THE JOURNEY LEADS TO MASON

Mason, Texas is a very unique small county seat town.  It has a powerful German heritage.  It was Republican when Republican wasn’t cool in Texas.  It is not at all a baptist County.  There was only one baptist church in the county in 1978.  We went in view of a call and were called by a unanimous vote of the church.  Once again I would become the youngest pastor in the history of the church.  A key leader sat me down and told me not to feel too disappointed if the community excluded me.  No baptist minister was ever asked to pray at events or speak at community gatherings.  I would have to be satisfied to work in obscurity.  I could not accept this as a foregone conclusion.  It has always been my philosophy that I am called to a community and not just to a local church.  I would rather be persecuted than ignored any day.
Brooke and Paige were preschoolers and Shannon was finishing up a year at Howard Payne when we moved to Mason.  We still struggled financially and had no medical insurance.  Both girls had been born at a time when we were not insured.  It would require our next move to receive any insurance coverage.  One might ask why we didn’t provide our own.  The fact is that we qualified for welfare although we did not choose to receive it.  Extra money for insurance was an impossibility.  God was so faithful to see us through and provide for us in spite of these realities.  I began to commute one day a week to San Antonio to continue my studies at an extension of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary which met in those days at the Mexican Baptist Bible Institute which is now the Baptist University of the Americas.  These studies were perfect for me.  We would listen to lectures and then go to lunch with the professors.  It was a perfect environment for hungry minds.  Shannon took some work at the Methodist Church in their preschool to help us make ends meet.  Her godly humility and servant’s heart was greatly admired in the community.
   To get our message out, I took out a column in the Mason County News.  I also asked the school if I could serve part time driving school buses.  I had done this in Richland Springs and it opened doors for ministry.  They put me to work driving the scholastic teams to their events.  This was a perfect assignment for me since I had been on Scholastic teams in my school days.  The students asked my advice and loved the fact that I was not so much older than they were.  I also volunteered to help the coaching staff at the high school.  I judged track meets and helped run sports events.  I became a good friend to the football coaches and actually jogged every day with the head coach.  The high school principal and the superintendent also became my friends.  The coaches began attending FBC Mason.  It created quite a stir in Mason when I was asked to speak at the All Sports Banquet the first year I was there.  I sprinkled my speech with humor and concluded with a rousing call for excellence in competition.  The students rose to their feet with a standing ovation.  Many began to attend our programs at FBC.  Later I was asked to speak Vespers for the graduates.  The crowd was very large for Mason.  It must have approached 1000.  It was held at First Methodist and they had opened all their side rooms for the overflow crowd.  My message was well received.  First Baptist was ecstatic.  None could recall their church being acknowledged in such a profound way.  Great evangelistic results began to occur.  Persons of all ages began to profess faith and be baptized.  A man in his ninties came to the Lord.  Another man who was seventy and his sister who was in her late sixties professed Christ and were baptized.  Guests began to attend from every faith background.  The Superintendent of the schools began to slip into our services.   Our fervent prayers to have the opportunity to glorify the Lord were being answered in dramatic ways.
  Although these things were happening, there were some in the church that resented my popularity and success.  Growth and change inevitably go together.  Most people favor growth, but are not so favorable to change.  A vocal minority began to grumble against my ministry.  I certainly could have weathered this, but God opened a door to a new ministry in Baird, Texas.  If I ever left a place too soon it would have been Mason.  I believe God would have blessed us whether we left or stayed, but I will always wonder what might have happened in Mason if we had continued there for several more years.  My succesor was able to build on what happened during our time there, but at the end he failed morally and hurt the church terribly.  The wound that his failure produced has never completely healed in my opinion.  I still have contact with people from Mason.  One of my faithful young men from those days has visited our services in Georgetown in recent years.  He frequently asks me to return to Mason whenever they need a pastor.  I have never preached there again since I left.  I hope someday to receive an invitation to do so.  Even though most would not remember me, God has put a permanent place in my heart for Mason and Mason County.
 
Dan Wooldridge

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