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The rewards of faithfulness

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I feel so blessed to have this opportunity to write a column for our great newspaper each week about any subject that God places on my heart. 

Sometimes, I have columns done a couple of weeks in advance and I feel very good about that. But this week, I spent two days in Springfield at a national Baptist Bible Fellowship meeting and enjoyed my time away and the fellowship of long time friends in ministry.

So as my heart began to “panic” about the empty space I needed to fill, of course I prayed and asked God what I should write about and one word kept coming to my mind. That word was “Faithfulness.” 

I love that God is faithful to us … even when we are not faithful to Him. One of my favorite hymns is Great is Thy Faithfulness. And that hymn is based on the scripture in Lamentations 3:22, “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not, They are new every morning, Great is Your Faithfulness.”

I was very pleased to get to visit with Bill and Jerri Sparks in Springfield. He was the second pastor my husband worked for after Bible College. Bro. Sparks (as I still call him) invited us to work with them in Austin, Texas. After visiting with their family and the church, we knew that was God’s will for us. Howard was the youth pastor and we had some great times. God blessed and showed us a totally different style of pastoring a church. Bro. Sparks is known for his tremendous sense of humor. I really doubt he’s ever made it through a sermon, funeral or wedding without inserting humor. Then with the next breath (after you finally finish laughing) he hits you with a truth of God that feels like an arrow piercing your heart. Powerful. 

Miss Jerri introduced me to hospitality and the famous “Hankie Pankies” recipe that stretches to feed tons of people!!! (A column for another day.)

I appreciate their faithfulness. They’ve been in the ministry since 1959 and are still going, encouraging others in the faith.

I have to share a funny story about Bro Sparks. As a youth pastor’s wife, when a teenage young lady went forward to pray after the sermon, I also joined them at the altar (on my knees) to pray with them, or share the scriptures of salvation with them. 

God finally blessed us with our first pregnancy while we were in Austin and I was very pregnant. I know you either are, or aren’t but I was extremely round in the middle and this one time, I was already on my knees (and didn’t see how I was going to get up) when I spotted another young lady I needed to pray with. So I just stayed on my knees and moved over to the second young lady. This “invitation” time is very serious. Important decisions are being made. Bro. Sparks saw me do the pregnant lady crawl on my knees and I heard him get tickled and couldn’t help laughing.

Hey … God understood. I got the job done and prayed with both of the girls. I don’t remember how I ever got back up. Someone must have assisted, or I could still be in that position!

While at the meeting this week, Jerri and I got to visit with two daughters of a missionary to the Philippines who grew up in the Sparks church in Austin. Lance was in our youth department. I reminded Jerri when she is tempted to quit and feel useless for the Lord, she has to remember this third generation she is allowed to see working for God.

That church in Austin took on the personality of Bro. Sparks and we had a blast serving God and seeing people saved and called to full-time ministry. Every church is different and we don’t need to compare ourselves to others. Just as God gave Bro. Sparks a non-ending laugh and sense of humor … Some pastors are very soft spoken and serious … and so are those churches. 

I’m glad every pastor’s wife isn’t a cookie cutter version of the next one. Just as each human being has their own personality that God loves. We can be ourselves and know that God’s faithfulness will never lack towards us. And there is nothing we can do to ever make God not love us any more. 

The Sparks have three wonderful daughters who have given them lots of grands and great-grands. They are spread out over the United States, but they are still faithful to serve the Lord where they are. Our time in Austin was the only time I had PK’s (pastor’s kids) in the youth ministry where we served. What a blessing they were to us. 

Don’t quit doing what God has called you to do. Faithfulness matters. People are watching. God won’t give up on us, so don’t give up on Him. If you don’t know Jesus Christ as your personal savior, He wants to show you His faithfulness and how much He loves you. 

Thank you Bro. And Mrs. Sparks for the investment you made into our lives and the wonderful example you shared of loving your family and loving your church family.

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