CHAPTER NINE

The Abilene Years

by Irene Gurganus

On to Abilene

Following our brief trip to Hawaii , we returned to Abilene to make our new home.  We had been invited by Dr. Stevens to initiate at Abilene Christian University a program similar to the one that George had begun at Harding Graduate School. In Abilene we were very fortunate to find a house that had been owned by a member of the church who had been transferred to Texas and had to sell in a hurry.  He sold it to us at a very cheap price.  It was a beautiful home on Lytle Shores Lake , located in a beautiful area on the northern outskirts of Abilene .  We lived on Lakeshore Drive , right next to the airport.  We could look out from our back patio garden and see the planes taking off and landing.  It reminded us of the days when George Pope had worked for the airlines, when we had been living in a little apartment in Amboy, N.Y., and were able to watch the planes taking off.  Of course, those planes were very different: They were all DC3s. We didn't know what a jet was in those days.

At the time, Janetkay and her husband, David, were living in Stephenville, Texas.  Janetkay was just finishing her studies at Tarleton State University and was seven months pregnant with her first child, Jinanne. After she graduated, Janetkay and David came to stay with us, and so Jinanne was born in Abilene in August of that year.  In September they moved to Austin .  I went and stayed with them for several weeks to help them get settled in their new apartment.  David began studying for his Ph.D. at the University of Texas, majoring in Japanese.

 Little Prince the 17th

George had given me a dog the previous Christmas, whom I called Pom Pom, although his real name was Little Prince the 17th rather long name for a Pomeranian.  He was a two-person dog: He loved my mother as much as he loved me.  He didn't particularly like Pope, however, and especially didn't like it when he hugged or kissed me.  One day when we were sitting on the love seat, the dog suddenly bit George's foot, causing it to bleed!  George had to go to school and teach classes with the front part of his shoe cut off because his toe was in such bad shape. 

Actually, PomPom bit a number of people who came near me, and it caused me concern to think that my grandchild would be in the house. Naturally, I would be showing her great affection, and I thought it would be terrible if he bit her, so I called the vet and asked his advice.  He said the dog was becoming old and ornery and would probably get worse, and stated that there was nothing that could be done. He therefore suggested that I put the dog to sleep.  Although it was difficult, I decided to follow his advice because I definitely didn't want to put my grandchild in danger.

Accordingly, one day after I had left with my mother for Stephenville to help Janetkay pack and get ready to move to our house, Pope took the dog to the vet and had him put to sleep. He then came home and buried him under a tree in our backyard.  I was very sad all the way to Stephenville and while we were there, although I couldn't tell my mother why because I knew that she would be very unhappy.  However, I had to pull over to the side of the road just before we got home to break the news to her.  She became very angry with George Pope because she thought that it was his idea and that he had made me do it.  She wouldn't speak to him for a couple of days.  That was a very difficult time for us.  She finally got over it and they became the best of friends again, but I'm not sure she ever really forgot the incident.  But our grandchild Jinanne was with us for a month, and if the dog had been with us, I would have been continually on guard and very anxious, so I know it was the right decision. Eventually it became a family story that was told many times. 

George's Secretary

When George first began teaching at Abilene Christian University in January, he was given an office in the basement of one of the old dorms and a room he was to use as a classroom.  Although he had a secretary, she had to go out of town for family reasons on one occasion, and I was asked to work in her place during that time.  I wasn't too keen on the idea, so I checked with some other women who were working for their husbands and decided to make up a contract for us to sign.

 

the Contract

The Treadway Church of Christ

John Stevens, president of the university, was an elder at the Central Church of Christ.  Soon the church also appointed my husband an elder.  We became very good friends with John and his wife, Ruth.

We learned that there was a church not too far away composed entirely of black members, the Treadway Church of Christ.  This church was having some financial problems, and the College Church of Christ was helping them out in that area.  Some of the young members of the College Church of Christ were in Pope's class, and they brought up the idea of uniting the two congregations. George agreed with this idea, and in order to prepare for the change, we invited the Treadway church to have some of its children attend our Sunday school classes and while a few of its members attended our services.  At that time, one of Pope's students from Harding, Randy Becton, moved to Abilene to continue working towards his masters degree at the university because he wanted to be with George.   He also was interested in our uniting with the Treadway church and gave his support. He was a tall blond with a great personality and was in great demand as a young speaker.  Most people thought he was our son because he looked so much like George.  We were very close to him and his wife.

