Our honeymoon consisted of driving from Chicago to Waco, Texas where Jim would attend Baylor University. We rented an upstairs apartment, but two weeks later traded yard-work for rent at a huge Women’s Club House across town. Getting from the front door to our third-floor bedroom involved a light-switch relay. Because of a “little” surprise that I was pregnant, and an unmentioned condition clause ‘no children allowed’ not only forced us to move but I lost my insurance job which was our main financial source for the same reason. A 2nd floor furnished apartment in a private home closer to Baylor met our needs where “Mom” Coble treated us like family.
Late in March, when minor contractions began, the doctor coached “I’ll meet you at the hospital. There’s no hurry. It will take a long time.” We were both a bit nervous and didn’t want to take any chances so we headed for the hospital 15 min away. Jim found a lounge where he could study for a test. As soon as I was gowned and waiting for preparation, I was surprised that the baby was on its way. I called for a nurse. They rushed me to OR and 20 minutes later a baby girl arrived, even before the doctor. But in that brief time the nurses had to awaken Jim to share the good news that he had a daughter. The next day in class, a classmate who had never spoken to Jim before asked “Do you have any children?” He replied, “As a matter of fact, a daughter, Kay, was born last night”. Jim liked to tell that story.
We were delighted when Jim was called to pastor a small country church nearby where we served for the next five years. The farmers couldn’t provide much salary but their little surprises each week of produce, eggs, fruit from their trees and love meant more than money. I still have good contact with one of the young ladies of that church. I made extra money by typing term papers and doing washing and ironing for single college guys. We were both very involved in finding ways to support our family.
Seventeen months later we arrived at the same hospital with the same doctor who had advised inducing labor rather than chancing an auto-birth. David arrived in 3 hours, almost painlessly and naturally. We had moved across town to a single house with more room that had a tiny fenced-in yard and a clothes line. My two requirements. To add to needed finances, I received phone calls for the business man who owned the house and I also took in ironing.
The same kind of surprise and drill occurred seventeen months later--three hours from start to finish--when we welcomed Julia Beth into our family. We made another critical decision to move to more affordable school housing closer to Jim’s classes and his part time grocery job. To save a little on rent, we moved to another school housing apartment. We moved 5 times in several years. We didn’t have much to move. Jim continued college courses, pastoring , working at a grocery and caring for three preschoolers on the two days a week I was secretary to seven men at an oil company. Life was full, busy and happy. He graduated in 1960, five years after we arrived.
Fast forward 3 ½ years, pastoring in Verhalen, we were expecting our fourth child. Dr. A, whom we knew pretty well, after considering my child-birth record recommended we not take any chances since we lived 30 minutes away. As planned, we arrived on the baby’s due date at the small hospital in Pecos, Texas. After the examination, the doctor sighed and said, ‘I don’t think the baby is ready to come. But we can give it a whirl, if you want. Even if we induce, if the baby’s not ready, he/she won’t come. And it could take quite a while to happen. You could go home and return in a few days. You and Jim talk it over.”
Jim and I returned to our car to discuss what we should do. A critical decision. We considered how much trouble it was to get overnight places for all the kids, coverage for his butane business, and pets fed. We decided to go ahead and give it a whirl. I certainly didn’t want Pastor Jim Ward to deliver our baby, even though he assured me he thought he could do it.
The nurses were too busy to begin the procedure immediately. So, while I waited, the doctor asked Jim if he could discuss something important. And they left together. I’m telling you this story not for our birthing history, but for the following scenes. While the nurses began to get me ready, they discovered dilation had not only begun but was increasing so rapidly, that they rushed me into the OR while a nurse was sent to fetch the doctor who sat in his little blue Volkswagen talking to Jim. Roger was born in a jiff. We would not have made it home and Jim would certainly have added a new experience to his career.
When Jim and I were finally alone, he told me about their discussion. Doctor A told him that he had been carrying around an article for several days exposing Billie Sol for fraudulent anhydrous ammonia tanks.
“He has only tags, not actual tanks. If placed end to end they would reach from here to Dallas.” He told Jim that he had received threats on his life. As the owner of the paper Doctor A had to make the final decision. He said that printing this article would be devastating to the community adversely affecting his patients and friends. He wanted Jim’s spiritual advice about what he should do. A critical decision, to say the least. Jim encouraged him to do what he thought was right.
Billie Sol Estes, the much loved, trusted and respected largest employer in Pecos and surrounding area, had solicited a few of his big cotton farmer-friends, several from our congregation, to loan their credit-line just temporarily to supply cash flow. He said to each “you are the only one”. But later they learned he had asked many. Billie Sol, was also a week-end pastor in Pecos, which added to his credibility. Doctor A was physician and friend for most families in Verhalen. Billie Sol was also Jim’s largest butane customer. We all had warm connections with the doctor as well as Billie Sol.
As a result of that article, Billie Sol was put in jail, the farmers lost their money; pictures of several of our farmers made the cover of the Saturday Evening Post magazine along with the unbelievable story. (Google Billie Sol Estes for the background story of July 1962). The upset was tremendous. People lost their jobs and left the area. The mission suffered incredibly. Naturally, the community was angry, hurt and disappointed with their doctor. The upheaval affected our future decisions as well. We found a manager for the butane business and moved to Fort Worth to begin Seminary training, the last leg of Jim’s educational requirements.
We often reviewed the unusual sequence of events. We made a critical decision about remaining at the hospital based on peace from God. The doctor had to make a critical decision knowing it would throw that whole community into turmoil. We concluded that the fact that Roger was being born the very day that the doctor needed to make that momentous decision putting Jim at his elbow was more than coincidental.
Thirty-eight years later, having retired from Temple Baptist Church in York, PA. we made a trip to visit Verhalen friends. We stopped in Pecos to see again the hospital where Roger was born. It was gone. We asked at a convenience store where Billie Sol Estes’ home was and the owners said “who? Never heard of him.” And ironically, a man overhearing our conversation came over and put his hand out and said I’m Poncho Bradley, Bob’s son (he was 16, 38 years ago). He gave us a rundown on his family and other church friends and directed us to where his dad now lived. We would never have found Bob who had moved and married again after his wife died (the one who wondered why I didn’t pull up a fence post and kill that snake). We marveled at the coincidence that Poncho just happened to be there at the same time.
While we were in the Verhalen community, we decided to check out rattlesnake-hill home. It was difficult to find the road; the convenience store was gone and the road to that house was overgrown but we forged ahead. The telephone poles were still up, but no house. It had burned. My heart took a jump. A sad surprise. I picked up a few rocks as a keepsake. Memories remain. Life is interesting!
There’s no doubt in my mind that God cares about what we care about. I do not question that God is concerned about every type of surprise or critical circumstance that we encounter. Whether our surprises are critical or nominal, the Lord promises to take care of us and gives us His wisdom.
Cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you. I Peter 5:7 (NIV)
I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. 2 Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. 5 The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. 7 Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. Psalm 116: (NIV)
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. James: 1:5 (NIV)