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FIRST-PERSON: When career & family needs collide

GARLAND, Texas (BP)–The dilemma is not a new one to baby boomers — and it’s a quandary that will face any caring loved one sooner or later.

What’s a person to do when advancing in a career takes you to far-flung (and sometimes very appealing) spots on the globe, miles away from family members who become elderly and ultimately need you nearby?

Telling our particular story here may give you a few tips on how one family answered this question. It also helps answer the query we often get from friends of our ministry: “What’s a book-publishing company named for Hannibal, Mo., doing in Garland, Texas?” (We own a small, Christian evangelical book-publishing company named Hannibal Books.)

Thirty years ago, Kay and I had started our careers in Texas, living at least a workable driving distance from our kin. We spent 14 years as reporters for the Houston Chronicle and never planned to live and work anywhere but the Lone Star State, where we had both been born and educated.

However, in time, other employment opportunities beckoned — and thus began our eastward migration. Both of us went to work for Southern Baptist entities. During our Nashville, Tenn., years, Kay’s father died in Garland, and we caught our first up-close glimpse of how complicated being far removed can be when trying to shore up family members in crisis. This was especially true for us because Kay is an only child. This life event required the two of us to tag-team the situation, as I functioned as Kay’s nonexistent sibling. Each of us alternated taking off weeks from work during the last days of her dad’s illness and flying back to the Dallas area.

From Nashville, we made our last eastward relocation — this time, as I joined the staff of the SBC’s International Mission Board. We lived in Richmond, Va., one of America’s true beauty spots. Washington, D.C., was an easy Sunday afternoon drive. New York City and New England were so close we spent three consecutive vacations there.

But during this segment of our lives, we came face to face with even more stark reality. Kay’s mother was nearing her 90th year. Though living alone and independently, she had increasing day-to-day needs. Additionally, two other relatives who had no children and who lived in or near Garland were 90 or above. Richmond, though quaint and compelling, was a full two-day drive from home.

We eventually concluded our current location was impractical, and we began asking God what we should do. He led us to 1 Timothy 5:4, “But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.”

“This is pleasing to God.” How often do we Christians ask ourselves what specifically we can do to be in God’s will? And yet this Scripture could not be more direct — God is pleased with us when we put feet to our faith and care for the previous generation.

Kay’s Uncle Buford and her Aunt Frances, both widowed, childless, and not related to each other, were not specifically spelled out in those verses. But their love and generosity toward both of us over the years made us feel they were included in God’s command. Moving three 90-something seniors to where we were was out of the question.

Within a few days of beginning to pray, we knew God was saying “GET READY TO GO BACK TO TEXAS.” Since Garland was the epicenter of the elder-care issue, we knew what city was attached to the call.

No more than a few weeks later, the Lord fashioned within our minds a vision for our own evangelical book-publishing company and marriage-enrichment ministry based in Garland.

Several months afterward, the opportunity arose to purchase Hannibal Books from its founders, Jim and Marti Hefley of Hannibal, Mo. We were awestruck by God’s timing.

“We’ll change the company name as soon as the sale is complete,” we told each other. That was before we discovered that Hannibal and its line of books had a strong following that we did not want to abandon.

So we moved Hannibal, Mo.’s publishing pride and joy — name and all — to our new hometown of Garland, Texas. I sometimes joke that this move required a 250-step business plan, as we juggled such tedious matters as reincorporating a business in a new state and change-of-address notices to our sizable customer base. Add to that the complications of buying and selling houses, finding new doctors, and transferring records. Sometimes it seemed a nightmare of the worst proportions.

Along the way, God taught us more about his faithfulness as he helped us enact each of the 250 steps in the plan.

Now, we’re comfortably resettled in Garland’s historic district. Our home backs up to the high school Kay attended. From our front porch she can see her old elementary school, the church of her childhood, her parents’ home, and the sidewalk where she scraped her knee when learning to roller skate. People here have been welcoming. Reconnecting with the great saints of God that were influential in Kay’s growing-up years blesses both of us. It has been a wonderful way for her to reconnect with her heritage. It’s been a great place to do business and ministry while meeting the needs of those we came to serve.

Juggling doctor and dentist appointments alongside endless trips to the pharmacy, grocery store and Wal-Mart isn’t always easy. We sometimes feel our main social lives consist of attending funerals and 90th-birthday celebrations for Kay’s mother’s friends. But God’s grace keeps us going.

The greatest blessing is knowing that the 20-somethings of the next generation — our own two children — are observing what we are doing. We hope we are role-modeling for the time the mantle falls to them to put their faith into practice as well.
The Moores can be reached at 1-800-747-0738 or [email protected].

    About the Author

  • Louis Moore