On Higher Ground

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By Bill Horner

Only the Lord knows what lies ahead for us


I knew our visitor was a live wire when he asked me for the church roster so he could call members on Saturday night to encourage them to attend church the next morning. 

Melvin hadn’t even joined the church himself yet.  A few people complained.  “Who is this man who’s telling us to come to church on Sunday?”  said one.  “I’ve been a member of this church for 50 years!” griped another.  Yet Melvin, officially still a guest, was the one who cared enough to reach out.

Melvin McFaddin and his wife Mona moved into the community, saw our church building, and decided to come worship with us. Originally from Ohio, they were both quite personable and caring. He was fond of telling people that everyone once had a “Mc” on the front of their name—until they did something wrong. I knew if Melvin joined us at church, he would not be idle.  I was not disappointed.

Melvin was one of those men whose experience is so varied that they seem to know something about everything.  He had been a police officer, a small businessman, and a car salesman. He and Mona were currently running a full service packing and shipping business in a nearby town. He was adept at auto mechanics and paint and body work.  He once ran for city councilman. 

And Melvin loved adventure.

He told me he once tried to organize some of his buddies back in Ohio into a polar bear club. You know, those are the guys that don their swimsuits on the coldest day in January and take a dip in the nearest icy body of water. His buddies agreed. When the cold day came, Melvin was willing to set the example. He plunged into the frigid water and came up gasping for breath. “It nearly killed me!” he told me, wincing as he spoke.  “But then all the other guys chickened out!” he added indignantly.

  Somehow I could sympathize with the other guys.

Now, at 62, Melvin showed no signs of slowing down. One day he showed up at church on a motorcycle. He gave rides to all the kids. Then somehow he talked me onto the back seat, and down the narrow country lane we went. The speedometer showed 50 or more. Melvin yelled back to me, “Do you want to go really fast?” I quickly and loudly declined; Melvin was clearly disappointed. 

I asked, “When did you learn how to ride—when you were a policeman?”  Melvin shouted back, “No—last year.”  I was entrusting my life to a novice!

Melvin loved life. But most of all he loved the Lord.  Having been saved as an adult, he knew how much he’d been forgiven, and he desired for others to know such forgiveness, too.

So you can imagine my grief the day I received the call that Melvin had collapsed with a major heart attack in his store. They rushed him to the hospital and soon had him stabilized, but the damage was done. Eventually they installed a pacemaker, but his prospects were not bright. Melvin spoke often and fondly of going on home to see the Lord. 

His daughter soon arrived from Florida to take him and Mona to spend the winter with her family there. My deacon Jeff and I pulled her aside.  “If anything happens to Melvin, please call us. Some of us would make the trip,” we told her.  She nodded with understanding.  We knew he’d never live to make it back to Middle Tennessee.

But he did.

 That was 17 years ago. 

Melvin and Mona eventually moved on to Palm Bay, Florida, where he is still going strong. What looked like the end of the road was just a bend in the road. I’m thankful that I’m not a prophet!

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, and He delights in his way.  Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the LORD upholds him with His hand” (Psalm 37:23-24).

I think I’ll clip this column and send it to Melvin.