At an elders' meeting around that time, the Sunday on which the two congregations would start carrying out services together was decided.  However, this had not yet been communicated to the congregation, and George felt they needed to educate the congregation beforehand regarding these plans because it was evident that some members were having a hard time just accepting the black children in the classes.  However, the elders believed that as good Christians, they ought to accept the change willingly and should need no special preparation.  But even before the plan had been carried out, many in the congregation learned of it and said they definitely didn't want to go along.

It was evident there was a lot of racism among the group.  But there were also a number of members who wanted to unite with the black church, so two young ladies and three or four couples went over to the Treadway church and began meeting with them.  John Allen Chalk, one of our closest friends, was one of the most spiritual preachers we knew and a very dynamic speaker. He really wanted us to move to his church, the Highland Church .  He said they would support our missions program and would help fund some scholarships for our missions seminars.  We had over a hundred students, and financial help was hard to come by.  So we went there one Sunday evening, thinking we might change from Central to Highland .

That evening, John Allen preached a lesson on what Jesus would do if he were in Abilene .  One of the things he mentioned was that Jesus would probably work with people whom he could really serve, not the upper crust, but some of the poorer people.  The more John Allen preached, the more George thought about the situation at the Treadway church.  The people there really needed some spiritual leadership, and George felt they needed what he could bring to them at the moment.  So as John Allen was preaching, George thought, 的 shouldn't worry about whether people in Abilene look up to me as being a member of one of the most prestigious churches or about whether I can gain financial support by becoming a part of this congregation.・He knew the work we were going to do was worth supporting; he just needed to trust God that the money would come from somewhere and do what he thought Jesus would do.  As we shook hands with John Allen after the service, George thanked him for his sermon and said he had convinced us to place membership at the Treadway church.  John Allen was taken aback because he thought we were coming to place our membership there.  But he understood and said he respected our decision.  So the next week we went to the Treadway church and told them we would be glad to worship with them and help them out in any way we could.

The first thing we did was to help them become financially self-supporting so that the College church would not have to give them any more money.  The next thing George did was to train more leaders who could preach and take care of the children's ministry.  There was a building next door the church owned but was not using, so we helped them clean and redecorate the facility and make it into several classrooms for the children.  Later on, we helped them buy the property immediately behind the church so that they would have room for expansion, which in the meantime served as a good parking area.

Gradually some of the young people became students at Abilene University , and because of that, we attracted some of the more well-to-do black people.  Gradually the church began to grow.  We worked hard and loved worshiping with them. We had trusted God that if we put the Kingdom first we would be blessed預nd, as always, we were.

Edgar Low

There was an older gentleman in the congregation named Edgar Low.  I think he must have been in his 90s at the time.  Edgar and his wife lived in a one-room house across the street from the church building.  It was a very poor place with a little stove in the middle of the room for heating and cooking.  Their bed was in one corner, and their clothes were hanging on a rod stretched across one end of the room.  Their home was very humble, yet they were very happy.  Although he had not been to school beyond the second grade, he knew his Bible from cover to cover.  He could really quote scripture.  We would just say what scripture we wanted to read that evening, and he could practically quote it all. He had memorized verses just by listening to people!

Edgar also had a really strong faith that God was going to be with him always.  The reason he believed it so strongly was that at the end of Matthew 28, in the King James Version, Jesus states, I am with you always even unto the end of the earth.He thought because his name was Low, Jesus was talking to him!

Most of the members knew the Bible very well.  We had a lot of lively discussions in which people sincerely searched for the truth.  Sometimes they disagreed with each other and the conversations would get quite heated.  But when the discussion was over, they would still the best of friends.

