feeling about the Victory church that first Sunday I worshipped there. It was basic and simple. The kind of building where kids could make a mess (during either Sunday school or Bible School) and not receive so much as an admonition. It was a happy feeling, a church that seemed to be happy together and happy to serve the Lord in harmony.
The Rogers had a warm and secure feeling about their home.
I learned Kent worked for one of the factories in Crawfordsville. I assumed he had a very good job by the kind of car he drove and the expensive console color television set and big comfortable furniture in the living room.
I also learned the Rogers had adopted Grace, the breathtakingly beautiful vision of a girl I had met at church.
During dinner, Kent wanted to talk about the church and what members expected of me. It was difficult for me to concentrate, but by this time I really wanted to succeed in this ministry (or at least, not fail miserably).
“Kelly, we aren’t quite used to your style of preaching, but I have heard good comments about what you have to say,” he began.
I found his words puzzling and comforting in the same sentence.
“Now, we have some people in the hospital and you need to go see them.”
“I’ve not done too much hospital calling,” I said, truthfully.
“I’ll take you into town this afternoon and show you where the hospital is,” Kent continued.
I would quickly learn he would be the kind of person who would forge ahead through any difficulty. His tenacity had served him well over the years.
I would never have found Crawfordsville, trying to remember the way he drove into town. But, through back roads of Indiana, we quickly made our way to Indiana 32, a road I did remember. It was south of Waynetown and it was the highway where State Road 25 ended, north of Victory.
“This is Culver Union Hospital,” he said, pulling up in front of a dark brown building.
Inside, I was introduced to two or three people as “our new minister” and was warmly welcomed.
One man was waiting for his pill so he would be relaxed before they took him to surgery on Monday.
“Hi, I’m Kelly,” I said, trying to be confident and smiling. “I wanted to stop by and say, ‘Hi.’”
He opened one eye, looked at me and said, “I’d rather see a doctor.”
On the way back to the Rogers farm, I was told I needed to think in terms of doing more for the church that just attending Sunday school and preaching.
I quickly decided I needed to spend more time in the Victory community. But, how? I wasn’t paid enough to afford a motel each weekend. I couldn’t very well insist people invite me into their homes for the night.
That idea was very disturbing to me. An involuntary shiver actually went through my body at the thought of using someone else’s bathroom to shower – or worse, to bathe in!
What if I made a mess? What if the water got out of the tub onto the floor, as it had at home sometimes?
One time, when I was a kid, I had splashed so much water out of the tub, it actually leaked through the living room ceiling below!
The problem was solved by one of the church’s teenagers.
Mark Wilkins stopped by the church building one Sunday afternoon. I had run out of things to do and had stopped by the church to use the rest room.
When I stepped into the sanctuary, there Mark was, a thin, pimply-faced kid who looked exceedingly serious behind his thick glasses. I noticed his long legs and narrow shoulders.
“I saw your car here and thought I’d stop by,” he said. “We just live down the road.”
We chatted a while, but there were some very awkward silences. Mark, like most teenage boys, had trouble making chitchat with strangers – even strangers just a few years older than him.
Finally, he got around to what was on his mind.
“Do you do any camping?” he asked.
The question floored me. I would have pegged him as a bookworm. If he had invited me to look through a microscope or a telescope, I would have politely gone along for the afternoon or evening. But camping? Him? He looked as if he was malnourished and a wind would blow him over. Camping? He couldn’t hike three city blocks, I thought.
I had not been camping in years. But I did have a sleeping bag my parents had bought me when I was 9 years old. It had a removable lining because in those days, when I was 9, I wet the bed.
“Yeah,” I lied. “I enjoy camping.”
“Well, we camp sometimes down at the Conservation Club,” he said. “Me and the guys.”
“How about next Saturday night?” I asked.
We made plans to go canoeing and then camp at the conservation club. I made a mental note to dig out that old brown sleeping bag.