Sometimes God speaks through people and circumstances to bring about his purpose. It was in Richland Springs that God opened the door for me to begin pursuing a master’s degree. I was determined not to ask my parents to fund this further degree. I also was very confident of my basic knowledge and training from Howard Payne, my parents, personal studies, and my home church.
One night at an evening service a woman who was not even a member of the church walked up and handed me an envelope. She told me that it contained a deposit slip noting a new bank account in San Saba, Texas. The account was in my name and the amount was adequate to launch my studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. She was a recent widow and told me how much she and her husband had always delighted in helping young ministers get their education. She had heard of my ministry and wanted to invest in us. How often do you hear of that?
Within days I pulled in a gas station in Richland Springs and filled up. When I started to pay, the owner, who was not a member of our church, told me that it was paid for and that in fact I could fill up there many more times because someone had set up a prepaid account for me. They wanted to remain anonymous.
I enrolled and began to commute 165 miles one way and twice a week to Fort Worth. My purpose from the beginning was not so much to get another degree, but to fill in areas of my knowledge in which I felt I might be lacking. Even though the seminary does not want you to do it that way, for some reason they allowed me to do so.
Let me illustrate what I have just written by telling a story regarding Dr. Jack MacGorman, regarded so highly that the current beautiful chapel on campus is named after him. When I registered for my first semester, I had wanted to take his course in Acts. I had heard him speak and was deeply impressed. His Scottish accent only enhanced his message. They told me the course was full. I went to his first class anyway. There was an empty chair in a corner and I sat there expecting any minute to be asked to show credentials or verify enrollment. Instead I heard one one of the most amazing lectures on the Book of Acts that I have ever heard before or since. At the end of class I told Dr. MacGorman that his class had filled before I could get in. I said to him that I would like to just come and listen as long as there was an empty chair. He was so impressed with my hunger to learn that he pulled strings to let me in the class. I sat right beside Ken Hall who only recently retired from Buckner Benevolences throughout that semester. We have remained friends through the years, as much as busy ministers can be. Shortly after our experience in class, I succeeded him as camp pastor at a youth camp and was privileged to hear him share the word. He was always one of the best and most gracious communicators that I have known through the years. My “cherry picking” style of graduate study would continue for ten years from that beginning.