The sermon was always preached before the communion service.  At the end of the sermon, the preacher would ask if anyone had any sins to confess or if anyone needed prayers.  We would stand and sing a song, and then everyone would sit down, except those who wanted to say something.  Sometimes they would request prayers for an illness or a problem they were having.  Other times they would say they had really lost their temper that week or had been disrespectful to somebody or had not treated their wife or husband well, and would ask the congregation to forgive them.  They would do all this before we had the communion service so that everybody had confessed and was in a good relationship with the Lord and one another.  That was always an inspiring time.

The women would plan special programs, like our Women's Days.  They were beautiful programs: The decorations, artwork, refreshments, and lesson-planning were all excellent.  It was always inspiring.  They always asked for my help, but I believe I learned from them more than I was ever able to teach them.  We took turns cleaning and decorating the church building.  They were always impressed with the fact that George, even though he had a PhD, would get down on his hands and knees and scrub the bathroom floor or clean the toilets and do even the dirtiest work; they were moved by his humility.  In fact, they asked him to become an elder.  They joked that he was a white person but had a black heart.

The other two elders serving with George were both extremely spiritual men.  He felt very blessed working beside them.  One of the elders had raised six children, all of whom were very faithful.  They both had great marriages and were very humble, loving, serving and evangelistic.  They knew their Bibles well and prayed and delved into their Bibles everyday.  George and I thoroughly enjoyed working with them.

Terry Childers

Terry Childers, the son of one of the elders, was asked to join George on a summer mission trip.  Normally George would take teams to two countries to help the missionaries there.  They would evangelize and sometimes do physical labor, enjoying the chance to travel around the world and have some fun along the way.  But Terry said there was no way he could raise the money to go on a trip like that.  George advised Terry to write to his friends and relatives, telling them what he wanted to do and asking them to donate 10 or 15 dollars, and see what he came up with.  Terry decided to give it a try, and he was quite surprised by the outcome.  Terry collected so much money that he was able to help one of the other students to go also!  George had learned from many experiences that if money was needed for a specific purpose, you would receive the exact amount needed if you prayed with faith.  We saw this happen many times.

On this trip, they went to Sweden and Russia .  During the course of working together, Terry learned that Swedish people were very prejudiced against blacks and that the Russians were also.  Traveling through Japan as well, he saw a lot of prejudice.  While riding on a bus in Japan , he said, have seen socialist countries, communist countries and imperialist countries, and they all have some prejudice.  They all have problems.  From now on I'm going to be for America , for America 's freedom, and I am no longer going to see color.  I will work alongside the white man and the black man and I'm not going to have any more racial bias. George was very thankful for his change of attitude.  In fact, Terry even went on to attend Abilene Christian University , which he had said he would never do because they were against black people.

Terry went on to learn that, although some people at the university indeed were prejudiced, a lot of people were not.  He became a fine student and a strong leader in the church in his college days.  He went on to graduate school and got his master's degree in political science and then became an assistant city manager, first for a small town in Texas, then for Austin, and then for Oklahoma City.  Terry and his father, Watson, were always grateful to George for his help.  Watson always said it was because of George that had Terry turned out to be the way he was.  One of Terry's older brothers also got a similar degree and worked in the same field.  All of Watson's children were well educated, even though he himself had only completed the sixth grade.

George and I were blessed tremendously during the 11 years we worked for that congregation.  We learned a lot and grew a lot, and we also developed some very deep friendships.  The church grew and even sent out a mission team to a poorer area of town.  When we attended various events in the academic world, folks would ask George where we went to church.  When he replied, th and Treadway,・they would say, that's a black church, isn't it?  And he would say, yes, it is. They would look at us like something was wrong with us, but we didn't let that bother us.  We worked with some of the poorest black people and some of the wealthiest people in the churches in Abilene and never felt that anybody was inferior or superior to anybody else.  I believe God blessed our efforts to help them, and he blessed us with some great relationships and some beautiful memories of our work together.

Missions Program at Abilene and the Strategy Room

The Missions Program at Abilene Christian University started with just one room in the basement of the girls・dorm.  Several people became very interested in what we were doing soon after we started the program.  An old home of one of the former presidents was right off campus and was not being used for anything, so George asked if he could use that house for his Missions program.  We were granted permission to use it, but we had to remodel it quite a bit. In addition to several offices, we had a room George designated our strategy room.

