Whatever good I may do in this life can only be credited to the grace and providence of God. I was virgin when I married but only because I escaped a number of close calls due to circumstances beyond my control. I wasn’t a bad kid but my teenage life only proved the saying, “Evil companions corrupt good morals”. I didn’t lead – I followed.
After trying various kinds of control in my life, my mother came up with the idea of sending me to a boarding Bible school. The campus was in a little town called Dasher, 15 miles south of Valdosta, Georgia. Mother had destined me to be a preacher and a mother’s destination is difficult to avoid.
Dasher was one of the most conservative boarding schools in the nation. The first week on campus I fell in love (the smoothing kind) with a girl from Atlanta. We often met at 11 p.m., in the library with two lookouts. I believed necking was from the neck up and petting was from the neck down. Smooching was our name for necking. It was an exciting way to start. Trouble followed me and was soon to come.
My girl returned early one Monday morning, after a weekend at home in Atlanta. Hershel bass was up before dawn stoking the boiler. He woke me and told me she was coming up the walk. Since no one was up at that time of morning, we fell into each others arms with love and kisses. The boys’ dorm supervisor was not only up, but watching us out of the upstairs bathroom window, shaving. He came stomping by us with the words, “I’m going to see the President about this right now!”
Before I could check my tongue I had called him a ‘no-no’ name. I never intended for him to hear it. He did. At 10 a.m. I was sitting before the members of the disciplinary counsel. The trial was swift and concise. In a Bible school, it was strictly against the rules to cuss a teacher. “Guilty”, “send him home,” “send him on the next bus,’ was just the beginning. One thumped his knuckles on the table and I assumed he agreed. Two more ratified the vote.
The one I had insulted and offended was sitting next to me. His vote would make it unanimous and I would be back home in Miami before midnight. I had failed too much. Home was not the answer. I knew I needed to change but really didn’t know how. I was guilty and no one stood by my side.
The one I had cursed was a young teacher on his first appointment. He suddenly stood facing the counsel and as he did, he tugged at my worn jacket and I sat. I saw tears on his cheeks and I didn’t understand them. He said, “I withdraw my charges from this boy”. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and neither could the counsel. They were swift in their demands that justice be served. It was written on their faces, “send him home while we have the evidence and save us trouble later on”. The teacher’s name was William Potts.
He stood his ground and the group mumbled in their disappointment. To solve this conflict some stern measure had to be taken and so they issued a new ruling called PERPETUAL PROBATION. One slip of the tongue or stumble on the way for the next two years and you will buy a one way ticket HOME. NO EXCEPTIONS!! It was harsh but I gladly accepted the challenge of the grace of God in the form of William Potts.
A new president was secured named Lacy Elrod, with a background training in some Tennessee Reform Schools. He is the second man who changed my life. Potts was grace and Elrod was providence. For two years I walked the line and graduated with honors.
I began my preaching career the year in DBS with a small African American church down Lock Laura Road. They encouraged me with lots of ‘amen’s’ and ‘praise God’, and when the sermon really hit the skids one old black lady would sing out, “help him Lord, help him Lord”. Without them I would have failed.
Twenty six years later, I was speaking at a large congregation in Athens, Georgia and who should come in as I rose to speak but a visitor named William Potts and his family. I changed my subject and spoke on “FORGIVENESS“. In closing the lesson I retold the story I have just written. I called for Potts to come to the front and face to face, with tears freely flowing, I said, “Brother Potts, will you forgive me?” In all the years I had never even asked.
Dasher (now called Georgia Christian School) just completed a new Elementary school building and their gym named for Lacy Elrod stands as one of the finest in the state of Georgia. Our motto in my senior years was “God First, Others Second, Self Last”. I still struggle to fulfill those six words in my life. The years I referred to in this true life story were 1944-1947.
Oh the beauty and marvel of the GRACE OF GOD AND HIS PROVIDENCE. I met Jesus at Dasher Bible School and He has been my Master ever since.