When I look back over 60 years of ministering there are just certain individuals that come to mind. There was always a certain amount of ‘spiritual politics’ that went on, but those who struggled for preeminence and power were soon forgotten. One preacher got worried about how things were going and checked in with a psychologist. “Am I paranoid?” he asked. Knowing the religious layout of his small town, the shrink answered frankly, “You’re not paranoid, they really are after you!”
I was 19 years old, just married to a most beautiful woman of 18, and just out of Bible College with an “AA” diploma. I was green as grass, and totally inexperienced. We went to the town of Largo, Florida for a ‘try out’.
The leaders asked me why I wanted to come and be their preacher and I sort of lied when I said, “My wife and I would like to serve somewhere out of range of her folks or mine. In reality Largo was the only church that showed any interest in my services. They were small in number, old in tradition and had a preacher’s house that came from the last century. It had four odd shaped bedrooms, a wrap around back porch, and a 4 car shelter with no doors. The furniture was pitifully old and well worn. The small bathroom was behind the four bedrooms and the city water was heavily laced with sulfur. At first we thought some small animal had died in the pipes and was rotting away. We owned a ’29 ford that was known to break rear axels at any given moment. It would do 35 mph (top speed) on the open highway and needed a new radiator. We had saved our money together and had bought the car for $82.50 cents off of a lot. We arrived in town with all we had on it and in it and around it to begin our ministry. The last 10 preachers had left in the last ten years, averaging one year each. We stayed nearly 4 years. We were happy just to have a place to go.
The Jackson’s lived just around the corner in a two story house that looked like a mansion. They had a wide wrap around porch with high back rockers. I averaged about three times a week just sitting and rocking and listening to the wisdom of ‘Good old brother Jackson’. He was enlightening, and encouraging. He laid down certain principles that brought life into focus. He was old and had an ongoing case of rheumatism. He never complained nor ever spoke evil about anyone in or outside of the congregation. He was wise in his own counsel. He was “swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath” and he became my first mentor.
The preachers’ house unfortunately had no air-conditioning, or inside heat. In summer I often tried to sleep with my head half way out of the bedroom window. I would wet towels and lay on them and put them on top of me. I was just one of those odd birds that couldn’t sleep well while sweat was coursing down my back.
When winter time came it got extremely cold in our house. We had a kerosene heater that let off fumes and took a gallon of fuel that ran out about three in the morning. Strange, we never felt abused although that is what we were. The kitchen stove broke down; no one in town even knew the name of the maker. It was a “Crawford” and the men of the congregation met in special session to discuss what should be done. They were about to pass a resolution to buy a ‘two-burner’ job that would sit on top of the Crawford. Good old brother Jackson thumped his cane on the floor and declared such actions were immoral. How many times he thumped his cane on the hardwood floor to intercede for us in our absence I can only surmise. But we were young, and happy and made thirty dollars a week and I was preaching.
In our fourth year on a very cold Monday morning, when the heater had burned out, we had our two baby boys snuggling close under all the blankets and old quilts available. Something happened I will never forget. It was early at daybreak and we did not hear him enter the house. We peeked out from under the covers and there he stood. “Good old brother Jackson”, thumping his cane on the floor and crying with tears streaming down his cheeks, “This ain’t right, brother Jack, this ain’t right! Yawl are freeing while we all are warmed in our beds”. He had come in our open door while we slept, and stood there weeping and repeating that saying again and again. Each time he would say it, he thumped his cane on the floor. It was so cold in our bedroom that the vapor of his breath looked like smoke. It wasn’t right!! But we were young and happy and had two kids and I was preaching.
They gave us a going away present on the Sunday we left. It was an electric alarm clock that lit up when it made noise. We were often encouraged by reading what Simon Peter wrote, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. But the God of all grace who has called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, make you perfect (full grown), establish, strengthen, settle you” (I Peter 5:6,10) We look back on those days and just remembered the mighty hand of God and “GOOD OLD BROTHER JACKSON“.