Bill Crider: A man of God at home in Minden

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Our Cameo personality this week. William (Bill) Crider, was born in Franklin Parish, near Delhi, La., where he grew up on a farm with 3 brothers and 3 sisters. They were sharecroppers growing cotton and corn. All seven children graduated from Central High School, and played basketball. James (2 years older) and Bill played varsity basketball together for two years. Bill lettered all four years, playing center position.

Bill remembers his father’s favorite saying was “we crack daylight with a pineknot” and they literally did. They had several cows to milk each morning. In cool weather they shared in “hog killings” with the neighbors. There was always work to do.

After finishing high school he went on to Northeast La. State College where he graduated in 1962 with a degree in Social Studies and Math. His first teaching position was in Doyline, where he taught Math.

Higher Education

While he was teaching there a new teacher came, Sondra Garcin, to teach music in Doyline and Sibley. She was also Minister of Music in the First Baptist Church of Doyline. Sondra finished high school in Winnsboro and is a graduate of Louisiana College with a degree in music.

In the summer of 1966 Bill received a Fellowship from the National Science Foundation to study at the University of South Carolina, in Columbia,S. C. His studies were in Math. It was to be a year’s duration but it was extended to two years. In 1967 he married Sondra, and they moved to South Carolina to finish the last year of his fellowship. Then they moved back to Doyline to teach another year.

After that year they moved to Monroe where Bill completed his Masters Degree in Math and Social Studies. His classes were at night and he taught Social Studies and Math at a Junior High School in West Monroe during the day. Sondra served at Minister of Youth and Music at Trinity Baptist Church in West Monroe. Bill served as a deacon. He also tutored three afternoons a week at the La. Baptist Childrens Home.

Following his graduation he accepted a position with Scholastic Book Services, and moved to Bossier City, La. As an Educational Sales Consultant, he called on schools within a hundred mile radius of Shreveport. In 1970 Scholastic transferred them to Austin, Texas. In 1971 they were blessed with the birth of their son, Wesley. Bill served three years with Scholastic before returning to the classroom there in Austin.

Tragedy

They were members of Woodlawn Baptist Church in Austin. In December of 1972, two of the Woodlawn buses were en route to Glorieta Baptist Encampment for a ski trip. One of the buses was hit by a cattle truck near Clovis, N. M. and 19 were killed – 16 youth and 3 adults. The wife and daughter of the Minister of Education were killed and the daughter of the Minister of Music had her back broken, and was in a full body cast. It was a time of ministering and counseling for the entire church. Bill was Chairman of the Deacons.

Following the tragedy, part of the church staff began to leave. The Minister of Education was devastated by his loss and he was the first to leave, followed by the Minister of Music. Later the pastor went to another church. Now there were no staff members left. It was during this time that Bill felt the call to full time Christian service. He has always loved school, and he feels like his most defined “gift” is teaching. Even when working with Scholastic Book Services he considered his role as an educator, helping teachers and administrators choose language arts materials as an aid to teaching. Bill knew that his call to the ministry would be in “religious education.”

Moving Around

As Bill and Sondra returned home Christmas 1973, they came through Arcadia, La. and visited with Johnny Adkins, Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Arcadia. Bill shared his “calling” with Johnny who invited them to consider coming to the church there in Arcadia. In February 1974 they moved there. He worked out his schedule whereby he would work at the church, leave on Monday night for the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and return on Thursday night. This enable Bill to work and get his Seminary raining at the same time.

Sondra “picked up the slack” as well as mothering a three year old son. She was serving as Minister of Music as well.

The summer of 1976 they moved to the First Baptist Church of Tupelo, Mississippi, as Associate Pastor and Minister of Education and Administration. After three years and two long interims, in 1979 they moved to Springfield, Illinois, to the State Sunday School Office.

There he assisted in directing the S. S. work, Vacation Bible School, and all associational Sunday School work for Illinois. He traveled the entire state loving each new assignment.

They remained there until 1983 when they moved to Hattiesburg, MS as Associate Pastor, Minister of Education and Administration. They served there for 9 l/2 years. Two long interim times called for Bill to step forward and lead the church until the new pastors could come.

