After three years, we moved to Bakersfield, 'way south, to pastor a small church that had been pioneered by a precious, humble lady. There were a handful of adults and lots of children. We inherited a mortgage and an elder board. To say we experienced a climate and every other kind of change does not quite tell you what I am remembering. I was pregnant with our third child, sick as a dog for months and it was HOT! Eventually our beautiful little Deanna was born.
A few weeks later, at 6 A.M. in the morning our doorbell rang. There stood the wife of the chairman of our elder board. ... sobbing. I gathered her in my arms as she blurted out her story. “He's been leaving the house early. This morning I followed him. He stopped at Goldie's house! They're having an AFFAIR!" (Wouldn't you know her name would be "Goldie"?) E. moved into our Baby Dee's bedroom and there she lived while we prayed and found for her the perfect assignment for the rest of her life. She joined the office staff of Overseas Crusades Mission in Palo Alto, California where her international family became her joy. Did she ever recover from her broken heart? That's a really tough one to get over. Is her husband in Heaven? Is Goldie? I don't know.
There would be several more elder disappointments. Boy howdy, WOULD there? ...BUT, people were coming to our little church as new believers shared the Gospel in their neighborhoods, on their jobs and in their schools. The Jesus Movement was on its way. Ted trained some of the men for eldership. Fruitvale Community Church on Rosedale Highway became the Happenin' Place. Within a few years we sent out thirty or so new Christians into foreign missions. We remained in that pastorate for fifteen years, then for financial reasons moved to a pastorate in Houston, Texas. The "Saga of Elder Boards" will continue in future blogs. We had much to learn about the Sovereignty of God. At nearly 90 years old, I am still learning. Writing this blog is helping me connect some dots.
I will tell you this: The pastorate is hard enough, without having to do your job, hindered by power-hungry, bull-headed, adulterous, stingy, self-serving men. They can break your heart and make you want to bail out of ministry all together. ...but we didn't. I still haven't.
Suggestion: Read my dear friend Mike Loehrer's "Egoless Elders" and be encouraged and blessed. Westbow Press
When my Ted would fall into bed, exhausted from an elder board meeting, I asked no questions. I was flummoxed that he could go right to sleep. Finally, he told me how he did it. "I image the face of the most frustrating elder on a golf ball, then WHACK it into KINGDOM COME!'' Some of you who read this blog had no idea that mild-mannered, gentle Ted Stone would do such a thing. When you get to Heaven, please don't tell him I told you.
...and what about the once-little church in Bakersfield, California? It covers a city block and from it a half-dozen other churches have emerged. River Lakes Community Church continues to support people who train others to take the Gospel into the market places of the world. Our dear long-in-Heaven Ray Stedman told this to Ted and me: "As I travel the world, encouraging young pastors I tell them about Ted and Jo Stone who went to a church where I thought nothing would happen, and IT DID!"