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10/27/97 Couple’s perfect attendance stretching beyond 35 years

GARLAND, Texas (BP)–If friends have trouble getting in touch with George and Tommie Hill during the week, they know where they can find the couple on Sunday morning.
Look for them in Bible study at Eastern Hills Baptist Church, Garland, Texas, where he has 36 years of perfect attendance and she has 35 years.
“It’s not a chore if you go for the right reasons,” George said. “During your working years, you get up every morning to go to your job. That can’t be any better than going to Sunday school.”
Consistency and dependability are just part of the Hills’ 51 years of married life together. But for the first 13 years of their marriage, regular church attendance was not. Tommie had come to faith in Christ as a young girl at a Baptist church in a rural community north of Greenville, Texas, but her husband was brought up in another denomination.
“After we were married, we attended the Baptist church together, but not regularly,” she recalled.
That changed in 1959. Tommie’s brother gave their names to Bob Allen, then pastor of Eastern Hills Baptist Church, Garland, Texas, as good prospects. During Allen’s first visit to the couple’s home on a Thursday night, he led George to make a faith commitment the Lord.
The next Sunday, he was baptized. Though at that time George was working in Houston during the week as a house painter, he returned home nearly every weekend, and his family began attending weekly Bible study and worship. Within a couple of years, it became an important part of their lives.
“We just started attending and never saw any reason to miss,” George said.
Tommie missed one Sunday in 1961 to stay home with a sick child, putting her one year behind her husband in terms of perfect attendance. Otherwise, the Hills both have found a way to be in Sunday school one way or another each Sunday for 36 years.
“We even went one Sunday a couple of years ago when there was ice on the ground and we didn’t get the word that they had called church off,” George said.
Of course, the Hills haven’t spent every weekend in Garland since 1961. Once or twice a year, the couple would take a vacation. But wherever they were on the weekend, they would find a Southern Baptist church to attend. In three and a half decades, they visited churches from Hawaii to Buffalo, N.Y.
“When we’d pull into town on Saturday night, we’d check the phone book and drive around to find a church to attend on Sunday morning,” George said.
A few other challenges have had to be overcome through the years. Although the Hills are in generally good health, he is 74 and she is 71. Both have been in the hospital at least once in recent years, including weekend stays.
“Somewhere back there, Southern Baptists told us you could miss two Sundays in one year if somebody came and taught the lesson to you,” George recalled.
So that’s what they did. When he was in the hospital, a fellow deacon came to teach him the Sunday school lesson. And when his wife had knee replacement surgery a year and a half ago, Jim Burk, associate pastor at Eastern Hills, taught the lesson in her hospital room.
Commitment to church is a legacy the Hills have passed down to the next generation. They have “two children — a boy and a girl — and four grandchildren, all saved,” George noted. When they lived at home, son Don had 15 years’ of perfect Sunday school attendance pins from Eastern Hills and daughter Shirley had six.
Last year, a friend at church professionally framed the Hillses’ perfect attendance pins, carefully leaving room for five additional ones.
Each added another pin recently, leaving Tommie to wonder aloud what they might do in another few years. Careful not to presume upon the future, she added, “We just take it one day at a time.”
Ever optimistic, George pointed to the two tall frames hanging on their living room wall. “Well,” he said, “there is room on either side for more.”

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  • Ken Camp