Monday, December 22, 2008

From Scars To Stars

Am packing; completing last minute details before leaving for Christmas. Two friends went home in recent days, but Christmas correspondence has been a real joy, sharing with so many, and catching up in our lives. I’ll spend Christmas weekend with family and then work a week or two in the print shop at Reformation Publishers, before returning north.

With that, let me add a few details about a high school sophomore who experienced a life-changing encounter with himself and later transitioned from his scars to stars. It begins in 1978, twenty-two years before he and I became significant friends.

One Friday, while walking off the football field, this lad invited his friend to stay over night. When the friend said no, his question demanded “Why?”’

The simple answer explained that the boy’s parents were afraid “of what kind of trouble he might get into staying all night with me.” That Sophomore heard a new sound that day in the mountains of southeast Kentucky, a voice he came to recognize as “the voice of God.”
It was not an audible voice, but I recognized “Him-- convicting; a piercing voice that spoke to my very soul!” The question was, “Is that what you want in life?”

That prompted him to visit a local church. He attended five straight Sundays. He liked what he heard, saw, felt, and learned. On the fifth Sunday--October 8, 1978--he went forward and gave his life to Christ. Pastor Dennis Creech took him under his wing and involved him in the growing youth group. Eventually, Steve heard a call to preach. That brought a further commitment--1979.

When someone introduced him to the church magazine Vital Christianity, that led to his participation in a special church campaign to increase subscriptions. His parents subscribed and he eventually read the centennial issue that reviewed the history of the first 100 years of the Church.

He read it cover to cover. Like a magnet, the pictures and articles so excited him that the following June--1980--he and a friend packed their camper and drove to the Church’s Centennial Convention in Indiana (He returned in 1981 and has not missed since).

The two young men spent all their money on books. As he tells it, they enjoyed the delicacies of green bologna and dirty socks in the back of the truck under the camper.

When his first order to the church publishing house brought Russell Byrum’s Christian Theology and The Responsible Pulpit by Dr. James Earl Massey, they excited him and became the direction in which God seemed to lead his life.

There, in the basement of his home, he read his books avidly. As his book corner grew, and his collection expanded, becoming a full shelf, then another. A friend dubbed the growing book nook-- “Warner’s Corner” after the founder of the Church and Publishing House.

Already a teenage Volunteer fire fighter, he wanted to attend University and become a professional firefighter. After feeling led to consider a preaching career, he made that commitment at Youth Camp--1980.

His first attempt to preach produced a five-minute failure--he thought. From it, he prayerfully discovered that if he ever succeeded it would be because God enabled him. He accepted that and enrolled at Anderson University. By 1988, he completed Seminary.
Steve pastored nine years at Springfield Northside, then moved to a second pastorate. There, his marriage totally collapsed. He moved home, heart-sick and depressed--a failure--divorced. In mid-1998, he agreed to be a guest speaker at a nearby church - really hard, but they liked him.
In December of 2000, the church asked him to be their interim pastor. Later, they asked him to stay on. He became good friends with a member of the Pulpit Committee--both divorced--and in time they became Pastor Steve and Martha (Wells) Williams.

This talented couple is now highly regarded in southeast Kentucky for their civic and religious work. Martha is a specialized medical educator. Dr. Steve is a bi-vocational pastor-printer--a reprint specialist via Williams Printing and Reformation Publishers.

Together, they enjoy an expanding circle of friends and loyal supporters. Martha works for the Kentucky Vo-Ed system and Steve prints-publishes books, school yearbooks, out of print Church of God classics, and local printing needs.

I’m headed there shortly, God willing, and winter storms don’t hinder. Following Christmas, I‘ll go for a week or two in the RP print shop. Say a prayer for Steve and RP. Big companies are hubbing it hard and Reformation Publishers is no exception.

Steve faces difficult days ahead. He works long hours, shorthanded, and struggles to stay abreast. He needs our support--churches, pastors, and interested others. He provides the church a much-needed service, working with our national agencies, servicing a growing number of east Kentucky schools, and meeting other area printing needs (his church ministries are not self-supporting).

Since I’ve been volunteering for about nine years, should you call the toll free number one day, don’t be surprised if I answer the phone--1-800-765-2464.

Meantime Steve, congratulations on your ten years with the church at Prestonsburg, KY and for the many services you‘ve provided to the Church of God. You’ve turned your scars into stars … God is still making a difference in people’s lives ...

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