While Jim was extremely involved in pastoring and church related responsibilities, he somehow found time to single handedly build a shed to house a riding mower and other implements as well as gardening supplies. He took time to design a platform on the outside for my dish-bird bath complete with a cord inside to power the small water pump.
A grand boost in carpentry began when Jim was a little guy as he spent time with his paternal grandpa on sites where he was building houses. He gave Jim the job of picking up nails, and when he was older, instruction on how to straighten them—what many people practiced who lived through the Depression. Papa Ward taught Jim how to use the level, choose and measure wood, saw safely, pound in nails and much more about building, of course.
Jim shared how much he enjoyed taking shop in high school where he built a large dining table for his parents, which is still in use at the Ward lakehouse. He also made a large cedar chest intended for his future wife someday--which became our only piece of furniture for several years. Buying his first car led to a new love—auto maintenance and repair.
(On a side note, Jim was on the distinguished honor roll in high school, not because he tried to be, but he was a good student. He told me that on the last day of high school he said to himself “I’ll never read another book.” Was he ever in for a surprise!
That summer, he accompanied his family to California to visit his mother’s parents. When they were ready to return to Texas, his grandpa said, “James, why don’t you stay with us and enroll in auto mechanics at El Camino College; it’s close and free?” He jumped at the suggestion and invitation spending the next year learning about automotive mechanics, especially brake repair, clearly planning to run his own auto-shop business someday.
However, while he was in California, he got involved with a church that had an active youth group. And it was there that he felt a call from God to be a minister. The youth director guided him to Moody Bible Institute—far different from fixing brakes or building tables. We met the first day and remained friends until our final year when we became engaged.
Since preparation for the pastoral ministry involved degrees from college and seminary, A month after we were married, he enrolled in Baylor University and graduated four years later. Before going to Seminary, we took time off to catch our breath and pay college bills. After filling the pulpit for a couple of Sundays for a struggling mission in Texas, we saw the need for a church to reach those young cotton farming families grabbed our hearts, so we agreed to pastor the mission into a church. So, seminary was once again put on hold for a couple of years.
The mission salary was inadequate, so Jim needed to find a part time job. Jim’s Uncle from Odessa, who owned the local butane business in Balmorhea, a small town nearby, desperate since the manager had quit asked Jim if he could run the business. Jim knew how to run a butane business from driving transport trucks while he was a teenager in Odessa. Our financial needs for four children were being met.
As Jim filled butane tanks for residences and cotton farmers, his love for business took hold once again, and he yearned to open a hamburger restaurant and add a washateria in the little town of Balmorhea where he had many butane customers. The pull to business was so strong that Jim needed reminders about schooling still necessary to complete the training for God’s calling to the ministry. After several years, a person was found to take over the butane business and we moved to Fort Worth to finish seminary.
Jim, an ESTJ Enjoyed his major preference of Sensing hands-on jobs. But to write sermons, He had to access his Intuitive shadow side-in order to He had to read tons of books and write many papers, but although it drained him, he was challenged by the professors and school mates, and it was satisfying his spiritual preparation and giving him confidence. Writing sermons was difficult, but delivering sermons was easy and enjoyable because of his Extroversion preference. Structure, his main preference in lifestyle,
enabled his ability to finish his study. He thoroughly enjoyed seminary classes, chapel and becoming friends with other seminarians. He developed such a love for reading that from then on he always had a book in his lap—always the Bible and other theological books and biographies.
I’m confident that readers who knew Jim as pastor, neighbor and friend would be interested in his background, and how he managed to mix the love for business with the love for reaching people for Christ, continuing to repair cars, washers, bikes, and build bookcases. Being a businessman, he kept the churches we pastored in the black.
Several observations of the shed or any project that Jim tackled rang true--whatever he built or repaired, Jim did to help someone, and no matter whether inside or outside, he completed the jobs, cleaned up the mess and put his tools away. He enjoyed using his God-given hands-on preference to the fullest and never fished for praise or thanks.
After Jim died, I needed to get into the shed for our snowblower, which I knew was relatively new. Neighbor Mark nonchalantly said. “This shed needs to be organized to make more room”. He was right the shelves were filled, wire, screen, old swimming pools, bags of yard fertilizer, bird feed—you name it! I took his comment seriously and decided that son David, in Tennessee, would be the likely person to advise what should be kept, given or tossed. I requested he come for a week.
Earlier this summer when the deck was painted, the deck guy said “The deck really makes your shed look ugly. It’s pretty weathered and should be painted, too. Sometime the last of this summer.”
I had hoped that David’s visit to organize the shed would be before the painting was done, but that didn’t happen. I received a call early on a Monday, “I’m coming to paint the shed this morning.” This turned out to be all fortunate. David and his adult son, James came the next week. Grandson Ettore, an expert in paint, dropped by to see David but also to check out the shed paint job.
“Good work”, Ettore remarked as he carefully inspected the shed. He pointed out significant repairs needed where rain and weather had weakened the structure and told David what needed to be repaired. Who knew that what Ettore suggested would not only change our schedule for cleaning out the shed but would lead to repair what we would never have known to do?
Since Jim had wisely installed electricity in the shed, David was able to move Jim’s skill saw and table to the back of the shed where he cut new boards leftover from the deck work to the sizes he would need. He had enough shed stain to cover all that was needed. He and James worked tirelessly for several days.
When we finally addressed the inside of the shed, we chatted about how neatly Jim had packed all the things he wanted to save on the shelves. The huge blue tarp that he bought to stretch over our camper and kitchen tent to protect visitors from sun and rain. We reminisced how thoughtful and generous Jim was with his time, money and expertise.
As David worked around the house making repairs, he said “I’m always impressed with dad’s innovative repairs and other reasons why he repaired things the way he did. He always took his good ole time.”
We are known by what we say, how we treat others and the work we do. Jim’s practical sermons, positive outlook and sacrificial attitude in repairing things from zippers to brakes for anyone in the church, our extended families and neighbors, who needed help, reflect his character for which he always gave Glory to God. In his bible he’s underlined the words “for the glory of God. That’s how he lived, worked and served God. The things he built, installed and repaired for serviceability and others’ enjoyment and convenience continue to speak volumes.
Jim enjoyed a personal relationship to God and lived by the instructions in the scripture and commands of Jesus such as the following: Jim particularly appreciated Isaiah, John, Ephesians and Romans.
Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. Prov. 16:3 (NIV).
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…Ecc. 9:10 (NIV).