Milestones in life
A. Ray Lee
February 7 will mark the 64th anniversary of my ordination into vocational Christian ministry. At the request of the Bienville Mission of Central Baptist Church in New Orleans, where I was serving as a student pastor, Lebanon convened an ordination council led by the Morgan Baptist Association Director of Missions and composed of a number of ordained ministers from the area. Following a recommendation of the council the church proceeded with a special service.
That was certainly a milestone for me. It has led me far beyond anything I could ever envision. It has brought many blessings into my life as it opened the way for ministry in various roles including that of pastor, hospice chaplain, and director of missions, and participation in mission trips beyond the US which led me to the UK, and ten extended trips to Spain where for fifteen years Effie and I ministered with a church as they expanded and developed new ministries. In my later years, I served as a grief minister working through a funeral home and with grief recovery groups. Finally, as my physical strength has ebbed, I continue to share my faith through a writing ministry.
My journey has certainly been long and varied. It has reached far beyond anything I could have envisioned as a youth growing up on a small cotton farm. It has not always been easy. On many occasions, I have had to call upon the power of faith to see me through difficult times. There have been disappointments along the way which have precipitated other milestone moments. But by the grace and mercy of God, I have persevered along the way.
My friend Bill, leader of a small group of men in which I participate, does not discount the providence of God but insists much of life is determined by choices we have made or are making. Many such choices were foundational to my life.
In 1954 when at the age of 17 I graduated high school there was a choice I had to make as to how I wanted to spend the rest of my life. At the time there seemed to be one of three careers I could choose.
I had been a leader in the Future Farmers of America club. My advisor encouraged me to pursue a degree in a related field of study. I had been a leader in the youth group of the church. My pastor and church leaders wanted me to get a Christian education and find my place in a church-related vocation. For the summer I had secured a good-paying job in construction work with the promise of developing skills for advancement if I continued in it.
As I have related in my book “My Journey in Faith” I had returned from Ohio where I had been working for a visit during a long Labor Day weekend when a decision was made which determined how my life’s journey would unfold. I had been restless for a number of days pondering what my future would hold. On the day I was scheduled to return to Ohio, I decided instead to go unannounced to Tennessee Temple College in Chattanooga and seek enrollment. My acceptance was a milestone in my journey. Another came five years later when I was accepted into New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary for further study. Many more could be remembered which marked my progress along the way.
In no way am I worthy to be mentioned in the same conversation with the great men and women whose faith has been heralded in the roll call of the faithful in Hebrews Chapter eleven. It is said of Moses that he chose “to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasured of sin for a season.”