When Julia and I got engaged we didn’t realize that we had been going to the same church for years. She lived in the city of Atlanta and went to Therrell High School. I probably lived less than 10 miles away from her, but I was in the county, so I went to Headland High School in East Point. I dated some girls from her school. They were even her friends, but we had never met. It was totally amazing when we found out. I think it was after we were married. We both went to Ben Hill Baptist Church. Ben Hill was a little unincorporated town southwest of East Point and Atlanta. She graduated from High School two years later than I did, and I never met her the whole time we went to church. I used to tease her and say that it was because she never came. I don’t think that was true, but in high school, I was very active in church. I was president of the youth group, and was there all the time. Even though my dad was not the pastor, it was expected of me, I thought, to be active. I did enjoy it until some things started to happen. It was the mid 60’s in Atlanta. Integration was just starting in the city schools. It didn’t happen in the county schools until I had graduated. More and more Afro-Americans were moving to our neighborhoods. Real Estate people were causing a panic, trying to get people to sell their houses and move. The church had a decision to make. There had been a couple of Black people try to come to our service and they had been turned away. The board of deacons took a vote to keep them out. They actually voted not to let Afro-Americans come to our service. I was devastated! I couldn’t believe it. Since I was president of the Youth, I was asked to teach a Sunday School class of the older adults. These were the people who had voted to exclude people from God’s house. I took the opportunity, with all my youthful zeal, to try and change their hearts. I was doomed to fail from the start, but I gave it my best effort. It was a passionate plea that God loved everyone, that we were all God’s children. I could see by their expressionless faces as I poured out my heart that I was having no impact. The all thanked me, and said that when I grew up, I would understand. Well, I’ve grown up, and I still don’t understand! Anyway, that was the end of my youth involvement. I graduated, went to Tech and into total rebellion away from God. The thing I didn’t know then that I know now is this: Father God was weeping along with me. His heart was broken just like mine was. All I could see then were hypocrites. Now I know better. I can feel, touch, and hear the heart of the Father. I haven’t thought about this time in years, but it brings back tears and sorrow.
When I got a bid to come back to Atlanta from Miami both Julia and I were ecstatic. We couldn’t believe that we were going to get out of South Florida so fast. Three months had seemed like three years, but at least we were moving. But where were we going to go. We were both from the south side, and when we came back from the Air Force, we moved to Jonesboro because Julia could teach there. But we never really connected, and we both wanted some change. We thought of two different areas. It was either somewhere in North Atlanta or Peachtree City. I really was interested in Peachtree City. It was where most of the Delta Pilots that I knew lived. It had trails and gold courses and lakes, but it still didn’t have many restaurants or shopping areas. Julia was more interested in the North because of the shopping and restaurants. She also thought that the schools were better there. Jennifer was almost 5 and Lisa was 1. Schools won out and we wound up looking mainly in Cobb County. The problem was that houses were more expensive on the north side, and with my probationary wages we couldn’t afford much. We loved West Cobb, and looked extensively there, but we couldn’t find anything we could afford. So we eventually settled in East Cobb. We bought the most ugly house I have ever seen. It was a “cotemporary” split foyer . It was grey stained Cedar on the outside and it was very ugly. It did have a fenced in yard, and it had the room we needed. I wondered how we would ever sell it when we bought it.
As I look back, I can see the hand of God directing every thing we did. We had no clue. He loved us so much, even when we didn’t even think of Him. Isn’t that so much like a good daddy? He arranged for us to be in a perfect place to become reacquainted with Him. He had plans for us. All He needed was a little cooperation from us. That came sooner rather than later. I’m sure He knew that. It was the winter of 1979 and Julia was after me again about going to church. I still didn’t want to have anything to do with church. Never!! But, she had a point. Jennifer had just turned five, and she really needed have a “proper Christian upbringing”. So I finally relented. I figured that I was flying most weekends anyway. If she wanted to go to church that was fine with me. I would probably be out of town. But I gave her these rules; First, no Baptist Churches. I had heard all the Hellfire and Brimstone sermons I ever wanted to here. Second, go to the largest Methodist Church she could find. Id didn’t care if we drove all the way to Marietta or to Roswell. I knew that Methodist Churches were safe. I also knew that in a big church we could sit at the back and never get involved. That’s what I wanted and she agreed. I think that’s what she really wanted too. So that’s what she did. I was out of town, and she tried to find First Methodist of Marietta. It was the biggest church around. Well she wound up at Maple Ave Methodist, a much smaller church only a few blocks away from First Methodist. I was off the next Sunday, and I told her I would help her find it, but we had to sit in the back. She agreed, and we went. Little did I know that Papa had set a trap for us both. That choice of churches would literally change our lives and save our marriage. But it’s getting late, and I have a 3AM wake up. I’ll continue this story another time, but let me leave with this. God is gooder that you think!