We had many friends there whom we had known in Japan , where they had served in the military.  A number of them were stationed in San Antonio , Texas .  There was a colonel there who had planned strategy rooms for the army, and we asked him to design a room for us.  A missionary who had returned from South America was quite an artist, and he drew a large map of the world on one wall of the strategy room.  Then we shined a black light on it to illuminate where the missionaries were and where churches had been planted.

We began a new method of slide presentations with the projectors in a room behind the screen.  George could lecture while standing at the back of the room and merely press buttons to put the slides up on the screen.  We could even do double slides, showing, for example, women in a third world country washing clothes in a stream on one slide while showing a modern laundry facility on another, contrasting the two lifestyles.  There was a long table in the middle of the room, which was surrounded by swivel chairs so that the students could turn their chairs towards the slide show, the map illuminated by the black light, the chalkboard, or another wall where there were several maps illuminated by special lights while George was lecturing.  All this was quite high-tech for 1970!  It was patterned after the strategy rooms the army used for charting maneuvers and planning strategy.

We also created a small museum in the building, where we displayed the theses of those who had obtained master's degrees in missions as well as copies of a publication George Pope edited called The Mission Strategy Bulletin.  In addition, there were several glass cases containing artifacts George had collected during his trips, which we labeled and changed periodically.  We also had a magazine rack where we kept all kinds of magazines appropriate for those studying missions at the graduate level.

Most of George's teaching was at the graduate level.  Programs included a master of arts in missions, a master of science in missions and a master of theology in missions. Later, a master of divinity degree was added, which was more like a doctorate degree.  The department continued to add teachers with expertise in various fields.  We had men who could teach animism and related subjects, while others focused on training missionaries for South America , for example.

I worked on a volunteer basis during this period. My duties included maintaining statistics on the missionaries, taking care of the museum, and helping the secretary with odd jobs.  Once in a while, I would straighten up my husband's office, putting books in their proper places. George claimed he could never find anything after I straightened up; however, I couldn't understand how he could before I did!  That became one of our favorite jokes. George always said I was 杜essing up・his office, while I thought I was straightening it up.  

The number of missionaries increased gradually starting in 1968. We ended up with 15 people on staff in the missions department.  George usually had staff meetings starting at noon , to which the members would bring their own lunch.  We would discuss whatever problems we had or programs we wanted to initiate.

I particularly enjoyed working there in the summers, when we had our missions seminars.  I was the paid registrar for these seminars, and I also made arrangements for the classrooms and childcare facilities・/span>I took care of all the logistics.  My husband gave me the name and even put this name on my nametag!  I was his Girl Friday.  The reason only I could do the registration, housing, and similar duties was that we had a unique program that the people in the main office could never manage to figure out.  We let people audit courses, but there was a definite standard for such students. Also, our pricing system was different from that of other departments.  We were allowed to house everyone including single men and women, families and teachers in a dorm originally used as a women's dorm.  Even students auditing classes were allowed to live in this dorm, a practice the school normally didn't permit.  We even had a childcare program to enable parents with children to attend classes, which were held at various hours.  My granddaughters did a lot of the babysitting.

We had a devotional every night, sports and other fun activities on the weekends, and our own worship services on Sundays.  Each Sunday we tried to make the service reflect the culture of some country.  We had African, Indian, and South American services, for example.  Sometimes we would go to a hayloft, an old broken-down building or a stadium and have our service there. We wanted to show people that the building was not important, that it was the hearts of the people that mattered and that you could worship God anywhere in the world in any cultural form. In other words, we were free to conduct worship services in any way as long as the main ingredients were there.  Everybody thoroughly enjoyed those services.  We had our own chapel, and everyday we had activities or gave speeches there between classes.

We had all sorts of special programs, including series on health on the mission field, setting goals and reaching them, being happily married on the mission field, and managing finances while on the field.  There was also a class for missionaries wives, which most women enjoyed greatly. During each chapel service, we would focus on one particular subject. 

