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On background of medium teal is large photo of large hand reaching down to small hand reaching up. Cross in the middle that symbolizes Jesus' advocating for our sin before the Father. This is the overall theme of the series. The smaller photo is of a couple jogging. It is similar to what we were doing during this period as we actively waited. We had to live our lives, care for our children, make a living, feed our family while waiting for a job to come through for Ron. We couldn't just sit and wait for it all to come to us. He had to apply for jobs, talk on the phone in job interviews, and even travel to churches for in-person interviews.

Photos by Canva

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It was now the summer of 1977 and we were living in missionary housing in St. Petersburg, FL. All we had to pay for was utilities. The place was crawling with kids and mothers. Most of the men were frequently traveling to raise support so they could return to their countries. Most of us had almost no money. Finding people there that were happy and fun wasn’t always easy. It was a stressful time for us all. Most were planning to return to their countries, but a few were in transition back to the US like we were.

We knew we weren’t going to be missionaries anymore. We were pretty sure we were going back into the pastorate. The question was when and where.

We knew we were leaving Jamaica and most likely were not going to be missionaries anymore. We were pretty sure God was calling us into ministry in the US and with a denomination that had come into being while we were overseas. (The Presbyterian Church in America) We couldn’t simply join it and then look for a church to pastor. That would have been nice and easy. But it doesn’t work that way. A PCA church had to choose my husband to be their pastor. Then he would be examined by presbytery and if he passed, he would become part of the denomination. So Ron was writing up a resume and updating it for each pulpit committee in need of a pastor or staff member where he felt we might fit the job description.

At the same time, he was finishing his Doctor of Ministry degree (M.Div.) that he started while living in Jamaica 2 years earlier. It began as a monthly seminar in January at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, but during our furlough, we were there for a semester when he took some courses and was able to do some work there to round out his work. The courses were done now. He just had to collate the results of the project and finish the paper on it. Then he would be done.

Few of our supporters continued our support  much beyond the beginning of the summer, so I had to get to work pretty fast.

Very few of our supporters continued our support, even over the summer as we tried getting resettled in the US so we were pretty much without any income. We knew we would have to do something for income or we would be in big trouble very fast. Fortunately, my nursing credentials were up-to-date, so I went to an agency and started working 4 days a week during the 3-11 shift. I was still nursing a young baby so 3-11 seemed the least problematic choice. It had been a few years since I had worked as a nurse, so the stress of returning to the US (and it was stressful!) was compounded to the stress of returning to the workforce for me, along with the stress of having 3 children and honestly, not having a maid to help out at all with any of the house work.

Ron’s degree we thought would be an asset, turned out to be more of a liability. Who knew?

Yes, Ron was home and he was helpful. But that first year in the US was a blur! It was a blur of work, ups and downs of hopes for a job for Ron and hopes dashed, often after 6-9 months invested. Fortunately, there were overlapping job options, but after a year, he still had no job. We were very discouraged. He had finished his D.Min. by now.

But the degree that we thought would make him more marketable, in many churchesaa, made him less so. If it was a staff position (which he wanted after living overseas) and the pastor didn’t have a doctorate, he was ruled out even though he thought of his degree as a cheap degree compared to a Ph.D., for example. We learned there is no accounting for the insecurities of some Senior Pastors. Ron didn’t feel that having a D.Min. made him any better than anyone else on the staff. He honored the Senior Pastor for his position as well as his accomplishments  whether or not he had a doctorate or not.

Our second year found us moving from missionary housing to government assisted housing. I have never seen Ron so disheartened.

After our first year at the missionary housing, we had to leave. It was only provided for a year. I have never seen Ron so low as the day he had to apply for government assisted housing. It wasn’t far from where we were living. It was in an apartment, but he was so embarrassed to be receiving government assistance for our rent. We didn’t need food stamps I don’t think, because of the income from my job. Now that he was done with his degree project, He got a part-time job at Sears in the paint dept. It couldn’t clash with my job, of course, but he needed to work. It was too discouraging. During year two, we were certain he would get a job and there were a few times it looked like a sure thing. One of those times, it blew up in our faces. It was devastating. In all my life, I never knew it was possible to be so badly insulted as we were on more than one occasion. Despite that, we met some wonderful people along the way.

Meanwhile, a pastor had been hounding Ron to come to his former church as pastor. It was a small PCUS church in Miami.

For about 6 months or so, there was a pastor who kept wanting Ron to come to the church he had just left in North Miami Beach. It was in the denomination we were still members of, but wanted to leave. (It was the PCUS at that time.) We kept holding out hope that we would get into the PCA, but as the second school year was coming to an end, we decided we should reconsider his friend’s request. There were just too many doors slamming in our faces. This one kept staying open. Ron needed to get back into a church. So he met with the pulpit committee. They loved him. It was difficult for him. They didn’t examine him very thoroughly for his theological views. He loves that part of discussing theology. It challenges his mind whether people agree with him or not. But he felt he could work with them. They worked out a call that was agreeable and we moved that summer. This church was just south of the Date/Broward County Line. There was a church just north of that line in Broward County near Hollywood that had an empty manse that we could move into right away until we were able to find a house to buy. That sounded great. So that is what we did. I had a part-time job. We registered our 2 older kids in a nearby Christian school in Hollywood, FL. Coincidentally, the principal was a guy I went to Bible College with. Everything was surprisingly nearby despite the fact that it was spread over 2 counties. It took about 20 minutes to go from the church to the kids’ school. Our house was in between.

