I was eight years old, standing between the first and second pew at Hartselle, Alabama First Baptist Church. Pastor Jack Childers had just finished preaching a powerful salvation sermon and the congregation was singing “Just as I Am.” Just as I am without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me. Just as I am and waiting not, to rid my soul of one dark blot.
They were singing about me—that song was directed at me. Everyone there must have known that there was something happening inside of me. Something wanted to pull me out of that pew and make me go down front and cry. I dug my fingers into the old oak pew in front of me for dear life. I wasn’t going to Africa—no way. I knew if I got saved, God would send me to the mission field and I would never see my mother again. Hold on Hal, hold on for dear life. I held on.
I ordered the flower seeds and the vegetable seeds and went through the neighborhood selling them every spring. I put the money in one of my daddy’s old cigar boxes and hid it behind a piece of loose paneling in my bedroom. Next, I ordered four live African quail from the Ordering House and used just a small portion of the seed money to pay for them. For the next three years, the quail business went well because southerners can’t resist the taste of white quail meat. All the money went in the cigar box and wasn’t touched until Missionary Sunday at Fairview Baptist Church where I had been attending for the last six years. After I had taken all the change to Sam’s Superette and traded it for dollar bills, I put all of it in the offering. I was not going to Africa as a missionary; however, I would send the Missionaries money to support them. Surely God was smiling on me from somewhere up there.
Twenty years, twenty years I ran from God. Twenty years of wasted time ever since I had dug my fingers into that old oak pew. I had just turned twenty eight and was still holding onto that old oak pew. I knew it would be more that just walking down that aisle, praying a prayer and being baptized. I knew that God had more in store for me than being a pew warmer. I would listen intently to every sermon I heard and practice what had been preached in the cotton patches when no one was listening. I remember on one occasion when my mother overheard me and called out from the house, “Hal are you okay, why are you yelling?” That’s what I remember my Baptist pastor doing, but I don’t know if others yelled or not.
November the eighth, 1976 God called me again. On that cold November morning God told me that it was okay to let go of the pew. He assured me that He would be with me everywhere I went from that day forth. He didn’t lie. He went to Europe, to the South Pacific, to India, to Russia, Ukraine and all over America, and He took me with Him. You see, this is where I missed it, I thought He would send me, but in actuality He let me go with Him. He was there through the oil and the dry; He was there in the laughter and there when all I could do was cry. God doesn’t lie. I can’t wait until we to go to Africa.
I spent twenty years running from God when I could have been running with God. Let me ask you a question, are you holding on to an old oak pew?” If you are, let go and trust God.
Hebrews 13:5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.