Where do I go from Here?

Thinking Back on my Life

If you have stuck with me thus far, you have watched the years and their various activities unfold as I have narrated them. Since I am fast approaching my 93rd birthday, I realize that God is not going to allot much more time to me. Perhaps the best thing I can do now, is share with you some of my major themes in life. For more than fifty years I have been aware of my Heavenly Father's personal interest in me, as I have tried to show you in many places. The obvious place to begin this review is what my church life has measnt to me.

What my church life has meant to me

My earlist recollections include those of the churches I and my family belonged to. Until I had that amazing experience of actually encountering the Lord Jesus Christ in that chapel in Forest Home, California, that first Saturday in May 1956 (see My Most Important Interview in Chapter 11), Church was just something one did. Now it meant the blessed family of those God Himself has chosen to spend eternity with Him. Fellow church members were more than social acquaintances. I can honestly say that for both Mary Charlotte and me, the vast majority of those we both knew were fellow church members. The various pastors I had during those years — Dr. Caldwell in North Hollywood, Ben Sheldon and Jim Ewalt in the Washington area; Frank Retief in Cape Town, and Andy Silman in Homestead (Florida), were all men I could relate to and learn from, and be guided in my service to the Lord Jesus Christ. Some of my most cherished friends were members of those churches. Except for Frank Retief, I don't have pictures of any of those men, but I can show you the ones who followed them in the Cape Coral area.

Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) (Cape Coral)

The first is Randy Thompson, who was pastor of the Evangical Presbyterian Church (EPC), when Mary Charlotte and I first attended EPC, which lasted over ten years. He was a very good preacher and Bible teacher, and we were dismayed when he announced that he had accepted a call from a Presbyterian church in Greenwood, Mississippi. Mary Charlotte and I visited both Andy Silman in Hattiesburg and Randy Thompson in Greenwood and their families on our way to visit Will and Judy in Shreveport that autumn of 1997. EPC was really our only interest in Cape Coral, and all of our best friends were members there. I had the privilege of teaching an adult Sunday School class for seven years, wherein we covered nearly all the books of the Bible (omitting those that largely duplicated other books). Both Mary Charlotte and I were interested in missions, so we soon joined the missions committee, then chaired by Bonnie Price. When Bonnie decided she had been chairperson long enough, Caroline Faris took over the chairpersonship. My two major missions trips for EPC were the work/study team to HCJB in Ecuador in June 1996 (see Church Work Team to Ecuador in Chapter 25) and the trip Bob Johns and his daughter Jenny took with me to Haiti in April 2000 (see Church Sponsored Trip to Haiti in Chapter 27).

You have already met Eric and Boo Mullinax (see right). He was our associate pastor at EPC for many years and became the senior pastor when Randy departed. When Mary Charlotte had her stroke on Sunday evening, March 15th. 1998, just as we were entering the church for the evening service, I was devastated (see Chapter 26) As I have described in that chapter, it was Boo and other ladies from the church that helped me through those terrible months. Eric was a great comfort to me, assuring me over and over that our Heavenly Father was fully aware of our situation, and would somehow bring good out of it.

Eric received a call to be associate pastor from the PCA church in Chatanooga TN, and reluctantly left us in 1999. Our search committee persuaded Oliver Claassen, then missions pastor in a big church in St. Louis, to become our pastor at EPC. You have already seen him when we described our trip to Australia in 1988 (see Oliver Claassen ), but now his family is "all grown up," as you can see in the picture on the left. Oliver is a marvelous evangelical preacher and Bible teacher, and also, unlike our previous pastors, an able administrator. He soon had several times as many people participating in the life of the church, but some of the people who previously had been at the center of the church's life didn't like his somewhat autocratic style, and moved to other evangelical churches. Some of them formed a new church in North Fort Myers, meeting for several years in the ECHO main auditorium.

North Fort Myers Presbyterian Church (NFMPC)

For a more specific description of the history and personnel of the North Fort Myers Presbyterian Church, click on Appendix E. For nearly a year, the North Fort Myers Presbyteian Church, as a mission church, had been meeting in the main auditorium at ECHO. It had been formed by a number of former EPC members, spearheaded by Lanny Moore, Dawson Gladding, Earl Jordan, and Richard Fessel. The church was formally dedicated as a "particular" church on February 6, 2005, with Dann Cecil then ordained as its pastor. Dann and his family: wife Christi, sons Caleb (5) and Aiden (3), and daughter Charis (10 mos.), are in the picture at the left. Dann had recently graduated from the Knox Seminary in Ft. Lauderdale, and was persuaded to start his ministry in our brand-new church.

Many of my closest friends were among them, so when I moved into the country to be near ECHO, it was logical for me to join them. They really have been family to me, in my solitary life without Mary Charlotte. Dann had me teach several short adult Sunday School classes (I John, Eclessaiastes, and Hosea). I read the Scripture each worship service (see above right), and often opened up the gate and buildings, closing them again when everyone had departed after our fellowship time following worship service. It was great to be given essential roles in the church's life.

The church started with my close friends Dawson Gladding, Earl Jordan, and Lanny Moore as elders; and Richard Fessel, Bill Burdette, and Don Langenburg as deacons. As described in the last chapter, Lanny's cancer finally prevailed upon him, and he went to be with the Lord. Not many months later Don Langenburg died suddenly, thus we lost two of our officers in six months. Bill Burdette was elected elder to replace Lanny, leaving Dick Fessel as our only deacon. I show the four survivors immediately below:

Dawson Gladding, Earl Jordan, Bill Burdette, elders; Dick Fessel, deacon

Within a year after becoming a particular church, we bought property in an excellent location just off US 41, and had it paid for within six months. It will take approximately two years to do all the things necessary to build a sanctuary in which to worship, so meanwhile we have been looking for a place to rent.

After nearly three years meeting in ECHO's modest auditorium, we have leassed a temporary facility just across from Edison Mall on US 41 in downtown Fort Myers. Earl and Linda Jordan have spent most of their time, and many of the congregation their Saturdays and other times during the month of August 2006 in virtually redoing the entire interior. The picture to the left shows the interior of the restored facility, so that it really does look like a church and not a "store front."

The grand opening was held on September 3rd, when this picture of the congregation was taken (see below).

I show my friends among the members in the Photo Album (click here).

On my last Sunday at the church, I was hnored by a luncheon after the service, at which many of my friends gave glowing accolades of how much I had meant to them and to the church. My ears were really burning! But it was very heart-warming to realize some folk really do love you, as you do them. I am convinced that the Chrisitian love we have for one another is one of God's greatest blessings to us, and helps us to realize that His love for us is far greater still!

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