Mission Trips and a Narrow Escape

George periodically led groups of students on overseas mission trips between semesters. Although these trips were church-sponsored, George always paid his own way. In addition, he made numerous trips during the school year. On one occasion, he accompanied Phil Elkins, a teacher who had some connection with the Wycliffe Bible Translators, and a few others on a training session in the jungle area of northern Guatemala because he was very interested in the work of this organization. The plane they flew in was so small and unstable that they found it necessary to pray earnestly during the landing.  It was an exciting experience!  As the training began, one young woman, obviously from a wealthy family and unaccustomed to the outdoors, fell over in a dead faint as the instructor talked about giving shots.  The participants were trained in canoeing and jungle cooking, and even learned to make a bed from tree limbs. After the training, they were given a few essentials and told to go into the jungle and find their way out to a designated spot.

After three weeks, George and Phil hired a native with an old car to drive them to a missionary's home in another area of Guatemala .  The missionary's wife was there when they arrived and asked them what they would like to do after their long trip.  Phil wanted to sleep, and George just wanted a bath. They had a tub with an old-fashioned water heater.  George seemed to be staying in there for an unusually long time, so the missionary's wife called through the door, but there was no reply.  She woke up Phil, who opened the door and saw George lying on the floor.  Phil carried him to the bed and started CPR. George survived, but it took about eight hours before he came to full consciousness.  They drove to Guatemala City the next day to have George see a doctor and thanked God after the doctor said George was okay.  Of course, I didn't know about all this until he arrived home, which was several days earlier than expected.  That was the second time he had a narrow escape.  God still had work for him to do.

Lynn and Lynette in Japan

Lynette and her husband, Lynn, had decided that after graduating they wanted to do mission work.  So they went to Japan in 1969 to stay for a couple of years and participate in what we called our apprentice program.  Students could work with missionaries for a year or two, first, to see whether they were really able to be of assistance to the existing missionary, and second, if they really wanted to do mission work as a career.  They wanted to go to Tokyo , Japan , to work with the church there for a couple of years.  After arriving, they helped with the camp program, the Sunday school program, and in any other way that they could.  They also studied the language. 

While there, something happened that they hadn't planned on Lynette became pregnant.  The baby was due in August 1970.  So, I went to Japan and stayed for a couple of months to help Lynette before and after the baby's birth.  Angelyn Irene was born on August 27, 1970

I thoroughly enjoyed my two months there.  I hadn't been back to Japan since 1960, and although a lot of things had changed, a lot of things were the same.  We lived in a Japanese two-room house that was on the church's property.  We built that house for about $600.  It was very convenient.  As you came in the entrance, there was a big concrete bathroom in front of you.  Then you'd come into the kitchen, where there was a long counter, a little two-burner gas stove, a little refrigerator in the corner, and a sink.  Next to the kitchen area was a tatami room, where we sat around a table on the floor.  This room was connected through sliding doors to a little patio.  The room next to that was where we spread the futons on the floor at night to sleep.  To the right of that room was the toilet.  Outside the front door, there was a garden between this Japanese house and the missionary house, where Mori-san, the preacher at that time, and his wife were living.  

The Mori Family

This picture was taken in front of our Memphis home
when Mr. Mori was attending graduate school.

It was very hot at that time, so we decided to buy a window air conditioner and found one at a garage sale of a GI for $15.00.  Lynette brought it back to America when they came back and used it for a while, and then we put it out in our lake house.

Lynette had a Chinese doctor at a Japanese hospital for her delivery.  At that time, Japanese women did not believe in taking medication for delivery, so Lynette had a natural delivery.  When she was halfway through labor, she wished she had gone to an American doctor so she could have drugs like other American women.  But she did fine.  It was quite interesting because their procedures are quite different from ours.  Although it was August, they put something on the baby's head and wrapped her up in a blanket to keep her very warm.  I was thankful that after a week we could take the baby home and take off some of her clothes.  When a nurse would come to check on the baby, we would put all the clothes back on.  As soon as she'd leave, we'd take all the clothes off except for the diaper because it was so hot.   

That was a very interesting time.  I enjoyed being there to help with the baby.  I could walk to the hospital in Shibuya.  I would walk very late at night sometimes, never fearing that anyone would bother me.  Crime was not a big problem in Japan at that time.  

