It was 1957 in Southwest City, Mo. when the 21-year-old minister, Wayne Earnest, now deceased, and his 17-year-old bride, Linda Melton-Earnest, who still resides in Tulsa, Okla., stepped into our lives as the angels they were and continue to be in my memory today.
Time stood still.
That is how it is when we are being visited by beings from afar.
I sense that Wayne and Linda knew how much we needed them because it was known that we were the poorest family who had just moved into town in 1955 to the top of the rocky hill because daddy knew that mother couldn't handle the horse-drawn wagon if we stayed in the country.
Life began to unfold.
Wayne was the minister who was placed in our path to preach the Word and to minister to those who were within his reach. We were placed in his path.
He visited my dad often during the last days of his life before he died on March 19, 1958 at home. He was the one who preached our dad's funeral, which I later learned was Wayne's first funeral to conduct as well as his first full-time church.
They were there for us.
Linda gave birth to their firstborn son, David, in the year they were in our town. (I cherish the memory of knowing that mother sold them my baby bed, which was used by their oldest son, David).
The couple lived in a brownstone second story apartment near our school. My sister and I visited them almost daily as we walked by their house on our way home.
They never seemed to grow tired of us and always fixed us something to eat.
We loved them.
His kind of preaching pricked this 10-year-old's heart. His sermons made me sit up and know the reality of it all. I would later become a Christian at 14 as a result of those memories!
And then, in September 1958, Wayne is called to leave our small church and move to Florida.
The reality of their move became surreal when Brother Earnest came to visit us on the last Sunday night after church on September 21, 1958 to celebrate my sister's 13th birthday.
He must have spent a couple of hours but it was never long enough.
I will always believe he was praying inwardly for our safety knowing what a vulnerable state our family was in considering that my mother had suffered a brain trauma as a young child and never fully matured thus resulting in us later going to an orphanage.
We didn't see them again but received letters.
We continued to walk by their apartment after school just hoping they might still be there. We never stopped looking for their blue and white 1954 Chevrolet.
Page 2 of 2 - Surely they would return.
I lost track of them.
The first time I spoke to them was in 1981, just four years before Wayne died of a massive heart attack at fifty years of age in 1985
But I have gotten to visit with Linda a couple of times in Tulsa where he preached at the East Central Church of Christ. Her younger son, Steve, still lives at Owasso, Okla., near Tulsa, and David lives in Collierville, Tenn. I asked her if she remembered me and her response was "I could never forget you."
Their love was stamped in my heart.
I've gone online and researched Wayne's work as a minister and it still reverberates today.
Don Bassett, the minister in Corinth, Miss., who gave his eulogy said, "Wayne was always looking for something to do for someone in need!"
And so it is with ministers and Christians who make a difference and who have a calling.
It isn't the money paid or the lack thereof but the caring in the heart that makes them go the distance.
Love is like being a parent. The quality cannot be bought or sold.
I sense that Wayne never tried to shift his responsibility to someone on a committee but did more than he had to do just because he cared.
Have we lost our mission today?