We traveled the long road home to Mississippi last weekend. I took several additional days off from teaching around the holiday weekend to visit with my parents who live just south of Hattiesburg. The end of the school year is always a hectic time for teachers who are trying to squeeze in last things and hold a quickly sinking ship together. So the couple of days off was a reprieve in the middle of the whirlwind. But time with the grandparents wasn't the central reason we went home. Robert had a teaching interview in Hattiesburg and a preaching engagement at Ellisville Presbyterian Church.
Early Sunday morning, we journeyed north to Ellisville and found a picturesque white church with a steeple that stretched toward blue skies. Erected in 1892, the Ellisville church is in its original historic sanctuary. The steeple tower contains the original bell that rings each Sunday to call the surrounding community to worship. The interior of the building was bathed in rainbow light streaming in through the stained glass windows as the children and I settled onto red velvet cushions on dark wooden pews. As Robert made his way to the church office to meet with the pulpit committee, we were greeted by the kindest congregation. It was an excellent service and as I listened to Robert bring the sermon, I was struck by memories of his early preaching days. We were much younger and the twins were just babies. The boys were good babies and if I planned well, I could usually time it so that they slept through service. That morning I glanced down the row at not two, but five covenant children and wondered at the graciousness of our God. After the service, we lingered and fellowshipped with members who were full of questions. I pulled a reluctant Robert away (he REALLY wanted a chance to ring the bell) and we began the drive back to my parents' home. Thinking back over the morning service, we were humbled by the warmth of the people at Ellisville PCA and the calling to ministry that God has allowed us.
Ellisville is also home to Ellisville State School, a residential facility for the mentally retarded. As we passed the large state run building, Robert pointed it out to the children. As a ministry student many years ago, he had visited the facility and met with the residents. Kristina listened to all of this intently and asked, "Dad, you've been to that school?" Robert nodded and without missing a beat she asked, "Dad, you used to be retarded?" We all dissolved into fits of laughter as Robert attempted to clarify the situation to a very confused Kristina.