Recently, my wife and I reached a milestone in our marriage as we celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. When we stood at the marriage altar at Miami Springs Baptist Church on August 17, 1968 and pledged our love for each other, there was no way we could have imagined the amazing blessings the Lord would pour out on us over the next 50 years.
Janice and I had just graduated from Samford University, she with a Bachelor of Science in Education, and me with a Bachelor of Arts, with a major in English. I had already been called to the Gospel ministry and had been ordained by my home church in Montgomery, Alabama.
The ceremony was performed by Janice’s pastor, Hankins Parker, and my Dad, J.R. White.
We took our honeymoon through the Smokies on our way to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. Janice had already secured a teaching job at Greenwood Elementary School in Shively, located in the western area of Louisville.
There is no way I can even express what Janice did for me as I prepared for a lifetime of ministry. Up before daylight every morning, she would get ready for work while I fixed our breakfast. Then she traveled through heavy traffic for nearly an hour every morning and every afternoon. Janice literally put me through seminary. Her partnership with me in ministry has been from the first day until now.
God blessed us over time with three precious daughters, three outstanding sons-in-law and nine amazing grandchildren. Every day we thank God for our family and the incredible blessing they are to us.
I served three churches. The first was Dabney Baptist Church in Holton, Indiana. This loving congregation put up with a fledgling pastor and a lot of immature preaching ability.
As Janice and I made the 80-mile drive back to Louisville every Sunday night, I would often ask, “So, how did I do?” That question was consistently followed by a lot of encouragement and some suggestions that helped me immensely as I grew in those early years.
After nearly five years, I was invited to serve as associate pastor at First Baptist, Montgomery, Alabama where my father was serving as pastor. The next two-plus years were rich with marvelous experience and instruction.
Sadly, Dad suffered a heart attack soon after I began, and the pastoral responsibilities, including preaching all worship services on local TV, alternating each month between the NBC and CBS stations in Montgomery, presented an unusual growth opportunity for a young pastor. This would prove to be invaluable experience for my future ministry in Kentucky and among Georgia Baptists where live television and video production would be essential to ministry.
During the Montgomery years, I pursued the new Doctor of Ministry degree at Southern Seminary, which I received in December 1973.
We were called to serve as pastor and family at Tabernacle Baptist in Carrollton, Georgia where we served for over seven years among some of the finest people we have ever known. Many of them remain good friends to this day. Going to Tabernacle at the age of 28 was an amazing opportunity for Janice and me and a great expression of faith on the part of the church.
Our years at Tabernacle were good years in so many ways. These were years of personal growth, growth of our family, growth of the church, and some very special opportunities of service among Georgia Baptists that God would use to prepare us for later years of ministry.
Following Tabernacle, we received the call to serve one of the finest churches in Kentucky, First Baptist of Paducah. Through eleven wonderful years, we watched our daughters grow up in a healthy church and a very fine school system. Earlier experiences of preaching on live network television was helpful as our Sunday services were live on the local NBC affiliate and also televised nationally on the ACTS television network.
I had the privilege of leading the church to contribute 20 percent through the Cooperative Program, and, at the same time, see the church pay off a recreation facility and build three new additions, furnish them, and move in debt-free. The fact is, you cannot out-give God!
There truly is no way to express our gratitude to God, and to Georgia Baptists, for the following 26 years of ministry among the churches of our Georgia Baptist Mission Board.
Janice and I are so thankful that God has allowed us to spend these wonderful years of ministry among you.
As in the earliest years of my ministry, my precious bride of 50 years has been my finest supporter and counsellor. There truly is no way to calculate her contribution to our years of ministry. I am a better husband, daddy, granddaddy, pastor, and leader because of Janice’s faithfulness through the years. She is God’s special gift to me and remarkable blessing to this pastor’s 50-year ministry.