CHESTER, S.C. (BP)–After a mission trip to renovate a parsonage, a layman later discovered he had been working on his own home.
Curtis Marshall, a veteran schoolteacher of 31 years, went with a construction team from First Baptist Church, Duncan, S.C., to renovate a rural church’s parsonage near Chester — a church that was facing difficult times.
Marshall recalled joking with the mission project’s leader, Monty Sanders, “Who in the world would live in this mess?”
When the work was completed, God had a surprise: Marshall would.
“There was an attraction,” Marshall recounted. Orrs Baptist Church reminded him of one he had attended while in college — Nance’s Grove Baptist Church in New Market, Tenn. “As I met more people from Orrs Church, the Lord seemed to be saying, ‘Say something to somebody.'”
And one night during a prayer service back at First Baptist, he did. Marshall approached Linda Clark, wife of pastor Roger Clark with whom he had worked on the parsonage. She had grown up in Orrs Baptist Church, where her grandmother, Nora Ferguson, is a member.
“Do you think the folks at Orrs would consider an old, worn-out schoolteacher?” Marshall asked.
“I can’t think of anyone who I’d want more to be my grandmother’s pastor,” Linda replied.
After speaking with Orrs’ deacon chairman, Larry Wilson, who initially had contacted pastor Clark requesting help with the renovations, Marshall was called in June 1998.
“I don’t know what type of pastor’s wife I’ll make,” Marshall’s wife, Joan, told him, “but if you feel God is calling you, I’ll go.”
And Joan has adjusted well, Marshall said, citing an experience from her visit to a hospitalized church member who voiced concern that his crop of corn might ruin in the field. The next day, the member’s wife was surprised when Joan came to their home to “pull and put up” the corn.
Early on, the Marshalls were interested in being missionaries and attended Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky. But he and Joan, who holds a master of divinity, settled in Duncan and took teaching positions. She taught math for 29 years at Hill Middle School and now teaches at Chester High School. He taught science at Hill Middle School for seven years and at Byrnes High School 21 years.
Recently, Marshall has begun completing his seminary education, explaining, “I felt the Lord was saying, ‘You need to finish something you started a long time ago.'”
Since his arrival at Orrs Baptist Church, worship attendance has grown to 75, with 15 additions, ranging in age from 5 to 70. Its budget has more than doubled, reaching the highest point in recent memory, $109,000. Marshall has restored the Sunday night discipleship program, offering two “Experiencing God” classes and TeamKid.
“I really enjoy seeing the excitement of the people,” Marshall said. “I see them doing things that indicate they believe that God has them here for a reason — to reach the people of Chester for Christ.
“The people at Orrs are a good and caring congregation,” he added. “They just needed someone to go and love them.”