We’re back in Tennessee but only for a few days. It’s time for our bodies’ umpty-thousand-mile checkups. We arrived in Johnson City on June 6 for visits to our personal physician and good friend, Dr. Guy Robins; to the eye doctor for Roy and the audiologist for Joy (she’s having a little difficulty hearing my helpful suggestions of late); to the dentist for both of us. So far all our medical advisers have declared us fit for Round Two of our Next Phase (but not our Last Phase).
This touchdown on our old turf isn’t all about doctoring, though. We got to worship in our own church on Sunday. The sermon was predictable, I’m afraid, even though I wrote a new one for the occasion. Ethan Magness, First Christian’s dynamic lead pastor, kindly invited me back to the church where for six months I’d held forth prior to his taking up his duties. This large church has five Sunday morning services; Ethan took pity and just asked me to speak “live” for three of them. What a treat it was to be back in this warm fellowship and to get caught up with the extraordinary staff.
I confess this return trip made me a little homesick.
So did returning to the campus of Emmanuel Christian Seminary, from which I took my third retirement in May 2016.
The outside of the main building looks the same, but inside it has been transformed. Since Emmanuel’s merger with Milligan College across the highway, the seminary’s B. D. Phillips building now also houses Milligan’s new electrical and mechanical engineering and physician’s assistants’ degree programs. I was fortunate to catch a few of my former colleagues on the job even though the academic year concluded a few weeks ago. It was a honor to be asked to serve alongside these brilliant, dedicated professors and support staff.
The ECS Thompson Center, in addition to serving the seminary also now houses Milligan’s occupational therapy program. Some guest rooms have been retained, although the apartment Joy and I occupied fall semester 2010 has been joined with another and converted into a lecture hall.
We also dropped in on the weekly meeting of our old neighbors in the independent living units of Cornerstone Village, where from 2011-2016 we were the youngest residents. (I think we would still be.) Since almost everywhere else we go we’re the oldest present, we loved being the youngsters! Our original plan was to live here until we didn’t live anywhere. We didn’t anticipate then that we’d be on the loose again! We love our vagabonding but we miss these friends.
The highlight of our stay in Johnson City, of course, was the time we got to spend with our great-grandchildren: Eden (9 years old), Elias (7—this week!), and Estin (almost 5).
We’ll all be together at our all-family vacation next week in Branson, MO.
It was also fun to get caught up with their parents. Granddaughter Stephanie continues to set new records with Mary Kay, overseeing an ever-growing group of distributors—and driving to her meetings in her pink Cadillac. Grandson Tom is finishing his second master’s degree (the first in theology, the second in social work). He ministers as a chaplain at Indian Path Hospital in Kingsport. (Wouldn’t you know, we were so carried away taking pictures of the great-grands we completely overlooked their parents. We love them, too!)
In addition we’ve been able to spend quality time with some—but not nearly enough—of our other good friends here. We lived in Johnson City the first time when I was a young professor and then vice-president of Milligan College, 1965-1973, and the second time for my stint as a very old professor at Emmanuel Christian Seminary in 2012-2016. This brief visit was a reminder of how deeply rooted we are in this place and how much we treasure these friends.
We can’t seem to ever return to Johnson City without driving out of our way to look at our first Tennessee home. We bought this house from the parents of Dr. Jess Johnson, my boss at Milligan. You can’t tell by looking, but while we lived there we doubled its size—without going outside the exterior walls–creating three bedrooms and a bath in the basement and a large playroom for the children in the former attic. Joy, her father and I did the work. Joy’s job: She came up with the (costly) ideas—which I assured her were impossible. Like a good wife she appealed over my head to her father. His invariable answer to her impossible requests: “That’s no problem. We can do it.” His job: the hands-on construction; if he said it could be done it was done. That brings up my job: I went to the bank! The house still stands and looks as good as it did in our day.
Dr. Miriam Perkins, former colleague at ECS, graciously offered us her house for our stay. We accepted. She’s in Scotland, so we’ve had the run of the place. What made this a special treat for Joy was, as she told everyone, “I get to sleep in my own bed!” When we were divesting ourselves of house and furnishings we let our kids and grandkids have first pick of anything they wanted. Then we invited friends to take what was left. We were surprised that the family didn’t want some items we treasured most—like our bed, our sofa, some chairs and rugs, etc. We were happy when Miriam said she could use them. These items are now hers. Living with them again enriched our stay here. One thing Miriam probably didn’t anticipate: We’ll be dropping in for a visit from time to time. She’ll think we came to see her.
I was ready to push Publish on this post, but I’d have cheated you if I had. Among our favorite people in the whole world is Effie Giles. We had lunch together and then strawberries and ice cream back at her house. We’ve known her since the 1960s, when as the Candidate Secretary for Christian Missionary Fellowship I drove us to Eastern North Carolina to interview her and Ray as a step in the process that led to their long-time service in Ethiopia and the CMF home office in Indianapolis. Ray is gone now, but Effie continues to mentor and bless others preparing for missions service. In one way or another all four of her children and their spouses are continuing the Giles legacy. In May her grandson Adam and his wife Allison were commissioned as missionaries to East Africa. So much more I’d like to tell you about her and her remarkable family, but I must bring this post to a close. I couldn’t think of a better way to do so than by introducing you to this living, loving saint.
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