After Lynette and her husband came back from Japan , they decided they would enjoy being missionaries.  So they initially came to ACU so that he could get his masters degree.  It was really nice having them in Abilene , where I could baby-sit for Angie.  Janetkay was in Austin at that time
j
ust a three-hour drive away to the entire family was living in close proximity.  David was still working on his PhD then.  

Janetkay and David in Japan

Not long after Lynette came back from Japan , Janetkay and David went to Japan , from 1972 to 1974.  David was doing research for his doctoral thesis dissertation.  While there, Janetkay taught English to Japanese guides, a job she found to be very interesting.  She was also on a radio program called English for Millions. People would buy a book to follow the lessons on the radio; Janetkay and a Japanese teacher would talk to each other e in Japanese and she in English.  They called her Miss Janet Jones, and she was widely known throughout Tokyo and the Ibaraki area as a radio personality.  Janetkay enjoyed her radio program, which she continued until they came back in 1974.

Janetkay and David made many good Japanese friends during that time.  Their daughter went to a Japanese kindergarten and learned to speak Japanese because no English was spoken at the school.  She loved Japan and had mastered Japanese by the ripe old age of four!

Ryan

Lynette and her husband later moved to Ardmore , Oklahoma , where Lynn began preaching while teaching at school.  Lynette became pregnant again, and we were hoping for a boy this time.  I had no brothers and no sons, and my first two grandchildren were girls, so we were really looking for a male to be added to our family.  I drove up to stay with Lynette just before her due date.  However, because it seemed the baby would be born a little later than expected, I took Angie with me and drove back to Abilene to take care of a few things.  Just as I got back to Abilene , however, Lynette called.  She was in labor, so I turned right around and drove back to Ardmore to greet our new grandson, Ryan.

Lynette and her family stayed in Ardmore for some time after that, and then in the fall they moved to Flushing , New York .  The congregation there needed a preacher who had some cross-cultural experience and could work with their multiracial membership.  Lynn had studied cultural anthropology while working on his master's at Abilene , which made him suitable for the position.  So, Lynn became their preacher.  We visited them the following year, and they were doing fine.

Ryan and Angelyn

Growing Interest in Missions  

My husband's nephew, George Gurganus, came to Abilene to work on his master's in missions.  He had been in Japan for a couple of years doing mission work prior to that.  Another nephew, Rick Benjamin, his youngest sister's son, came to Abilene , as did a niece's son.  Most of them were very interested in missions, and they felt they should go on a mission team somewhere because they were Gurganuses related to uncle Pope, as they called him. 

A couple of funny incidents happened at that time.  The first group of students to work on their master's included George (my husband's nephew) and his wife, Mandy.  Mandy had become pregnant just before they came back to Abilene and had the baby in May or June.  They put an announcement in the newspaper saying, M

Mrs. George Gurganus had a baby girl. Some of the people at the Central church, which we were attending at the time, said they couldn't even tell I was pregnant!  I was 51 years old at the time!  I said I wasn't pregnant and that my niece had had the baby.  That was quite a joke.

Mandy and I both went to the same drugstore, and once when I went to pick up my blood pressure medicine, they gave me Mandy's medicine because both prescriptions said Mrs. George Gurganus. She had just weaned her baby, and her prescription was to dry up her milk.  Thankfully, we discovered the difference before either one of us took the wrong medicine!  From then on we had prescriptions filled using our first names, Mandy or Irene not Mrs. George.

Moving  

At that time, we lived in Lytle Shores , a rather ritzy area, and had a lovely, big home.  When I gave people my address, they always looked at me like I was someone special.  It was quite an expensive neighborhood, and those who lived on Lytle Shores Drive were normally quite wealthy.  However, I didn't like the image.  When I went to the store and gave my address to have something delivered, people would treat me differently just because of my address.

Also, the white carpets in the house were very difficult to keep clean because we had so many visitors all the time.  Almost every Sunday, we would have a lunch gathering at our house for about 15 students.  I thought we should sell the house and move closer to the school, and George agreed.

