A Quick Trip
There was a point in time in the Summer of 1973 when I finally realized that the Lord was not going to forget about what he told me when I was fourteen years old. He brought it to my attention again and in a way which was finally all consuming and convincing. What did he tell me those many years before? He informed me that I was to be a preacher of the gospel. He didn't ask me if I wanted to do that with my life. He didn't suggest that it might be a good idea if I became a preacher. He TOLD me what He wanted me to do and when He spoke, it carried a mandate with it. Like many, I had years of looking everywhere else for my life work before finally submitting to His continued pressure on my spirit to do as He said. It was brutal.
Well, suffice it to say that after forty-five years of ministry, I am so thankful that He called me into this glorious work! I informed my wife and best friend, Carolyn about what had become very plain to me and that I must submit to the Lord and enter the ministry if I was ever to be happy and complete in life. So, we started planning to enter seminary in the Fall of 1973. My Pastor at the time, Bill Long, had recommended Southeastern Seminary to me because that is where he attended. I valued his opinion so I called the Registrar's office at Southeastern Seminary and talked with them about the possibilities of getting admitted. They, of course, suggested I visit the campus which Carolyn and I immediately decided to do. We made plans to stay in the Seminary's guest house for a couple of days. The facility was very nice but our stay was far shorter than we had planned.
As we set things up for the trip to Wake Forest, NC, we planned to travel to Cleveland, GA and spend the night with my sister and her family before embarking on our trip. They graciously offered to keep our eight year old daughter, Georgia, while we were gone which was a great help. So, early the next morning we left Cleveland, GA for Wake Forest, NC. The trip up there was uneventful and we arrived earlier than we had expected. Now, here is where the Lord's will and preparation became most evident. After spending the night at the guest house, I went to the Registrar's office to see what the "lay of the land" was concerning getting into seminary in the fall term. In my first conversation with them over the phone, I was informed that we could come and visit the campus but if I was expecting to start my schooling in the Fall, I would have to secure housing off campus because all the seminary housing was already exhausted. I walked into the registrar's office and spoke to a young woman about attending school. She said: "you remember, Mr. Harrell, that we told you that there was no seminary housing available but we have put you on our waiting list of those requesting housing. You are number twenty-one on the waiting list." I'm sure my countenance dropped but I gratefully thanked her for her help and turned to exit the office. When I got to the threshold of the door, she called my name and beckoned me back to her window. She then quietly handed me a key and told me to go see the person in charge of the campus facilities. I started to ask her why there was suddenly a place for us to stay since I had just been told that there wasn't. As the words started emerging from my mouth, she interrupted and said: "don't ask any questions. Just go see this man." She then wrote his name on a piece of paper and handed it to me. Of course, I thanked her profusely and went to find the person in charge of student housing. In the intervening years, I have often thought of how completely God answers our prayers because I had been praying that something would happen to provide an apartment for us. What changed this young woman's mind I do not know. All I know is that we suddenly had an apartment when all indications were that we would not have one. I learned something profound from this experience which has served me well over the years of my ministry and that is this: When you are "prayed through" and convinced of the Lords will and guidance, proceed. No matter the circumstances, keep your eye on the goal and proceed trusting Him all along to make the way for you. But, that's not all the story.
If I was going to be a student then Carolyn had to work. She had been in banking for a number of years and was very good at what she did. Very professional. She had worked several years for C & S Bank in Tifton, GA (our home town). Carolyn was the person that the bank would always send to open up new branch banks. She would completely set the new bank up. As personnel were hired, she would train them and get the bank ready to open. So, she knew her business.
When finished at the Registrar's office, I went to the car and told Carolyn that we had a place to stay. She couldn't believe it! "I thought they said there were no places" were her words. I told her the story and we were both amazed at the Lord's provision for us. We immediately drove to the local bank so she could give them her resume'. We pulled up to the bank and she went in resume' in hand. I sat there and sat there. Thirty minutes went by. Forty-five minutes elapsed. I began to wonder what in the world was taking so much time. Suddenly, Carolyn emerged from the bank. She came to the car and with a broad smile said: "I've got a job." I couldn't believe it! She told me the sequence of events that has transpired in those forty-five minutes. When she met the branch manager and told him of her banking experience, he suddenly reached for his phone and called the manager of the main bank in Raleigh. He said: "Man, you must be living right." He then told him about Carolyn and her experience at opening new bank branches because the Raleigh main bank was wanting to open a new branch and had no one to help them do it. Problem solved!! Job provided! We were both stunned at the way the Lord had provided for us and had quickly solved our housing and employment situations. Praise the Lord!!
After leaving the bank parking lot, we went back to the seminary guest house, gathered our clothes, packed the car and left for Cleveland, GA to pick up our daughter and head home to Tifton. On our way to North Georgia, we were enveloped in the worst fog I had ever seen. Driving down I-85, the speed had to be reduced to about 45 mph. It was brutal. After exiting the interstate highway we had to drive through some of the North Georgia mountains in that stuff. It was so thick, I couldn't tell if we were going up hill or down hill. It was a whiteout. The only way I could judge whether we were going up or down was the car's speedometer and our own inner balance. But, I said: "Lord help us through this. You didn't take us to Wake Forest and provide our every need in record time just to bring us to the North Georgia mountains to die in this mess." Needless to say, I was right. He brought us through the worse driving conditions I have ever encountered. Scary.
In a very short time we arrived at my sister's house and when she answered our knock at the door, she exclaimed: "What, you are back already! Now that was a quick trip!" Later she told me that she thought we had gotten lost in the mountains and simply returned to her house. The Lord had so arranged things that we made our trip to Wake Forest, NC and returned in record time. As we have looked back on the whole sequence of events, we can plainly see God's provision for us even though, while going through the process, it was sometimes difficult for us to see just what He is doing.
My advice to anyone is this: If you are convinced of the Lord's guidance in leading you to do something for Him, then proceed. No matter what the obstacles may be, just keep your eye on the target and keep going. Don't be deterred because satan will continually throw things in your way. He will cast doubts in your mind and make things seem impossible. Impending doom will be your focus if you listen to him. But, if you have a word from the Lord on what you are doing, then proceed. He will work out the details in ways you cannot imagine. There is much more to this story of His provisions for us as related in another "Recollections" entry: "A Total Surprise" but it all began to come together with "A Quick Trip."
William F. Harrell