ROME — Frank Wood, 68, faithful pastor and servant of the Lord Jesus Christ for more than five decades, preached his last sermon as pastor of Mount Alto Baptist Church on Dec. 27.
A degenerative disease called Parkinsonian Syndrome, has robbed him of the strength necessary to continue in the calling he has faithfully pursued since age 17. The symptoms on PS include tremors, rigidity, abnormal gait and posture and a weakening of the voice. As these symptoms became more pronounced Wood required the use of a wheelchair.
His wife, Diane, explained, “Two years ago the church built a ramp up to the pulpit for Frank. His motorized chair lifts him to the height of the pulpit, but before that, the men of the church would raise him up into a chair so he could preach.”
Wood recalled a miraculous answer to prayer. One Sunday he could hardly speak above a whisper and was shaking so badly he could hardly hold his Bible. He recalled, “The only thing I knew to do was to call on the deacons to pray that God would enable me to preach. I drove up the ramp in the motorized wheelchair to get to the pulpit. I raised the chair so I could look over the pulpit and see the congregation. I opened my Bible and because of the prayers of the deacons I was able to open my Bible without shaking and amazingly my voice was strong and remained that way all the way through the sermon.”
Wood grew up in Gordon County with a serious hearing loss the would have discouraged most young men from considering any career or calling that would have involved communication/preaching. In fact, his own pastor told him that it would not be possible for him to become a preacher of the Gospel. However, Wood decided to heed the calling of a higher calling and fulfilled that calling for 51 years.
The Rome News-Tribune reported, “As a 17-year-old, Frank preached 49 sermons in his first year; and in his second year was named as pastor of Oakman Baptist Church in Oakman.
“He was so young,” remembers Frank’s wife, Diane, who began dating him at that time. “But people were eager to help him out, because the saw that he had a gift for it.
“And doctors were surprised by his ability to communicate so well with a congregation. Frank was told that people with severe deafness like he had, usually have difficulty speaking or are completely unable to speak. But he credits God with the ability to speak to his congregations. And thanks to cochlear implants, he can hear them as well.”
Diane added, “Frank and I met at Fairmount High School in Fairmount. In fact, we were dating when Oakman called him to be the pastor. I suppose it didn’t hurt that my mother was the pianist, my aunt was the song leader and my sister was the church treasurer.
“We got married when I was 17 and he was 20. God blessed us with a son and three daughters: Kimberly is married to Jeff and they live in Roanoke, AL, where Jeff is pastor of a church; Stephanie, an adopted daughter; Gabby, our youngest, is a student at Unity Christian School in Rome and our son, John Frank is a senior at Rome High School. We also have six grandchildren.
After Oakman Wood was called to Beaverdam Baptist Church in Commerce and then to Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Moscow, TN. It was during that pastorate that he attended a seminary in Memphis. While attending seminary classes he was made aware of a small Bible study group in Malone, NY that had hopes of becoming a church. Frank sensed that God wanted him to help that Bible study group attain their goal of becoming a church.
Frank and Diane prayed about the challenge before them. Heading to unfamiliar territory far away from the warmth and hospitality of the south didn’t seem particularly inviting at first, but they both agreed that God was directing them to go north and the decision was ultimately not that difficult.
Although Malone was only eight miles from the Canadian border Frank recalls his years in New York as among the most rewarding of his long and fruitful ministry. He commented, “Serving with the Home Mission Board (now NAMB) as a church planter was a wonderful experience. I had the privilege of helping several young men get started that God had called into the ministry.”
One of the men Frank mentored is Bruce Aubrey, who is pastor of a church in Syracuse. Aubrey’s church has experienced exponential growth and he has served as president of the New York Baptist Convention. Bruce recently sent Wood a note of Facebook, saying, “Frank, you will always be my pastor.”
The church in Malone that Wood helped start is now Shiloh Baptist Chapel. The church purchased property, constructed their own building and is currently flourishing.
After a successful ministry in New York the Woods came back to Georgia where Frank served as pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Rome and later to University Baptist Church in Lake Charles, LA. However, when Frank’s father became ill, he realized that he needed to be closer to his parents in order to care for them, so he was called once again to Calvary Baptist in Rome where he served for ten years, before going to Dudley Baptist Church near Dublin where he served for another ten years.
From Dudley Frank returned to Rome to become pastor of Mount Alto Baptist. After fifty-one years Wood estimates that he has performed 600 wedding and funerals. He recalls a revival he preached when the local high school football came one night and 18 of the players were saved.
He added, “When I was young it seems that many more people were coming to faith in Christ than what we are seeing today. I fear that we have forgotten our purpose and mission. The church in America will soon face persecution like it has never seen before. So, I pray, ‘Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.’”
The Rome News-Tribune quoted Woods saying, “In the past couple of years I’ve preached some of my strongest sermons,” he said with a smile. “I realized that as my body got weaker I became more dependent on God and that has been the greatest gift, a closer relationship with him.
“It has helped me to realize how great our God is. To take a little boy with profound hearing loss and to take him through college and seminary and all over the world to do his work is simply incredible.”
The News Tribune continued, “He won’t be behind the pulpit on Sundays anymore, but Frank and Diane now get to enjoy services at other churches.
“We’ve always wanted to just go sit at other church’s services and to listen and share with other congregations,” Diane said. “We get to do that now. We get to just visit our friend’s churches and to go hear our son-in-law preach.”
Frank emphasized that each church he’s pastored holds a special place in his heart, and that the people and his relationship with them are what has made his long career so memorable.
“When you move around as much as we did, your church becomes your family, not just your friends,” he said. “I don’t know what we would have done without the encouragement, support and service of our members. Diane and I are blessed beyond measure because we have had the opportunity to form relationships with great and wonderful people.”