For lack of any better ideas, when I resigned my commission a year after coming back from Vietnam, my wife and I decided to try out life in the Green Mountain State of Vermont. When we first started to work on implementing our plan Avril imagined herself as a high school choir director and I a high school math or science teacher. Half of our plan worked out perfectly when she became the choir director at Hartford High School in White River Junction, Vermont. The other half of the vision had me standing in front of five classes a day in our middle school teaching fifth grade math. Life doesn’t always work out quite as you might imagine.
Even though the 125 or so 11-year-old kids were not highly stimulating, I still enjoyed working with them none-the-less. I especially enjoyed working with the kids in my one class of over-achievers. We ended up working through the required textbook by the end of February, so I had to ad-lib for the remainder of the year. It was actually quite fun to try all kinds of new ideas out on them, all of which they excelled at and enjoyed. Interestingly, years later I found out that one of my absolute brightest students, a young Hispanic girl, graduated from West Point with the Class of 1985.
Though I enjoyed working with my students, the kids I ended up spending the most time with were the students in my wife’s various choirs and ensembles. After my teaching day was done, I would wander over to the high school and hang out with them as my wife finished up the day working with different kids on songs or duets or whatever might be happening at the time. Being a young couple in our late twenties with no kids of our own, quite a few of the teens enjoyed spending time with us … and we with them.
While all of this was happening, we were also getting more and more involved with a little Baptist church that we had discovered while driving around with our realtor looking for a house. And as part of that increasing involvement, we became quite avid helpers with the church youth group. Almost all the kids in the youth group went to the high school my wife taught at, and several were even in her choir. So, our first year of teaching was spent learning our jobs, and growing in our faith, and doing typical high school teacher and youth group leader type stuff.
Towards the end of our first year, we began to become quite strong in our desire to want to live our lives as fully-devoted followers of Jesus Christ. To that end we became quite burdened with a desire to share our faith with the teens that we were routinely interacting with on a daily basis. So, during the summer between our first and second year we began to plan for a special event that we would hold at our house the first week of school in September.
When the designated Saturday arrived, we ended up with about 25 teens over at our house where we plied them with hot dogs and hamburgers and everything a teen could want to eat. The mealtime was then followed by a time of sharing and singing of songs. Avril and I and some of our youth group kids shared about how we had become Christians and about how important our faith in God was to us and the way we lived our lives. We closed out the evening by inviting them to come back the next Saturday night for a Bible study for any who were interested. The following Saturday about 15 of the original 25 showed up.
After that first Bible study session I realized that the kids who had decided to come back needed to have Bibles of their own. So, I went to a nearby Christian bookstore and ordered a dozen Bibles. I wanted to make sure that each one of them who didn’t already have a Bible had one of their very own. In due course the Bibles arrived, and we passed them out to all the kids. We really enjoyed seeing them diligently use them over the next year as we met almost every Saturday night for our group studies.
The twelve brand new Bibles ended up costing me $142 and change, which was a good hunk of money in those days. But I really felt that it was something that God wanted me to do. Not long after giving the Bibles out I received a very official looking piece of mail from the Defense Finance and Accounting Office at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Ohio. In it was a check for some back pay that I was owed. There was a note explaining that a random audit of my pay records had been performed and that I had been underpaid at one point during my time in Vietnam. The check in the envelope represented the amount that I was owed plus any accrued interest. The check was for $142 and change. To this day I remember the amount because God taught me a great lesson through this experience. When you step out in faith and do what you believe God is calling you to do, He will be with you every step of the way.
The following year Avril and I left White River Junction, Vermont, and I headed off to Dallas Theological Seminary to study for full-time ministry.
But when we left, we left behind quite a few young teens who had come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and who went on to live their lives for Him. One young girl from our group ended up becoming a medical missionary, and one of the young men ended up going to seminary himself and becoming a minister of the Gospel. As I’ve said before, God has truly given us a blessed life indeed.