One time when George had gone out of town, as he often did, for a weekend workshop for one of the churches, a buyer came who wanted to buy the house right away. I called George and told him about it, and he said to go ahead and accept the offer right then.  Following this, George would always tell people that I sold the house out from under him while he was out of town!  He always liked to tease me with some of these stories.  The people who bought the house wanted to move by Christmas so they could celebrate the holidays in their new house.  We hadn't found another place yet, so we rented a small three-room apartment near campus and put all our stuff in storage.  Then we went to Chicago for Christmas with my sister and her children and grandchildren, and both our girls and their husbands and children.  There were about 28 people there.  We had a great Christmas together.

After coming back, we started looking for another house.  Although I had always wanted to live near water and in the country, I had always had to live in urban areas.  This time, however, we were able to find a place on Fort Phantom Lake .  It was a three-room wooden house with a large screened-in front porch.  It had a big kitchen, living room and bedroom.  All around the house was St. Augustine grass.  In the yard there were two weeping willows as well as peach trees, fig trees, and a lot of rose bushes. There was a beautiful round table on the patio with tiles in it that made it look like cloisonn・ that・/span>s where we would clean the fish we caught in the lake. It also had a great big backyard with a garden, where we grew fresh vegetables.  We decided to move most of our furniture out to this new house, but we left some in storage.  We started a garden soon after we moved there. We especially enjoyed the peach trees, fig trees, and the lake.  Several people had their weddings there because it was so pretty.   

The Lake House in Abilene

We knew we needed to find a bigger house.  My mother was staying with my sister at that time, but she would be coming back pretty soon.  And we wanted a guest room for when the girls came to visit.  We found a house on Avenue F that was within walking distance of the school and the home of John and Ruth Stevens, our best friends.  

I fell in love with the house immediately.  It was not large, but it had three bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, two bathrooms, a kitchen, and a two-car garage.  The dining room had a red brick floor and a big bay window.  The living room had a fireplace and an alcove, where I could put my black lacquer piano and black lacquer table and cabinets; it was our Japanese spot.  We placed the other living room furniture in front of the fireplace. 

The most interesting room was the kitchen.  The woman who had owned the house before had designed it herself.  It was spacious and incorporated many practical features that made organizing and storing kitchen items easy.  It was a wonderful kitchen, and I dearly loved to cook in it.

The yard was enclosed and had a beautiful garden with rose bushes, shrubs and various other plants.  We had a dog, which could run around in the backyard without having to be taken for a walk.  There was a little patio back there.   I dearly loved that house.  My mother had her own room, and we had a guest room and a bath.  The master bedroom was at the back of the house, and we could walk out onto the patio from our bedroom.

We kept some of our furniture out at the lake house, where we went when things got a little hectic and we needed to get away.  We'd go out in there in the evening, hoe in the garden, have a picnic dinner and relax in the backyard, and then come inside.  Sometimes we even spent the night there. 

We also allowed returning missionaries to use the lake house with their families.  They would come back from the field on vacation to raise money for support from churches, perhaps $50 from one church and $100 from another, and would spend most of their vacation time traveling around to these churches.  They would stay with their families at the churches, so they were never really able to relax擁t was like living in a fish bowl for them. So we would suggest that they come to Abilene and stay at our lake house for three or four days in order to relax and so that their kids could do what kids love doing.  They could eat the kind of food they liked and have some private time together.  They always enjoyed that.

We also had get-togethers for the missions students out at the lake house: picnics and parties and showers.  We really loved that place.  We only paid $11,000 for it, and when we sold it, we got the same amount容ven after having used it for 10 years. So it was a pretty good investment.

Other Mission Trips

George took students to many different countries and cities.  They went to Russia , Sweden , Greece , Nazareth , Jerusalem , Bangkok , Singapore , Indonesia and India .  They went all around the world and helped many people.  The times in India were really interesting because they went out into the Indian villages.  They slept on rope hammocks and often lived off bananas and fig leaves because there wasn't much else to eat.  Once, the engine of their jeep stalled just as they entered a shallow river they were trying to ford in order to make their way back to the city.  So they threw a rope to the other side, and George carried most of the students across the river on his back, using the rope as a guide.  It was a scary time.

In Indonesia there was a war going on.  When traveling from one town to another, they would sometimes see shooting going on very nearby.  One time they went to a river outside the town to have a baptism.  George Pope stood on the top of a hill to watch for soldiers coming up the road and crocodiles in the river while one young man baptized another.

