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‘Wounded Heroes’ told God can restart the music in their lives

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–Divorce, death and disappointments along the way can rob a minister of his song, but God can start the music again, more than 100 beleaguered ministers and their wives were told.
Greg Kirksey, president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, used the song and music analogy while speaking at the final session of the fourth Wounded Heroes Retreat at Ridgecrest (N.C.) Conference Center.
Kirksey, who now serves at the Alexander Youth Services Center in Little Rock, lost his 39-year-old wife to breast cancer in l994 and then the pastorate of First Baptist Church, Benton, Ark., when he announced he would marry a woman who had been divorced before she became a Christian.
After a “dream-come-true” existence for 40 years and a ministry that began when he was 16, Kirksey found himself out of the pastorate but exactly where he felt God wanted him — as pastor to Mitchell Johnson and Andrew Golden, the youthful shooters in the Jonesboro, Ark., school massacre last year.
“I broke down and cried because I knew God wanted me there,” Kirksey said.
“God’s presence transformed a desert night into a wonderful place. It can do the same for you. His presence in this moment can transform your life and start the music again.”
Kirksey was one of more than a dozen “encouragers” who spoke to the 47 couples and seven singles attending the February retreat for ministers and their spouses, many of whom have also lost loved ones or their places of ministry or feel they are on the verge of it.
Ike Reighhard, pastor of NorthStar Church, Kennesaw, Ga., lost his first wife in childbirth and had a disappointing experience at a leading Atlanta church, but was joined on the retreat rostrum by his new wife, Robin, and both rejoiced in the new life and ministry God has given them in a new congregation averaging more than 1,600 in worship.
Gary Miller, formerly pastor of Sagamore Hill Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas, and his wife, Dana, said the pressures of an inner-city ministry and personal responsibilities had drained them physically and emotionally, but the first Wounded Heroes retreat last year in Dallas had reaffirmed them.
“I felt like God was saying my hand is still on you,” Miller said. “God gave me a new heart for ministry while I was in Fort Worth.” He is now pastor of Rockdale Baptist Church, Conyers, Ga., and he and Dana are active with Wounded Heroes.
Greg Mathis, immediate past president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, and pastor of Mud Creek Baptist Church, Hendersonville, N.C., reminded retreat participants they would never be forgotten by God who cared enough he gave his Son, and that only God will be their ultimate judge.
Michael Hamlet, pastor of First Baptist Church of North Spartanburg, S.C., said it takes “real courage to attack real issues” and there is “integrity in saying I’m not going to quit.”
“God is not through with you yet,” he said, urging his retreat audience to “plow on.”
Another Carolinian, Renee Scheidt, who has a music ministry in China Grove, N.C., told of losing her pastor husband to suicide more than 11 years ago. “The healing of emotions takes time,” she said. “But as friends began to pray, I received God’s grace.”
Polly Cooper Brown of Dallas, who heads the counseling program for Wounded Heroes, noted in spite of a doctorate in psychology and her own profession, she had lost her identity as a pastor’s wife when she was divorced after 30 years of marriage. Now remarried to Ned Brown, she said she has made a new life for herself but still has a sense of loss.
Millie Cooper, wife of Kenneth Cooper, founder of the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas, encouraged participants to become physically fit. “Nothing I know of will help your depression like walking,” she said. “It’s amazing how many people find time for exercise after their first heart attack.”
Pastor Chet Haney and his wife, Terri, drove 850 miles from Parkside Baptist Church, Denison, Texas, to speak to the retreat participants, whom Haney described as “God’s awe-stars.” Quoting Psalm 147: 3-5, Haney said, “I always knew the Lord made the stars and heals broken hearts … and numbers them in the same breath.”
Two things have sustained him during his life, Haney said — “a relationship with an awesome God and my relationship with my wife.”
Claude Thomas, pastor of First Baptist Church of Euless, reminded the participants that though no two people may find themselves in the same circumstances or feel the same way about their circumstances, God cares. Jesus demonstrated his care and concern in the Garden of Gethsemane, he said.
“You can’t fix everything that goes wrong in your life,” he said. “When you can’t fix it, forget it.”
Wendell Estep, pastor of First Baptist Church, Columbia, S.C., said that though ministers have wonderful expectations when they begin their work, “There’s always someone or something to make the ministry tough” — daily pressures and personal attacks.
“God can use difficult times for his purpose,” he said. “Adversity contributes to humility. God can use the hard times to shape us” much as a blacksmith shapes steel.
God uses rough times to remind Christians of his presence and to release them from bondage and give them freedom, he said.
“In tough times we can rebel, quit or respond positively. React positively — pray. It’s right to pray. Wait for an answer, and accept it when it comes and learn from it. Ask God what he is teaching you.”
Jerry Rankin, president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, and his wife, Bobbye, reminded those at the retreat that “fulfilling God’s calling is the ultimate goal of what anyone can do.” They had experienced difficulties in their early days as missionaries in Indonesia, they said — isolation, serious illness, family crises, even rejection by the people to whom they were trying to minister, but the encouragement of other missionaries and the presence of God sustained them.
When her father was killed and her mother seriously injured in an automobile wreck in Mississippi, Bobbye Rankin said when she finally reached her mother’s bedside she found “God was there. Within my Spirit I saw God was on his throne.”
In all of those difficulties, Rankin said, “Though we sometimes didn’t understand at the time, in retrospect we realized that though Satan was attacking us, God was there.”

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  • Toby Druin