Each month we will be sharing the testimony of one member of our community’s experience of and commitment to our life together. This month’s story comes from Jeannette Rice.
My story of commitment to others and my church started years before my birth. It all began with my father.
My father, John White, was a young lawyer in a small town in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains when drafted to fight in WWII and sent to liberate the Philippines and defeat Japan. When the war ended, he was anxious to get home to his wife and three-year-old daughter, Anne, who had been born two months after he was deployed. He was sitting on the plane that would return him stateside, waiting for takeoff when two soldiers boarded and asked for a volunteer to get off and wait for the next plane as they needed a seat for a general heading home. Of course, after long years of fighting and wanting to get home, no one volunteered. One of the officers scanned the plane, then pointed to my dad and said, “You soldier, you will give up your seat.” My dad pleaded that he be allowed to remain on the plane but to no avail. He gathered his duffle bag and proceeded back to the terminal as the plane taxied down the runway toward home. Just as it was reaching altitude an engine burst into flames and as my father looked on, exploded and all on board perished.
Back home, and over the next couple of years, he wrestled with why he was saved. As his law practice flourished and the family grew to include my sister Sandy and then me, he continued to throw himself into the work of our little church as a Sunday school teacher and elder. Still, he was haunted about why he was saved and wondered what God wanted him to do.
Then one day his minister told him there was a small community up a little hallow, fifty miles from Manchester, that could not afford to pay a pastor but wanted one desperately. He asked if Dad would be willing to go there and preach to them for free. He agreed to go for a short while and see how it went. It went well because after four and a half years of preaching every Sunday, he realized that was God’s calling for him. He sold his law practice and, with my Mother and three children, headed to Louisville, Kentucky to attend seminary.
With savings and money from the law practice, my parents bought a small house in Louisville and paid tuition for three years of seminary. The rest was budgeted for utilities and fuel for the car used to travel to and from campus. It often seemed there would be none left for food, but my parents firmly believed God would provide.
As the school year started for me, my sisters and father, our family ate many fried baloney dinners! Then the first of what was to become a monthly check for the next three years arrived. The little church where my father donated sermons four and a half years sent checks for $150.00. That was our grocery money! The people of that small church—its community of believers—made a commitment to God to help my dad become an ordained minister.
It was that act of love, gratitude and sacrifice from a small and poor community that taught me at an early age what it meant to make a commitment to the Lord’s work. That lesson has never left me!
I thank God for my parents and for Pine Hill Presbyterian Church. It was through their love and commitment that laid the groundwork for me to become the person I am today.
I know firsthand that the widow’s mite or the few dollars of a poor family in the mountains of Kentucky—when put together with that of others—can make a big difference.
I have carried that lesson with me over many years and many churches, always giving what I can in time, talent and treasure.
Heritage has been my home for 21 years. It has always been there for my family and me with love and support when we faced difficult and dark times. Its membership also enthusiastically joined us during our glorious celebrations.
I rejoice that as a part of this
community our commitments can change the lives of others, just as my life has