One Time Pastor; All Time Minister
When John Carter was saved at the age of 12 during a revival at First Baptist Church of Rotan, he had no way of knowing the long road of ministry the Lord had planned for him. After more than 50 years of service he retired from fulltime pastoring, but he still seeks out opportunities to minister to others.
"We still minister to these folks as our Lord leads. Our ministry of preaching, teaching, singing, and visiting continues in the church and its ministries," John said, speaking of his work alongside his wife, Mary.
Slowed some by health issues, the passion for others is still evident as is his desire to serve.
Raised on a cotton farm outside Rotan, Texas, John is no stranger to hard work. Church was also a big part of his youth and he continued his quest to seek the Lord's will in his life during his stint in the Navy. While attending a small church in Long Beach, he and sixteen or seventeen friends surrendered to preach.
"A friend of mine and I started a Bible study together and memorized different verses of scripture on ship when we had time. And it got to where we had a number of guys involved in studying the scriptures — praying together in groups wherever we could find a place and time. The Lord used that and a lot of guys came to know the Lord," John recalled.
"At San Diego's Highland Avenue Baptist Church, the pastor there had a soul winning class and had about three pages of things you could say to people to use. One guy came into the galley one night after baking and he wanted to know how to be saved. I had that copy that night and I sat down and studied every word of it with him and he accepted Christ," he continued.
Having surrendered to the ministry, John set about getting an education after completing his military service. He enrolled in California Baptist University in 1955 and served in student pastorates during his time there.
It was around then that John met his future wife, Mary, for the first time. "My last year of college I had a friend that came to me and said, 'John, I am getting married and can you come and perform the ceremony?' I said, 'Sure.' Guess who the maid of honor was?" John breaks into a grin as he continues, "Mary! I met her and later found out she had a foster mother from Rotan and she was adopted. She was raised in Rotan and invited me to the house for dinner when she found out who I was and she was raised where I was raised."
Mary's life in Rotan had been less than idyllic. "I was right around 12 years old. We were in a terrible accident and my Mom was burned to death in a car wreck on the freeway. My Dad tried to be strong for five kids but he was a terrible alcoholic. He had a fruit and vegetable stand and he immediately shut down upon her death. We had to go on Welfare." Mary added quietly.
But a local woman had heard about the family's situation and came forward to help care for some of the children. "The Lord put this foster mother in my life," Mary added. "She needed me and I needed her and I loved living with her."
Mary's struggles growing up after the loss of her mother had led her to a call to ministry as well. "I surrendered my live to serving God at 16. I began serving in Bible school and thought how much I loved the church and my pastor and if I could only serve someway," she recalled.
When she met John, Mary knew God had plans for her prayer, "On our first date he told me about his surrender to the ministry. He said 'Have you ever felt the call to the ministry?' I said just recently and he said 'Yes!' It has made all the difference in the world," she said, smiling over at John.
After they married, John began preaching at a church in a nearby town. "We drove down there and it was a nice building but not many people there, just one man and 3 families. They wanted me to keep coming and we stayed on with the church and they started growing. I wasn't the pastor but I told them I could come until they found somebody."
Like most pastors of his generation, pay was never a consideration for answering a call to serve. John chuckles at the memory of his weekly "paycheck." "This man that was running the church would meet us every week at a service station and fill our car up with gas and give us a live chicken."
"Sometimes we hung the chicken on our clothes line in a burlap bag (so it wouldn't get away) and cooked it the next day — we would have friend chicken, chicken and dumplings and chicken and noodles. That chicken would last all week," Mary cheerily added.
Times might have been hard by some people's standards, but John and Mary didn't see it that way. "We sometimes stayed at the church Saturday night in the nursery on the floor and we were blessed. The church was growing and the people kept coming and getting saved," John said.
Through the years, support for his service sometimes came from what was then the Home Mission Board (now the North American Mission Board). From time to time, individuals would send them $100 a month to help with their work.
It was at Terasanta Baptist Church in San Diego, California, that John and Mary stayed the longest. "We started that church and stayed for 28 years. I was the pastor and Mary was the full time administrator," John recalled. ";We loved every minute of it and the Lord blessed us. We don't deserve how God blessed us but we were."
John may not pastor a church any more, but he and Mary often minister to others in their midst. Like their 104-year old friend whom they bought a TV for last year and who just happened to attend their wedding in 1958!
"God has blessed us during the good times and some trying times. He has always been faithful," John maintains.
When it comes to Mission:Dignity and its donors, John recently wrote, "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy. (Philippians 1:3-4 NKJV). One Time Pastor; All Time Minister."
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