Contributed by life columnist Sarah Hudson Pierce
It was 1957 in South West City, Missouri when the twenty-two-year-old minister Wayne Earnest and his eighteen-year-old bride Linda 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 visited by beings from afar.
I sense that Wayne and Linda knew how much we needed them because it was a known fact that we were the poorest family in town who had just moved in from the country 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 after he soon would die.
Life began to unfold.
Wayne was the minister who was placed in our path to preach the word and to minister to those within his reach.
We were within 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.
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 out-grown baby bed which was used by both of their sons.)
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 a ten-year-old child’s heart. His sermons made me sit up and know the reality of it all. I would later become a Christian at fourteen as a result of those memories!
And then in September 1958, Wayne is called to leave our small church and to 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 thirteenth birthday.
He must have spent a couple of hours but it was never long enough.
I will always believe he was praying for our safety knowing what a vulnerable state our family was in considering that my mother had suffered 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 from Florida.
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 1950 Chevrolet.
Surely they would return.
I lost track of their whereabouts.
The first time I spoke to them was in 1981, just four years before Wayne died of a massive heart attack at the age of fifty-two.
But I have gotten to visit with Linda a couple of times in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he preached. Her younger son, Steve, still lives around Tulsa and David lives in Collierville, Tennessee. 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 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 a quality that 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?
Contact Sarah at email@example.com