When you look at our family picture there are two people missing. One is Kallie Grace Mathews, our newest grandchild, who was born on March 25. The picture was taken just before her birth. Kallie is doing just great. Patti is taking care of her this week while Tiffany is finishing her school year.
The other missing person in the picture is Patti's mother, Nan. She will be celebrating her 83rd or 84th birthday on June 14 and then will be out here with us beginning July 1. Nan is the matriarch of our family on the east side of the Mississippi and Patti is the matriarch west of the Mississippi.
I have been a part of Nan's family since I was 29 years old, but she had an impact on me before I ever met her or her daughter. She was on the Nominating Committee of our mega church back in Mobile and she recommended me to teach a Sunday school class, which I did and continued to do until we left for seminary.
Nan is an extraordinary woman. She is, in all likelihood, the most extraordinary woman that I have ever met and she became my mother-in-law 33 years ago. Then she became like a mother to me, yet even more. Over the years I have been able to talk with Nan about anything. I can discuss ministry with her at any level and I know that she understands and will have something enlightening to say about it.
Nan has headed up the Visitor's Center at her church for more than 40 years. When I met her, she was contacting every visitor every Sunday afternoon. It took the whole afternoon to contact all of those people. She would write down volumes of info about each family and turn it in to the pastor and Music Director. As a result, the choir grew from about 50 to well over 200 during a short period of time and people joined in droves.
Patti and I left for seminary in January 1976. We were from a fast-growing Southern Baptist Church, but I felt like something was missing. We were all about evangelism, but there was something missing. I enrolled in seminary and it was all about evangelism. I latched onto Pastoral Care and knowing that it was missing in my church back home, I thought I found the missing link. That still wasn't it.
In late 1983 I accepted my first pastorate after serving three churches in other staff positions, including leading evangelism. I went to my first national church conference in January 1984. It was there that I discovered the world of discipleship. I went home to my church that probably average 100 and began discipling them. They followed and they grew.
Over the next four pastorates I expanded the concept of discipleship until it stood hand in hand with evangelism. How could it not? It was now in its rightful place, both in my mind and in the body of Christ.
Why did I tell you this and what does it have to do with Nan. It is all because of Nan. She taught me when I was still "green" about what people needed and how the church needed to get off its duff and do something that would change and mature spiritual lives. Nan has been like a mother and pastor-friend for the last four decades. She has been a fellow-struggler with me and unconditionally loved and accepted me all of these years.
Nan is coming to be with us for a couple of weeks. It will be holy ground around here, but Nan is as real as anybody that you have ever met. God made her that way and as a result, people listen. I can't thank her enough. Every time I come up with a new idea in discipleship, I can't help bu think of the impact she has had on my life. Thank you Lord!