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photo: unsplash       graphic: Martha G. Brady

So what happened after our Jamaica years? You already know that we didn’t go back overseas. We went into the pastorate. Did we come home and go into the pastorate and live happily ever after?

Interesting that you should ask that question. In my mind, I thought GOD had prepared us for a pastorate while we were in Jamaica. I saw how much better prepared we were than when we had been in pastoral ministry before. I expected that churches were going to be happy to hire Ron.

But some changes had happened in the years we were in Jamaica

But some interesting things had happened while we were in Jamaica. Our denomination had split. The more conservative branch was formed the year our second daughter was born (1973). We were members of the more liberal branch because we couldn’t join while we were in Jamaica for a variety of reasons that will bore you. We wanted to join the more theologically conservative branch.

Also, Ron had completed his coursework on his Doctor of Ministry at Westminster Seminary during our study leave. He had also completed the surveys for his project. He only needed to finish collating them and write up the project.

GOD was showing us His plan by showing where He didn’t want us!

Ron was now in his 40’s or just about there. We moved to St. Petersburg where there was free missionary housing for up to a year. My girlish optimism convinced me that we wouldn’t need anywhere near that time. I was very wrong.

I forgot how slowly pulpit committees work, even when searching for assistant pastors. And that was more what Ron wanted…a staff position in a large church where he could specialize in teaching…teaching people how to teach and teaching people GOD’s Word in small groups and larger groups along with pastoring. He could preach but he didn’t feel the need to preach all the time.

That was not GOD’s plan for us. His plan for us was that we would apply to many, many churches. Be humbled, at times humiliated.

Most did not want someone on the staff with a doctorate even though Ron saw it as not a real one like a Ph.D. This was particularly true if the pastor didn’t have a D.Min. yet. Ron couldn’t have cared less. He knew that experience is everything. Degrees are only a piece of paper, a valuable one for sure, but a piece of paper just the same.

We spent year one after Jamaica with Ron working hard to finish his D.Min. work and applying for jobs and sending out resumes. We would get our hopes up for a job. He would go to meet with them and usually be a final of 2 or 3 people and preach either at the church or another nearby church. Occasionally, I would go with him if they really were serious about us. Then we would hear that they decided on someone else…or he didn’t meet some criteria they decided they wanted…or he was too reformed or not reformed enough. He always asked what the problem was so we got feedback on where the problems were perceived to be.

To say we were becoming demoralized, is a major understatement! All during this time, a pastor in the more liberal denomination who was getting divorced, kept asking Ron to consider pastoring the church he was leaving. He knew Ron would do a great job there and wanted a good man in that church. Since we were wanting to be in the more conservative church, we said, “Thanks. We’d like to try a little longer.” Every few months, Frank would call Ron to ask if we would like to come.

Of course, our supporters were no longer supporting us and it wasn’t going to be easy for Ron to find a temporary job, so within a few months, I started back to nursing. I hated leaving my baby, but by then, she was sleeping at night. So I went to work for a temp agency working 3-11. Ron had mornings when he could work and study and I was home for child care. The older girls got home from school at noon and 2:30 before I went to work. Then he had them for the evening and supper on the days I worked. It was usually 4 days a week.

After year one, we had to move again

As year one came to an end, we had to find a place to live. So we had to apply to live in apartments that had government assistance. It was a very low time for Ron. He felt like a failure as a husband and father! It didn’t bother me in the way it bothered him. I knew he was trying to get work. There always seemed to be 2 or 3 possibilities in the background. Some were long shots, but they were there just the same.

We moved that summer and settled in. I was thinking it would be no time before we would be on our way to a church. Despite the thinking of some of my children, I must be an incorrigible optimist!

For a year, no matter what we did, it seemed Ron couldn’t get into the more conservative denomination! What was the deal? Obviously, we just hadn’t made the right connection yet.

And we had no financial margins! We needed to get moving. Why had GOD taught us so much in Jamaica only to stall us for so long? I am always asking “Why?” or “How come?” You can imagine what was going on in my head during these days can’t you?

As year two moved on we continued to have glimmers of hope that this would be the job we would get only to have that hope dashed in the end! It was a roller coaster journey that did not go well super imposed on my hormones after Holly’s birth!

My dependable temp job dried up so I took a full-time job at the hospital where I had been working. I liked the people there and they liked me. Ron  had completed his D.Min. project now so he started working part-time at Sears in the paint department.

We could not figure out what GOD was doing. What did He want? What were we doing wrong? Had we figured out what He wanted from us all wrong?

School year #2 was ending and our options were drying up.

As the second school year was coming to an end, our options were less and we didn’t know what to do. Ron got another call from Frank. They had a long discussion. Ron was still a member of that presbytery. It wouldn’t be complicated for him to come in to pastor that struggling church.

But would they even want Ron? I can’t remember if we went together the first time or not. I think we did. It was a supper meeting with the elders. They loved him! They weren’t into lots of fol-de-rol. The church was very small. They had been through a lot of pain. The pastor and his family that they loved had split up. They needed a pastor to love them and teach them.

They needed us and we needed them. A church in Miramar, FL (near Hollywood) had a manse that was empty. We were able to rent it until we could buy a house a few months later. We moved there and got the kids into a Christian school in Hollywood, FL that summer. The church in North Miami Beach was about 20 minutes from our house in another county. Our county was a cheaper one to live in…and our house was on a lake!

GOD put us in that church for 2 years

GOD plunked us there in that little church for 2 years. We recovered. I worked part-time. Ron pastored and built up his supply of sermons. Our children grew and continued to enjoy their childhood as they had the former 2 years!

Then, GOD moved us again. This time it was into the denomination we had tried to move into earlier, in a staff position…in a way that was surprising and as uncontrived as we could ever have imagined!

 Have I not commanded you?
Be strong and courageous.
Do not be frightened,
and do not be dismayed,
for the Lord your God is with you
wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9 (ESV)

Challenge: When you look back on times of twists and turns in your life when you had no idea what GOD was doing, can you see where His guiding hand was at work?

Can you see where He changed you through the process? I can’t tell you how angry and frustrated I was during that period. I felt so alone at times. I wondered if GOD had totally forgotten about us! But by the time it was done, I knew He had cared for us. He also taught me to be grateful for the ways He cared for us…ways I often took for granted.

Thanks for joining me for the last 31 days. I enjoyed having those of you who joined me. It was fun. I enjoyed remembering those years in Jamaica…and after. They were years of growth for me as I learned to understand the grace of GOD and learned more about the truth of GOD in the day to day of everyday life!