April 12, 2011

You CAN go home


ow! What a Sunday! Evangel Baptist Church, the church founded by my father when I was just a lad (and a young one at that), celebrated its 45th anniversary this past Sunday. The event drew an eclectic group of people from many different locations scattered up and down the east coast. But the eclectic group had one thing in common: we knew each other when....

Luke 6:38

If you give to others, you will be given a full amount in return. It will be packed down, shaken together, and spilling over into your lap. The way you treat others is the way you will be treated.

And what a day it was!

My father was asked to preach and I wanted to see my parents and hear my father preach, so I headed out to Dale City from my home in Front Royal—about a 75-mile trip—early in the morning. I turned through Manassas, Virginia, and the nostalgia began to set in. I spent a lot of time in Manassas during my high school years—primarily because the two girls I dated in high school lived there. As I drove past places I had not seen in 30 years and saw how much things have changed I began to reminisce about those old days. And I thought about how nice it would be to see some of the people I knew back then.

My father preaching again from his old pulpit

Sunday was another milestone day. It was my best friend from high school —my next door neighbor, Melody Oestreich’s birthday. It had been 20 years since I had seen Melody too. So as I passed through Manassas and approached Dale City, where Evangel Baptist Church is located and where Melody and I lived next door to each other all those years ago, the memories from those days came flooding back. I was early, so I decided to drive down the road Melody now lives on—just to see her house. But when I got there I could not drive away without stopping to say hi. So I parked and rang the doorbell.

Melody and Bruce

Melody’s friend, Bruce, answered the door, warmly welcomed me in, and called up the stairs, “Melody, Rich is here!” He had taken her out for breakfast for her birthday and they had gone to her house so she could get ready for church. Fortunately, I showed up at the right time. They decided to go to church with me, so after Melody got ready, we headed to Evangel Baptist Church.

Greg Lambert, welcoming the people

We sat next to my mother. My mother was sitting next to a beautiful young lady who smiled over at me. It was Ruth, my high school girlfriend from Manassas. Up on the platform, behind the pulpit, was my friend Greg Lambert, who married Becky—my other high school girlfriend. A little bit further forward from where I sat was my friend Randy Leatch, a friend my wife and I became very close with early in our marriage—25 years ago. Everywhere I looked I saw old friends—friends who were very dear to me down through the years, but most of whom I had not seen in decades. It was simply wonderful.

Ruth (Sandberg) Houser, sitting on the other side of my mother

When the opportunity came for us to mingle a bit, friend after friend came up to say hi. There were a lot of hugging, a lot of tears, and a lot of huge smiles as we greeted one another. And it was good. So good, in fact, that it is impossible to explain. And I realized that I have been blessed beyond belief with some of the world’s most amazingly wonderful people in my life. And Sunday evening I got a bunch of Facebook friend requests from the people who had been there for the anniversary celebration, which seemed like icing on the cake of the wonderful day!

Melody and me

I’ll not forget these people this time. At the beginning of this year I determined to be a better friend. This felt like a reward sent to remind me how precious friendship is.

Thank you, God. You’re awesome!


  1. Rich,

    It was a great day. The 45 minutes of testimonies in the afternoon service were very moving. People had the opportunity to publicly convey what your parents meant to them and the impact they had on people in our church. Some were small children at the time but learned from your folks and do this day put it into practice. He was a great pastor and your mom a great pastor's wife. My parents have never connected with any other pastor like they did with yours. What a great day!

  2. I wish I could have been there. I must come to the 50th.


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