In September 1999, Julie and I were dating and I was a first-year PhD student in Ft. Worth. We knew we wanted to get married, but hadn't yet gotten engaged, primarily because I was working only a small part-time job. About that time, Julie's parents informed us of a church in Corsicana that needed a pianist. If you know my Julie, you know her great love for the Lord and music, so we went to check it out since I wasn't serving on a church staff at the time (I had already spent 10 years doing youth ministry beginning when I was in college but wasn't active in it then). We went to Memorial Baptist Church and did what any good Baptist would do - we sat on the back row! We listened as they played tapes to accompany their hymns. After the service, we talked with their deacons about the church. They turned to me and said "what do you do?" When I told them and after realizing they were without a pastor as well, they invited me to supply for them for a "few weeks." That turned into 8 years. I didn't know I was supposed to be a pastor, but clearly the Lord did - and I'll be forever grateful for it.
Not long after we arrived, a young family visited. A lovely couple, Elmer and Mandy Tanner had a beautiful little girl (Allison is a senior at CHS) and a baby boy (Dustin is in 8th grade). They joined a few months later and thus began a journey we're still on. At the time, Elmer was in the Sheriff's Department, but hadn't always been. Through an industrial accident at a previous employer, Elmer had to find a new career (as well as how to write with his left hand). His remarkable work-ethic, high level of integrity and passion for helping people led him to law enforcement. It always has amazed me at how God had gifted him so properly for his work. Perhaps he didn't know he was supposed to be Sheriff, bot clearly the Lord did - and he (and the people of Navarro County who overwhelmingly elected him) will be forever grateful.
The friendship that grew between us is part of what makes our time at Memorial so special in my memory. For much of our time there, Elmer was working a once-a-week night security shift - I rode along with him. During those rides, we talked about our faith, our families, our past and our hopes for our future. One of the key elements for his future was running for Sheriff. The first time I can remember talking about it was 2003 - nearly 10 years ago. Through a course of circumstances, it took some time for him to get all the pieces in place, but today is his day. Tonight at midnight, Elmer will be officially sworn in as the new Sheriff of Navarro County. Congrats friend - your faithful service and integrity have brought you here. I believe God will use you to keep the people Navarro County safe and well-protected. May God bless your tenure as Sheriff and may it be a long one.