This is the key to this whole story, and I almost forgot to put it in!
If you have been following the story of my courtship and marriage, you may remember the list I compiled, mentioned in this post. This was a list of characteristics I wanted in a husband. I made the list the summer before Tom and I got together, put it away in a box, and eventually forgot about it.
Once Tom and I set the date for our marriage, I began to sort all my stuff, packing what I needed to ship to Georgia (where Tom had already gone to prepare a home for us), and packing what I didn't need to leave with my parents. As I was sorting through one box, I came across the list. I read through it and was absolutely astounded that God had given me every single characteristic I asked for, in Tom! Even the frivolous ones that my dad said shouldn't matter. I wish I had that list now. I have no idea what happened to it, but here are the ones I can remember (I think originally there were seven):
1. He must be a Christian.
2. He must be a Calvinistic Baptist.
3. He must be a pastor.
4. He must have brown, curly hair.
5. He must have blue eyes.
Now, a word about Number Three:
Tom really didn't know about being a pastor. He was a bit reluctant to seriously consider this as a career choice, so I was taking this by faith.
You may remember that God had made it plain to Tom that He wanted Tom to do a certain thing, and Tom said no. It was at this point that Tom says the lights went out and he was plunged into spiritual darkness until he said yes and obeyed the Lord. What was it God wanted Tom to do? I know you're curious, and since it has everything to do with this story, I'll tell you.
God wanted Tom to go to Georgia and attend what was then Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church. (It is now Peachtree Baptist Church.) They have a college and seminary there, and we planned for Tom to start classes there. By this time, Tom had no problem attending Mt. Pisgah, but he continued to wrestle with the idea of taking classes. Since he had run his own bookstore, he had read a lot, and was mostly self-taught in matters of theology. We began to realize that Tom had practically all the book learning he needed; what he lacked was practice, and experience with a biblically functioning local church.
In Georgia, we learned how a local church should function. (To this day we hold Peachtree Baptist up as an example of how a church should function, and recommend their college/seminary to every young person who asks our opinion--and to some who don't ;) .) We spent five years there, during which time Tom preached in the jails, in the nursing home, and in chapel services at the Christian day school. He also taught high school math and science in the school, and learned definitely that teaching math and science was NOT what he was to do. Sometimes he also taught the adult Sunday school class.
By the time we left Georgia, we had developed a burden for church planting, and were ready to head for Canada to work with Native Peoples. The Lord had a round-about way of getting us to Canada, however. First we went to Ohio to work with Tom's home church. That did not go well, so we moved to Texas. From there we were sent to New York state, where we tried to start a church. This door did not open up for us, though we tried to keep at it, praying all the while for God to give us direction. In answer, God used a can of beer in a Walmart parking lot to lead us to the church where we now are, in Canada. (We are not specifically working with Native Peoples, but there is a reservation nearby, for which we are praying.)
On September 3, 2000, Tom preached his first sermon as pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, thus fulfilling Number Three on my list.
"The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad" (Psalm 126:3).