As I have gotten older, I often hear pastors say, “Visitation does not work any more.” My response to that is to ask, “What do you mean by ‘work’?” If one means to say that every contact they make does not result in that person being in the pew that Sunday, that is an unrealistic expectation. When Jesus told his parable of the sower, he presented the image of scattering seed everywhere knowing that some of the seed will fall on good soil.
I had experienced enough good soil in Talpa to know that I wanted to scatter seed far and wide in San Saba County. I would drive fifteen miles on a dirt road to make a visit. One of my clearest memories is walking out into a field of sandy loam in my boots toward a man on a tractor preparing his field to plant peanuts. As I walked toward him I prayed for him. When I was a few feet away, he stopped the tractor and got down. I had never met this man, but God had given me a ministry to his family. He knew who I was before I said a word. He said to me, “Young man you really must have the Lord in your heart to walk out into this field to see me. I will be in church next Sunday.” He did not know it, but he taught me something about presence evangelism. When people know who you are and what you stand for, you don’t even have to say a word for God to use you.
After several months of this kind of work, one Sunday morning so many people came to join the church and make professions of faith that they literally stretched from wall to wall across the front of the church. The deacons got so excited they called a meeting right then and raised our salary. We had been receiving a salary of one hundred fifty dollars a week and a place to live. They raised it to one hundred sixty-five. In those days even that amount made quite a difference. We lived very simply, but God faithfully provided. In January of 1975, Brooke was born. Our family had begun! We had no medical insurance, but God faithfully provided the resources to pay the doctor and the hospital.
In Richland Springs, Shannon and I did the youth work along with our other work in the church. We would have back yard bible studies followed by refreshments and volleyball. Many young people from the community came and we built strong relationships with them. Two of those young people are pastors today and many others faithfully serve the Lord in a variety of ways. One that I know of has a daughter who served as our youth intern a few years back, and she is the youth minister at First Baptist Church in Mineral Wells, Texas. It was my joy to meet some of the children that we worked with on a return visit several years ago and find that they were serving the Lord in that very church where we ministered to them. Some of these were from Spanish speaking families that we joyfully ministered to and saw them become the first of their family to enter the membership of a non-Catholic church.
God brought one revival to the First Baptist Church in Richland Springs that was like an awakening. People who did not even attend the church would stop me and ask what was going on. They would make comments on how much difference they saw in the lives of the people who were a part of our ministry. People began attending our church who lived up to thirty miles away. Many came from San Saba which was fifteen miles away. Others came from Brady twenty-seven miles away. Reaching people is so easy when that kind of atmosphere occurs. I long to see God do that everywhere that I have served since the days of that movement of the Lord.