Over the next 3 months, we found a house not far from where we were living, that we were able to buy. (Broward County house prices were much cheaper than those of Dade County.)

Because Ron had been a member of that presbytery during all the time we were in Jamaica, from the time he moved to FL, he was a rather senior member of that presbytery. He knew many of the members of that presbytery even after the PCA started and those members had left. About a year or year and a half after we went to that little church in North Miami Beach, one of the large churches decided to join the PCA. There is a process to that when a church leaves the denomination and a commission is set up to work with the church to help the people in the church who don’t want to make the change, as well as deal with other details. Ron was the chairman of the commission. There were people on the commission of all stripes. Ron is super fair. When the process was done, the senior pastor of the church that withdrew from the denomination and went into the PCA, asked Ron if he would like to be on the staff of his church. He was pretty surprised. I was shocked.

There were so many times I wondered if God had forgotten about us. Turns out He hadn’t. He just had a job for Ron to do.

We had spent 2 years knocking on every door we could to join the PCA and now it happened without even trying. Ron was just doing his job. God has to have a sense of humor. Ron met with the committee he needed to at the new church. He also had to meet with the new presbytery. We didn’t live far away so it wasn’t difficult to go looking for a house. We found one.

It was difficult to say good-bye to our little church. They were sweet people. As it turned out, one of the pastoral candidates from the church moving to the PCA wanted to stay in the PCUS and he went to that church as their pastor. They were not even left high and dry.

We moved to South Miami-way south. We were now in a very large church. It was a big adjustment. There were a lot of new names to learn.

The new church was paying for a mover to get us moved. As it turned out, that helped a lot, since I had a seizure shortly before we moved. Yes, one of my rare every 7-10 year seizures! We had Ron’s mother come down to help us with the girls while we moved. She really hated flying but we had no one else to call. We really appreciated her help for that week as we settled into our new house and got the kids ready for the new school year.

We were now on the staff of a nearly 2000 member church. It was a busy time. Ron was busy and I was feeling my way to see where I fit in and what my responsibilities were. Of course, my most important responsibilities were to be sure the girls were settling into school well. Holly was starting pre-school at a nearby church. It was only 1/2 day. She enjoyed it.

Our second year at the new church found Ron’s responsibilities changed around a good bit. It was confusing as to why he was being asked to work with singles. He was doing well in the area he had been working. This was not a group he was used to working with much. But he did. It was with the 30+ singles. In late spring, he was told to look for another job. He was shocked. So was I. He was given 6 months to find a job and told he would be given a good recommendation unless he took his case to presbytery (which was his right). Then he would be immediately fired! Since then, I have been told this is common practice in many large churches. It took me years to get over this. No reason was given for what he did wrong or why he was let go. How do you work with that? He worked hard. He wasn’t lazy. He was seeking to do what God wanted.

I will leave you hanging until next week, but I want to tell you a bit about what I learned during this hard period.

Over time, I learned to forgive a grievous wrong. It was very painful. But it wasn’t long before I learned that this kind of pain is not uncommon in pastoral circles. It is way more common than I ever realized. And the problem is that it is almost impossible to discuss.

There is too much trouble that comes from unloading the pain off your chest. There are parts of the story I would like to tell that even now, I can’t. I can only tell my part of the story. After we returned from Jamaica, I struggled with unforgiveness and resentment. But when I got down to it, a lot of my resentment. I had people who had treated me in ways that were unkind, mean, insensitive, etc. The fact that I had so recently had a new baby didn’t help me I’m sure. I would have nights when I couldn’t sleep because my feelings toward people were keeping me awake. I was very thankful for a series that was written in Christianity Today by Lewis Smedes on forgiveness. It was life-changing. I came to see that I had to let go of this resentment or it would kill me and the joy I had in Christ.

Truthfully, I did have resentment against God too for making us wait and go through those hard times. I’m human. Those years were unbelievably hard and I think I was also experiencing some post partum depression as well. It wasn’t severe, but it was there. Yes, there were people who said some very thoughtless things and made things personal that didn’t need to be. But there were also some very kind people along the way too. There were some funny stories too. One was when Ron was candidating in St. Louis at a fairly large church and he got one of the few cases of laryngitis of his life! Here he is preaching at a whisper over the microphone the one sermon they would judge him by. He just had to go with it.

Over time, I also learned that others have suffered more than I have. It’s easy to think I am suffering worse than anyone, but it is rarely true. I need to learn to forgive others for the pain they cause me. I need to “forgive” (I use that word very hesitantly) God when I don’t understand what He is doing. That may best be described as waiting patiently rather than forgiving but the reality is probably that it is a bit of a combination. I need to wait to see the outcome rather than decide I must forgive Him for doing something I don’t like. When I see the outcome, I have more of a clue as to what He is doing. But of course, that isn’t true faith. Faith is trusting God when I don’t know the outcome. I tend to find that my experience of all those attributes is not nearly so lofty as I would like, but rather falls far short of my desired goals. But God keeps working in me and changes me…thankfully.

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
    dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
 Delight yourself in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

 Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him, and he will act.
 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
    and your justice as the noonday.

 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
    fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
    over the man who carries out evil devices!

Psalm 37:3-7 ESV