It was blistery cold on February 1, 1986, when Phil & I rolled into South Boston for his new job as the Area Vegetable Specialist with the Halifax County Extension Service. Joseph was twenty months old, and I was three months pregnant with Curt. We had no home, didn’t know a soul in town, or have a nickel in our pockets. And worse—South Boston was expecting “the snowstorm of the century” that evening. It was a doozy!
Our little family of three spent four long days holed up in Von’s Motel while the snow pounded South Boston. And as I sat on the rickety bed that first evening, searching the town newspaper for a house to rent, tears streamed down my face as I read the “news” — article after article about who ate lunch with whom after church the previous Sunday. And as only a young, frustrated wife would do, I glared at my husband, and then down at the rat-sized cockroach crawling across the floor, and then back at my husband and spewed out, “Where in the world did you move me to and why in the world are we here?”
It did stop snowing, I did stop crying, and we grew to love our little town.
Once the snow began melting we started visiting churches. We visited many over the next three months but didn’t find “the one” we knew we were supposed to raise our family in. We invited pastors, elders, and deacons into our home to tell us about their church’s beliefs. One pastor asked us, “Phil & Shelley, what is it you are looking for in a church?” My husband explained, “We want a church – in town – that is on fire for the Lord and believes in the inherency of scripture; a church that is conservative in beliefs, but liberal in love.” The pastor’s eyes met Phil’s, and he stated matter-of-factly, “I’m sorry. You won’t find that in Halifax County.” So after scratching his church off the list, we visited a few others, finally settling upon one, hoping that the new pastor they would soon call would hold our beliefs. He didn’t.
But, there we met Leigh & Scotty Felton, Norma Chaney, and Bill & Linda Snead. Within weeks of meeting them, we felt called to begin a new church with them. We were in our twenties. We didn’t know how to start a church. And we barely knew those people God wanted us to begin this new work with. But as they say, God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called.
So on August 7, 1986, the lot of us met in my living room after I put my toddler and a ten-day-old baby down to sleep. And we had our first discussion about the possibility of beginning a new work. The rest is history.
Fast forward 31 years and thousands of beautiful friends later: There is no doubt in my mind that God sent us to South Boston, VA for two very specific reasons:
1. God called us here because He wanted us to help found and grow in Faith Community Church. — He permitted us to be part of this body that holds conservative beliefs but is liberal with love.
I beg her pastor and elders, please, please don’t let her mission ever change.
- Always Create environments that enable people to encounter Jesus as Savior & to grow in Him.
- Always share God’s grace – because it’s not about what we do – It’s about what He did.
And I challenge the congregation.
First and foremost, make sure you know Jesus. If you do not, allow Dane, Phil, or me to introduce Him to you today.
And for those of you who do know Him: You jump in and give of yourselves. Do not be seat warmers. Don’t look around to see what the church can offer you. God gave you the spiritual gifts. You use them to make your church, your community, and your world a better place. If He could use a young, self-absorbed couple in their mid-twenties who barely know how to start a car, let alone a church, He will use you. He wants to use you. Listen to what God is calling you to do and do it well.
Life is short. Make yours count for eternity.
2. God called us to Halifax Co. because this is where He wanted us to grow three little boys into men. We’ve never lived near family. The members of Faith Community Church and our Halifax Co. friends have been our family. Curt and Wyatt drew their first breaths here — and Joseph took his last breath here. You all were their family at birthday parties, holidays, ball games, tae kwon do tournaments, graduations, and a funeral.
Never underestimate the important role you played in strengthening our family and raising our little boys into godly men.
A special thank you to the men who, at one time or another, have been part of this church and were the answered prayers for parents who wanted their sons surrounded by good men.
Thank you for being examples of godly men for our sons. Thank you for training them, coming alongside them, encouraging them, praying with and for them, and being their friends. They’ve told us things they’ve learned from you—in word, deed, and by seeing the Holy Spirit work within you.
Bill Snead – who gave little toddlers their first sip of iced tea & then taught them to say, “Ahh”; who purchased little boys their first fishing poles and pocket knives then spent time with them, teaching them how to fish and how to use a pocket knife. In a child’s world, time spells love. You loved my sons well – and they loved you dearly!
Philip Richardson – who, by his contagious enthusiasm, taught little boys to have a zeal for their faith.
Kevin Knouse – who taught our sons to be givers because he tirelessly gave of himself year after year. He was their Sunday School teacher, played pranks with them, invited them to stay in his home when Phil & I went out of town, attended tae kwon do tournaments because that was what they were interested in, took them home to release grief on the basketball court the night their brother died, and helped a grieving little brother survive Pre-Algebra and Middle School when his parents had nothing to give.
Marty Gillian – who opened his home every Sunday afternoon for youth group to a bunch of hormonal teens trying to find their way.
Clarke Hogan – who noticed a young boy’s passion for debate and took him to Richmond for the day to open the world of politics to him.
Jamie Laine – who taught all three of my boys to be servants by quietly “doing” and who was always available for practical, sound advice. (And for keeping a young Wyatt from being electrocuted & blowing up our house!)
Dane Skelton – for teaching sound doctrine and Biblical truths week after week, year after year – and for – stepping up to the plate when two grieving parents didn’t have the wherewithal to take two younger brothers to receive their deceased brother’s high school diploma. You have no idea how much that meant to them!
Rich Crum – who taught them that men can still be gentlemen.
Norman Daniel – who noticed Wyatt riding his bike to church one Sunday that Phil & I were out of town and then invited him out to lunch after the worship service. From that day forward, he’s known you cared.
Andy Coe – who by his example taught them how to be good listeners, shared his wisdom, and supported and encouraged them in the arts.
Steve Kotter – who taught them that you can be intelligent and a little irreverent yet still be extraordinarily kind-hearted and love Jesus.
Greg Neal – who had absolutely nothing in common with Joseph but their love for the Lord … and that was enough. Joseph adored you!
Joey Cole – who was always available for conversation with them while making hot tea before Sunday School.
Jim Cofield – who will answer the phone when one of my sons calls to this day and tells him that he’ll always take time for his soul.
John Kraft – who instilled a good work ethic and discussed issues of faith and life with them while they worked in his landscaping business.
Bob Plapp – who offered intellectual conversation and shared beneficial reads to encourage a young man’s faith and who prays for our sons any time we ask.
And the list goes on and on … and this mom and her husband are eternally grateful!
Friends, never stopping pouring yourselves into the children of this body!
They learn who Jesus is from you!
They learn repentance and forgiveness from you!
They learn grace from you!
And they learn how a believer should act and react by watching you!
And now our mission is complete. Faith Community Church is going strong and little boys grew to be godly men. Phil and I will pack our belongings this week and head to Blacksburg, VA to be near Curt and his family. It’s hard to teach old dogs new tricks. We are nervous yet very excited. Please pray for us — that we’ll find a good church home and we’ll be open to whatever ministry God has for us there.
Faith Community Church has loved our family well. You have comforted us, confronted us, confided in us, and shown us grace. Thank you! For the best three decades of our lives – thank you! From the bottom of my heart – thank you!
Faith Community Church
1080 Middle School Circle
South Boston, VA 24592
Coffee & Fellowship 9:30
Sunday School 9:45
Worship Service 10:45