Hughson First Baptist Church at 100th Anniversary
My best friends were our Pastor’s daughters, Cheryl and Judy Neal. We’d sit together every Sunday in very front row. Pastor Neal would keep an eye on us from the pulpit. More than once he would hesitate in his sermon and look at the three of us until silence followed. He never once got mad or actually said anything to us, he didn’t need to, his stare would solve the problem.
Every Sunday on our way into church Mrs. Neal would give each of us a little Rainbow tablet about 2 inches by 3 inches and an inch thick. They were little towers of rainbow colored pages. The three of us would play hang-man, tic-tac-toe, and initial-box all through church. We must have gone through hundreds of those little notebooks. At that time they cost $.05 each at the local supermarket.
I had accepted Christ as my personal Savior but couldn’t get myself to go forward in church to show it. Somehow, even in our small church with only friends around me, I still couldn’t get my feet to move forward during the invitational.
The Neal girls and I went to church camp every summer and every winter. We spent Sunday afternoon together at their house or at mine. It was a genuine shock when the congregation learned Pastor Neal had taken a church in another town. He told us they would be moving to Oregon. I guess I didn't want to hear it or just refused to believe it.
It was during one of his last sermons, during the invitation at the end of church, Pastor Neal walked within three feet of me, gave me “the look” and gently reached his hand toward me. I took his hand right away. Such a huge feeling of relief came over me. I had wanted to join the church for weeks. I kept telling Pastor Neal I would do it the next week and then the next and then the next. What a feeling of relief! I was proud the next week, his last Sunday with our church, when Pastor Neal was the one to Baptize me.
Judy, Me, Cheryl
Judy, Me, Cheryl
I remember so clearly the talk of his family moving. The morning after I was baptized mom and I went to the parsonage to help finish packing and say good-by. When the family was loaded in the car, with Cheryl and Judy hanging out the window waving as they drove away, it finally hit me. My friends were leaving. I was heartbroken.