Texas Nostalgia

Posted on September 12, 2011 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Down Home in Mississippi

We lived in Texas almost long enough to consider it home, almost long enough to become diehard Cowboy fans, and almost long enough to develop that bragadocious attitude of bigger and better than anywhere else. But not quite! We can now retrace our Texas sojourn from the security of our Mississippi identity–the place of our roots and where we belong.

It all began with the obligatory seminary education enroute to the mission field. Having chosen Southwestern in Fort Worth, we quickly adopted the land of open prairie, cowboy boots, pearl-buttoned plaid shirts, and Tex-Mex food. It took only one semester living as  a single student in the men’s dormitory to return hom to claim my bride and share this pilgrimage in a foreign culture west of the Mississippi! Looking for practical training along with the classroom studies, we found places of ministry and stretched the three-year Masters of Divinity degree into five years graduating in the summer of 1969.

Serving as Associate Pastor and Youth Minister at Sagamore Hill Baptist Church on the east side of Fort Worth was probably the most formative influence in my ministry. Dr. Fred Swank eventually served for 44 years as pastor of this large suburban church. I learned what an evangelistic church is all about. He would call me on Saturday night to ask how many young people would be making professions of faith the next day–he held my feet to the fire. His pastoral core values were to preach the word and lift up Jesus. His over-simplistic solution to any counseling problem was, “You need to get right with Jesus!”

Being responsible for a youth program with 750 middle school, high school and college students stretched me in organizational skills and multi-tasking far beyond my ability, but it was invaluable in preparing me for leadership roles to come. It was more stressful than we realized at the time to balance being newly marrieds, maintaining seminary studies and engaged in full-time ministry. A highlight of our memories there were the inspirational youth camps in the summer and breaking my nose twice playing flag football.

After almost three years we felt God calling us to pastoral experience and were led to a wonderful church in North Texas just south of the Red River. Sadler was a farming community a few miles from Whitesboro in Grayson County. They had just built a beautiful new parsonage for us to live in, and I continued to commute 100 miles each day to seminary classes. Both children were born while we were there.

The local association was just beginning a student ministry at the nearby Grayson County Community College in Denison and asked me to serve as BSU Director. So the lifelong pattern of multi-tasking continued to develop as I spent mornings at the student center and teaching as an adjunct Bible professor, traveled to Ft. Worth for seminary classes in the afternoon and spent time with the family in the evenings while fulfilling pastoral duties of witness, counseling, hospital visitation and preaching. It was a maturing time prior to our missionary appointment in 1970. Our visit last week reminded us how we continue to cherish the relationships with those dear families who loved and nurtured us in those younger years.

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