I generally start my office hours reading and in the midst of my morning reading, my secretary brought me a personal card which had come through the mail. I opened it immediately but did not recognize the name. As I read the note, it all began to come to me. I was raised with this woman, we went to the same church and same school. She has suffered a lot of adversity. She lost her mom at a very early age, then her husband divorced her and left her with a couple of kids that she was forced to raise alone. She had a hard time so she moved back home with her father where she has been for the last thirty years. She is now 64 and her daddy is 83. She had cancer and had to have a leg amputated up to the hip. She moves from place to place via the wheel chair and now she is the principle care giver to her dad who is confined to a hospital bed after suffering a stroke. In her note, she told me that he had given up and wanted me to pray for him. I thought it would be best to do it in person so after my hospital rounds, I drove to the neighboring county where they live.
I was not expecting what I found. I walked into a house that was 80 plus degrees. She had about six fans blowing air in every direction. I said, “Pat, do you not have A/C?” “Oh, we have it but we don’t run it; daddy doesn’t like the cold air,” she said. “You need the air,” I said, to which she replied, “We have plenty of air.” I said, “Yes you do but it is all hot.” “Oh, we are fine,” she said. “How on earth do you sleep at night in this heat?” I asked. So help me she said, “It gets cold here at night.” It was 96* outside and between 80-90 in the house, a brick house, and she said it would get cold at night. I’m thinking her definition of cold is 79*. I wanted to fix the problem but she insisted that everything was fine. I said, “You have to need something, tell me what it is and I’m going to get it.” She said, “We don’t need a thing.” “You are bound to need something,” I said, but she said, “We are fine, we do not need anything.” I had prayer and left. I did not leave complaining, I left giving God thanks: here was a family living in poverty, less than 2 miles from where I was raised but she insisted that they did not need a thing. I had no idea that anyone in that community lived in such conditions.
This reminded me of an old story that happened way back in 1975. We had just been called to our first full time church after graduating seminary. I had visions of grandeur, boy was I in for a rude awakening. I had every intention of being a good Southern Baptist and attending every convention from gavel to gavel. I had no doubt that a big church with a big salary would call me just as soon as the word got out concerning my oratorical skills. Those dreams were completely shattered in less than five years. The church were I served had $250 for convention expense but what I did not know was that two deacons got this in the budget so the pastor could go to the Evangelism Conference which was in State. The money was more than adequate for the conference but exceeding inadequate for an SBC in Miami, Florida. We had one child at the time and she was 11 months old and addicted to A/C. We leave early Monday morning and drive 18 hours to Miami Beach. Keep in mind, we left with $250 dollars and gas was 87 cents a gallon. We had no motel reservations and got put in one that did not have A/C. Immediately, we report the problem and they assure us that it is being repairs and should be up and running any minute. They lied! We rode Hannah around in the car to get her to sleep but as soon as we got back in the hot room, she would wake up. We went through this for two days. We talked to some folks who were more experienced and they told us, they are not going to fix the A/C, you have to find another place. Needless to say, the motel would not give us a refund. We checked out and found a little old motel 6 type deal but at least it had air but we realized that we were running out of money. We were tired and about to be broke.
I had an aunt in St. Pete so we left the next morning, drove through the Everglades to the West side and went up the Gulf coast to St. Pete. We got there in the middle of the evening and we were so excited about having good air and something to eat. We walk in and feel the heat and I began looking for the wall unit which obviously was not on. I said, “Where is your A/C?” My uncle Arthur, who was a very funny guy, said, “We don’t have A/C.” I said, “You live in Florida where it is 110 in the shade and you don’t have A/C.” He said, “We don’t need it, there is always a breeze.” I said, “our baby has not sleep the last three nights because of the heat so we will be up again tonight.” “No you will not,” he said, “we have a attic fan and you will be begging me to turn it off about 2 in the morning.” They gave us the bedroom that had the attic fan right over the bed and we turned in on high and no one needed cover, it did cool off during the night but there was not way I was cutting that fan off. When Hannah woke up the next morning, I started packing the car: “Where are you going?” My sweet aunt Ruth asked. “We are going home,” I said. “But you just got here, we want you to stay a few days,” she said. I said, “Aunt Ruth, I love you and the only time I have ever been here was in January or March and it was cool enough then but we are not use to this heat and we have to get this baby home where she can sleep.” Besides that, we had almost run out of money.
That was our first and last Southern Baptist Convention as a family. June would divorce me if I hornswoggled her into going to another. She hates any form of a church business meeting. I have personally attended about 10 since but only on Tuesday. I have never gotten to attend a convention gavel to gavel with all expenses paid. I thought I would before I retired but it is not looking good.