Church and Home
You Can Go Home Again, Part 2
By Bill and Brenda Evans
We recently sat down with Melvin and Anne Worthington in the kitchen of Melvin’s homeplace
in Ayden, North Carolina, to talk about that topic of going home again. Despite what Thomas Wolfe said, Melvin and Anne Worthington have proven you can go home again.
This is Part 2 of a recent conversation we enjoyed with Melvin and Anne around the kitchen table at his home place in Ayden, North Carolina. The couple came back to Ayden after more than 40 years of pastoral and denominational ministry.
Evans: Melvin, we get the impression this house looks a lot like it did when you were growing up.
Melvin: It does. And that’s on purpose, mostly thanks to Anne.
Anne: When Melvin’s parents died—I’ve always called them Mama and Daddy—we wanted to keep it the same. We live in a newer house next door, but Melvin wanted his office here. So it’s there, in the next room. Even the pictures are still where Mama hung them. The floral wool rug in the living room she loved so much, the sofa and chairs, Melvin and Milton’s bedroom, their sister’s room, the furniture—all the same.
Melvin: Even our guns are still in the same closet they always were.
Anne: I’ve replaced a few curtains, and we had the bathroom reworked, but that’s about it. Our children, Lydia and Daniel, love being here. Lydia and her family stay in this house when they come. Both of them plan to come back to the farm when Melvin and I are gone.
Melvin: Anne has kept up all of the landscaping, too.
Anne: I can’t stand to stay inside all the time. I’d go crazy. So, I plant flowers, trim shrubs, and do the landscaping here and at our house. Mama planted those azaleas out by the driveway many years ago, mostly white and purple. The purple ones thrive better, so I’m losing some of the white ones and can’t do anything about it. That distresses me. I’ve done the landscaping at our church, too, although I’ve had to give up most of the outdoor work there. It’s harder now that I’m 80, but I just can’t stay inside.
Evans: What about those boxed up pecans we saw? You must have pecan trees.
Anne: We do, and I pick them up every year. There were fewer last fall than the year before, but enough. I’ll have them cracked then start giving them away. I’ve given away hundreds of pounds over the years.
Evans: With all this land, two houses, the landscaping, the animals you take care of, and your church work, the two of you aren’t bored in retirement, are you?
Melvin: There’s no room in my vocabulary for the word bored, or Anne’s either.
Evans: So, are you still making bucket lists, still things you want to do?
Melvin: Not really, because in many ways, I’ve done all I want to do. But as far as preaching, I’m not ready to hang it up. I’m still preaching and teaching new material, and I’ve never lost the wonder of it. Don’t think I ever will.
Anne: I also teach. I started a women’s through-the-Bible class years ago, and I’m still going. It’s work, but I like the study and research and writing. I sing in the choir and a trio, do bulletin boards, and decorate the church every season.
Melvin: Milton and I are co-pastors of Liberty, so we divide the preaching and teaching. If I introduce a book, he’ll do the first section, and I’ll do the next and so on; so we alternate. We still sing as well. As for the farm, I rent out the land. Last year we grew mostly soybeans and sweet potatoes. Of course, we’ve got animals—donkeys, the llama, cattle, and the other things that you saw out there. Anne and I come over here early every morning and tend to them. I’m also in Rotary Club. One of our projects is Meals on Wheels. I like doing that. You know, we old people want our food on time, so we make sure those people get it. They count on us.
Evans: Let’s shift gears a bit, because I remember something you hinted at earlier in our conversation about being called. You said both you and your dad were called by the Lord.
Melvin: I just meant that I believe Daddy was called to farm, just as much as I was called to preach. And so that’s what we each did. Before I ever settled on which college to go to, he talked to me about going to North Carolina State, studying agriculture, and coming back to farm. When I wanted to go another direction, he came to grips with it and didn’t fight it. He was happy for me. His calling influenced me to be the person I have been in the ministry. I saw his faithfulness and integrity and contentment. He showed me the way. He believed the Lord was in control and just trusted Him. That’s what I’ve practiced as well.
Evans: What about you, Anne? Did you feel a special call from the Lord?
Anne: I’ve always wanted to serve Him, and I’ve wanted Melvin to, as well. I was happy when the Lord called him to preach. In fact, I said to him, “I told you so.” My father was not a preacher, but he was a kind servant of the Lord. When I was three or four years old, I had a ruptured appendix. The doctor thought I would die. Mom and Dad asked the Lord to spare my life, and they promised to give me to Him for whatever He wanted me to do, and they did. My father worked on a large dairy farm, and we were poor, but he was faithful to the Lord until he died at age 95. He gave and taught in our church in Zurich Lake, Illinois, and helped others. Mom too. Her mother had died when she was six, so after Mom finished sixth grade she had to quit school. As I was growing up, she worked in a factory. They both did what they could to help me go to Columbia Bible College because they had given me to the Lord. They were good people.
Evans: You are both 80, yet still very active in the Lord’s work and on the farm as well. What does the future look like for you all?
Anne: I want to keep going, but especially I want to be known as a kind servant of the Lord like my father was, and I think I have been.
Melvin: Being a faithful and consistent steward of our resources is my goal. That’s what I believe in, and that’s why we are here in Ayden on the farm. I also try to guide Liberty, our church, to manage well. I have a stewardship burden for our denomination as a whole. Anne and I have funded a Unitrust at Free Will Baptist Foundation. It gives us some income now, but the important thing is that at our deaths, the remaining funds go to the Together Way endowment that will benefit the denomination’s departments and commissions. I like the idea of helping our work long into the future. That’s why we have the Unitrust.
Evans: Melvin, you’ve just recently retired from the board of FWB Foundation after serving 12 years. What have you learned from serving as a board member?
Melvin: I really enjoyed it. It has kept me involved without being in the spotlight, and I was ready for that. The Foundation has made quiet and steady progress. David Brown, director, has broadened the umbrella beyond what it was when I was Executive Secretary for the denomination. He’s worked well with the other departments, brought in Cornerstone for estate planning, and this year the Foundation made half a million dollars in grant money available. The Foundation’s purpose is to serve our denomination as a whole, and it’s doing that. As a denomination, we’ve come a long way since I came on as Executive Secretary in 1979.
Evans: Any final word?
Melvin: It goes back to that thing I learned as a young college student: you have to be something before you do something. I want to be a good steward then I can do what God wants me to do as long as I live.
About the Writers: Bill and Brenda Evans live in Ashland, Kentucky. Bill is former director of the Free Will Baptist Foundation and Brenda is a retired English teacher. Visit www.fwbgifts.org for more information on planned giving that benefits your favorite ministry.