Coming Home to Minden

In 1993 Bill was called to serve here in Minden, first as Associate Pastor, Minister of Education, and now as Minister to Senior Adults.

These eleven years have given us an opportunity to love this couple as they work among us. Bill said that he has led three lives, and then he amended it to say he had three careers: public school teaching 9 1/2 years, educational sales consultant 3 years, and educational ministry for 30 1/2 years.

And minister he does!! He visits the sick, the shut-ins, those in hospitals and those at home, and the bereaved. He may appear with a cake, or a plate of fish from a fish supper, flowers, or an assortment of candies, and even fresh vegetables from his and Sondra’s vegetable garden, and he has even brought sweet potatoes.

Always he comes with a smile on his face. I have been the recipient of all of these things. Bill remembered that he was the only Southerner on staff in Illinois. He was the unofficial “social chairman” for the convention. He introduced them to southern hospitality with watermelon “cuttings”, seed spitting contests,and fish fries with catfish from Mississippi. He made fresh apple pies and homemade candy for the staff real often. Oh yes, Bill can cook, really cook.! He said he learned as a child. Later he took a cake decorating class to learn the “twists, turns and swirls.” In the weekly class they decorated “a special kind of cake”. By the time they got to the wedding cake which was their last assignment, all ten were tired of feeding cake to their families. So that Wednesday night there were ten wedding cakes to be cut at the fellowship supper. Some of the fun times for Bill with this hobby was to make several wedding cakes for friends and birthday cakes for their son. He taught cake decorating classes in Belize and Brazil on mission trips. His favorite dessert is now Buttermilk Pie, using an old recipe.

Santa’s Helper

Bill feels that one of the most rewarding roles is being Santa’s helper at Christmas time. He can be seen at schools, nursing homes, homes of deacons, or visiting many young children in the weeks before Christmas preparing the way for Santa. This has been a rewarding adventure for the past thirty years.

For over thirty years Bill has served the Lord, the people and the local churches in several states. His greatest passion has been Sunday School, Vacation Bible School and Missions. Bill says that once a heart is touched through missions the world around them is never the same. He has been involved in mission and leadership training events in thirteen states and four foreign countries. There are still several mission trips “calling him” on the horizon. Bill and Sondra have both taught several times at Ridgecrest Baptist Conference Center in North Carolina.

Their son, Wesley, and his wife, Patricia, live in Hattiesburg, MS, and he is Executive Administrator of the nursing home in Jackson, Ms. Wesley has told them, facetiously, that he is reserving them a room with a view in that nursing home. Bill and Sondra have only one grandchild, a five year old granddaughter, named “Callie” whom they adore.

Going the Extra Mile

We are so fortunate to have Bill and Sondra to work among us. He was so helpful and so busy during the almost two years that our church was without a pastor. And still his duties are never ending. There is always someone sick, someone facing surgery, a death in a family, a family in need, and then there are the lonely old folks that need that extra bit of love that Bill showers on them. He sees those who are not so lovely along with many who graciously receive him. Bill works with “Sonrisers”, a group that meet each weekday morning for a time of prayer and a brief devotional, and of course, that early morning cup of coffee. The prayers of this group are to be treasured as they lift the names in prayer of those who need their prayers.

Sondra is so talented, with her Music degree from Louisiana College, she has filled so many school teaching positions, has been Minister of Music at many Baptist Churches in several states, and currently is Minister of Music at Taylor Baptist Church and directs our Senior Adult Choir. She has such a list of achievements that she deserves a “Cameo” of her own.

Since I belong to that group that he ministers to I am aware that often we old folks are bad tempered, insulting and just plain cantankerous. But Bill is always kind, serene and sweet tempered. We are blessed to have this couple work among us. I know that he could write a book on the reception that he has received at some homes, but always he takes it all in stride and never loses his “cool”. It would take a saint to do the things he has to do, and to listen to all the heartaches, gripes, and sorrows that he must hear. Come to think about it – he is a saint to most of us. That sounds good to me – “Saint Bill”

Juanita Agan submitted a weekly column to the Press-Herald for more than 15 years until her death in 2008. She was a resident of Minden since 1935. The Press-Herald is republishing select articles from Mrs. Agan’s Cameos column every Wednesday.

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