 John and Ruth Stevens

George loved basketball, and we went to most of the university's basketball games.  George Pope got in trouble a couple of times because in Chicago , where he grew up, if the referee did something you didn't like, you could boo him.  It was fine; everybody did it, and nobody cared.  We were sitting next to John Stevens, university president, and his wife at a game when my husband started booing the referee.  John said, this is a Christian college and we don't boo anybody. So George got rebuked for his booing.  He also loved to whistle when somebody did something good.  He had a really strong whistle, and that was OK, but he couldn't boo.  It took a while for him to learn that.  We had a good basketball team most of the time. 

We loved football, too.  Many times John and Ruth Stevens would sit up with the press.  They had a special place there to sit, where there were six or seven special seats.  When there weren't any dignitaries in town or his family wasn't with them, they would always invite us to sit with them.  So we had ringside seats up there, which we thoroughly enjoyed.  We had a really good football team, which went to the championships a couple of times.  We drove a long way to see the championship games and loved them.  Some of the players went on to play professionally. Longley was quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys a couple of years, and Wilbert Montgomery was a star running back for the Philadelphia Eagles, to name a couple. 

John and Ruth Stevens became very close friends when we went to the Central church, where he and George were elders together.  It wasn't until later that John became president of the university.  We remained very good friends after that, but we had to be careful about oliticking for the Missions Department.  We didn't discuss business when we socialized; we just had fun.  When we went to a faculty meeting, we didn't spend all our time with each other.  We would each fellowship other couples.  We didn't flaunt our relationship but kept it low key.  John and Ruth were very down-to-earth, loving people. 

Ruth and I got along so well that we could almost finish sentences for each other.  We each knew what the other was thinking.  She's about eight years younger than I, but that didn't seem to make any difference.  They also loved my mother a lot.  John was always so tender and sensitive with my mother.  As busy as they were, they did things on several occasions that were unusual for a college president and his wife.  Once, when there was a big flood in Abilene in an area where many of the black people lived, which was near the Treadway church, John and Ruth brought one of that church・/span>s elders, who was in a wheelchair at the time, and his wife to their house and let them stay for several days until the water subsided.  Also, at one point my mother was ill and I had to go to the hospital and stay with her day and night while George was out of town. Although John and Ruth would not ordinarily let a dog in their house, they let my dog stay in their house for several weeks, and John Stevens would get up and walk the dog at five or six in the morning.  They were always doing special little things like that that endeared them to us even more. 

When we go to Abilene even now, we stay with them, and our friendship continues.  We don't write as much as we used to, but we still have a strong relationship.  When my mother passed away, John was one of the main speakers at the funeral service.  He commented on her love for the Chicago Cubs and the Democratic Party.  She would ask someone, that would you be if you were not a Democrat?Then she would give the answer: shamed! The funeral was at the Treadway church.   A chorus sang her favorite songs.  She was noted for her encouraging words to everyone. 

We also flew a lot with John to different places.  We would go where he and George would talk about missions or ACU.  Usually John's son would pilot the plane.  At first we went on a couple of trips with John as pilot, but because he was color-blind, he decided to let his son pilot the plane.  Later, there was another professor who had a plane, and he would take us around.  When we were in Memphis , we bought a plane with four other men.  We would take turns using it. George got his pilot's license and I navigated.  It came in very handy for us, but sometimes it was a bit of a problem when the weather was bad and we'd have to leave it somewhere and go back to get it.  In Texas , the weather was never a problem.

Another program they started, which continued for many years, was the Pan American Lectures.  We would go to a different country in South America every year and hold a two-week lectureship and really try to inspire the missionaries in that area. For quite a while, all the planning for these lectureships was done at our office, but later on, a church in Louisiana took over this responsibility.  I got to visit seven or eight different countries in South America and visited Mexico City several times.  We particularly liked the Anthropology Museum there, which has the reputation of being the greatest in the world, as well as Macchu Picchu.    

 

Chapter 8

Photos

Book Front

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 Chapter 10
(Coming Soon) 

 Copyright (c) 2001 Tokyo Church of Christ. All rights reserved.
Revised: January 17, 2002.