Monday, August 6, 2012

Where, oh, where have they all gone?

Here we sit on an end-of-the-year class picnic in May 1977.
Little did we realize neither the places we would travel
nor the things we would experience in the coming 35 years.

The fall of 1977 found me back home in Macon, Georgia, beginning my first year of teaching.  The class filled with 30 active fourth graders ready to test this young inexperienced teacher.  But neither they nor I could “get away” with anything.  Our classroom was across the hall from the school/principal’s office and included the president of the school’s daughter, the principal’s daughter, three board member's children, and two other teacher’s children.  Oh yeah, NO STRESS!  Before I even returned home from school in the afternoon, everyone knew what had happened in Miss Fields’ class that day.  But I loved this class!  They have always remained one of my favorite classes.

I remember well that first PTO (parent/teacher organization) meeting…walking into that classroom filled with parents and feeling very intimidated.  I heard the remarks, “Who’s the teacher?”   Since I was the youngest teacher and single, my being the teacher surprised them and then I heard the comments, “I’ve got a young brother/cousin/friend you need to meet.”  But there was one who said, “I’ve got a brother I would love for you to meet, but he just moved to Chicago.”  Well, a lot of good that did me, didn’t it?!

Two years passed quickly and this class was now in sixth grade.  The December PTO meeting was the special Christmas presentation with lots of singing and other performances from the children.  As I wearily headed to my car in the misting rain, one of my former students told me goodnight.  In the background I heard his mom ask if he was talking to me and then I heard her say, “Miss Fields, I want you to meet my brother.”  “Brother” had moved back from Chicago and had come to the program to see Richard meet the teacher.  It must have been worthwhile because we started dating in January, were engaged on Good Friday, enjoyed the end-of-the-year class picnic, and married the first Saturday in August!  As we had looked for a date for our wedding, every weekend was filled with activities – well, I must admit, there was one weekend but it was between children’s camp and youth camp and for some reason, not wanting to “honeymoon” at youth camp,  we thought we would wait one more week.  But in reality, our life calendar has always been just as filled.

After our wedding, I moved to Greensboro, Georgia, to join in ministry with David at First Baptist Church there.  The following April, we moved to Phenix City, Alabama, to begin ministry at Central Baptist Church.  During these seven-and-a-half years we were blessed with the arrival of Miriam, Stephen, and Rebecca, and then Deborah was being formed as we moved to New Orleans for David to complete his final year requirements to receive his MRE.  It was while in Phenix City, that God first began to open our heart to Guatemala as David took his first foreign mission trip in 1982.  And the journey continued!

Following our days in seminary, we moved to Huntsville, Alabama, to begin ministry at Southside Baptist where we continued for four years.  David continued leading mission trips to Guatemala and Brazil, carrying as many folks as he could through “mission dirt” to open “mission hearts” to “mission opportunities” and God's call for service.  I was able to accompany him on one of those trips and the other times, could only remain home and pray.

From Alabama, our path led us back to Columbus, Georgia, just across the river from Phenix City.  At Edgewood Baptist our ministry continued for almost 10 years and included yearly, at times, semi-annual trips to Guatemala.  Probably one of our greatest mission trips was in 1998 when we brought the entire family down to Guatemala for two weeks.  The children were able to see and touch some of the places and people of whom we had prayed for many years.  Our nest began to empty as children matured, began college, and moved into adulthood.

Leaving two behind in Columbus and moving from one side of the state to the other, we began ministry at Abilene Baptist in Augusta.  During these eight years our nest really did empty as each of our daughters married.  And then God opened the door and thrust us from our comfort zone into a totally different culture, different language, and different lifestyle. 
          Would we change any of those places to where He thrust us out of the immediate comfort zone into a new and challenging one?  No, definitely no. 
                     Would we have asked for those difficulties, for the loss of family and loved ones, for the trials, for the loss of familiar?  No, definitely no.
                                But would we ever want to go back and change even one of those lessons?  No, definitely no.

Because we have found everything we ever wanted and more
in the loving arms of Jesus and His direction for our lives! 
May we continue faithful to the life to which He has called us!

We're pilgrims on the journey
Of the narrow road
And those who've gone before us line the way
Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary
Their lives a stirring testament to God's sustaining grace

Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses
Let us run the race not only for the prize
But as those who've gone before us
Let us leave to those behind us
The heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives

Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
May the fire of our devotion light their way
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe
And the lives we live inspire them to obey
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful

After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone
And our children sift through all we've left behind
May the clues that they discover and the memories they uncover
Become the light that leads them to the road we each must find
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
May the fire of our devotion light their way
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe
And the lives we live inspire them to obey
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
Lyrics from Steve Green

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