Now it’s February 1980. Outside there is three feet of dirty snow on the ground, in Cedar Lake Indiana, just a few miles from Chicago Ill. It’s cold and a typical day in the Chicago area.
"Charity what do you think about going to Altoona, Kansas to candidate for a church?" "Honey, this was 26 years ago you know!" Charity mentions.
Three feet of snow, and about 900 mile trip in an old car! Sure that would be great, dear.
I remember looking on a map (this was before mapquest.com) and was looking for the city of Altoona, Kansas. I had to get a magnifying glass-- the dots were getting smaller and smaller. Then there were no dots. Altoona was a town okay, and there were just over 500 people. In Wilson County there were 40 sq miles and 10,000 people. Just great, I thought. Now I know why Don wanted me to go to Altoona.
First Baptist Church in Hammond, had an attendance that was 20,000, I wonder what the attendance in FBC i n Altoona was? Funny. Well, the church was downtown on Main Street, just like FBC of Hammond.
After a few phone calls I made the decision to go to Altoona. Charity was just thrilled. After all, we had Eric age 8, Becky was 3 and she was three months pregnant with Chad. Just great.
From Ft. Worth, Texas, to Wooster Ohio, West Portsmouth, Ohio, to Minford, Ohio, to Portsmouth, Ohio, to Grapevine, Texas, to Mansfield, Ohio, to Connersville, Ind, to Cedar Lake, Ind, then to Altoona, Kansas. Let’s see, I don’t think many basketball players in the NBA have been traded that much. This is going to be our tenth stop on this journey, and will last for sixteen great years. But the first couple months you would have never thought so.
Charity really wasn’t all that happy about moving to Altoona. When we arrived in Altoona, Kansas that February 1980 around 2:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, we meet the couple that had invited us to come. We got up that morning and got dressed and went to the church. I had my three piece suit on, Charity was dolled up, and Becky had her beautiful dress on and Eric was dressed in a suit and tie. You would think we were going to FBC in Hammond. As we walked in, oh boy. Here were farmers in farm clothes. We did look strange.
I preached, about an hour, and we had dinner, and then I met with the men of the church to see if we were coming back! I did about everything I could to discourage them in this matter. But every thing I mentioned that I would like for them to do, they agreed. Everything that I suggested that I would do, if I came, they agreed. I really tried to get them to say no. But to no avail, they asked me to come back. The vote was 10-0 I think. Great crowd that Sunday, somewhere around thirty five, I think. I was to understand later the attendance had averaged about seventeen.
I couldn’t say no, and Charity cried. The kids didn’t have any idea what was going on. I was thirty-two years old , and I should have had better judgment in this matter. But we came anyway.
I discovered after our arrival in March 1980, that some in the church were not members. The adult Bible teacher was from the Holiness church, the song leader was having a Mormon class in his home. The previous preachers were good men, but didn’t stay very long. This church was as malfunctional as a church could be. At least I thought so. . The building was pieced together with old stuff from here and there. There were at least five different forms of chairs and pews. But at least they had bathrooms at this church.
As a matter of fact, the people were really great and loving people, they just needed a good pastor to pastor the sheep of the church.