Return to Richmond

Posted on August 15, 2011 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Down Home in Mississippi

A delightful marker in our new retirement lifestyle is the privilege of returning to Richmond four times a year to participate in the orientation of new IMB missionaries. It is a significant time of sharing a sense of God’s providence in global missions from our perspective as president emeritus and 40 years of experience.  Communicating the vision that has driven organizational change and overseas strategy in the past helps them to understand a context for what is being done today as they prepare to go to the field.

We have made the 16-hour trip between Richmond and Mississippi many times in recent years while building our retirement home and assisting my sister overseeing the care of my mother during the years before her death. So we are quite familiar with the towns and landmarks along Interstate 20 to Birmingham, I-59 to Chattanooga, I-75 to Knoxville.  The I-81 corridor from Knoxville to Bristol and through Western Virginia along the Blue Ridge Mountains is one of the most beautiful drives in America; unfortunately the enjoyment of that segment is diminished by the constant convoy of 18-wheelers along this route to the Northeast.

We no longer try to make the drive in one-day as we did many times when our schedule did not allow much margin; we feel we have arrived once we intersect with I-64 and the last 100 miles that takes us through Charlottesville and into Richmond. Of course we have learned at which exits Starbucks are located and the preferred eating options along the way. Our favorite is the Dinner Bell country buffet in Sweetwater, TN which is about halfway!

The week was a delightful time of meals and fellowship with former friends and staff. This included a birthday lunch with the two ladies, Fonceil Blake and Nellie Walters who served as my administrative assistant for 17 years; they each celebrate their birthdays on successive days this week. Many suspected they ran the International Mission Board while I traveled all over the country and around the world. That wasn’t far from the truth as I could not have survived without the devotion and competency they brought to the president’s office.

Having a free weekend enabled us to stay through Sunday and attend our former church, Grove Avenue Baptist Church. Bobbye especially enjoyed seeing the ladies in the Sunday School class she taught for a number of years. As delightful as the visit was it affirmed the transition to down home in Mississippi has been made. We cherish the relationships and memories of our former role; we continue to rejoice in all that we saw God do as we sought to serve Him faithfully in a demanding responsibility. But there is no looking back. We are grateful for God’s hand on the current leadership of the IMB and are excited about what the future holds in new relationships and opportunities for us in ministry and service.

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