30 years a Georgian
During June 1983, my family moved to Georgia. We came here from Grand Junction, Colo., where we spent two and a half years while I served as an assistant minister at a large church.
Prior to that, with the exception of service in the Marine Corps, we were in Tennessee. I was born a Tennessean. My wife was born in Cheyenne, Wyo., but only spent nine days there before her family moved to Tennessee. My two older sons were born in Tennessee while the youngest was born in Colorado.
We came here so that I could assume the pastorate of what was then a small church only four and a half years old. I was 32 years old.
There are some decisions in my life that I regret. Coming to Georgia is not one of those decisions.
It was a struggle, during those early years, to be sure. I made $23,000 back in those days as a junior minister in Colorado. My wife made about $21,000 as a registered nurse. She felt that, if we came to Georgia, she should not work for a time and that she should assist me with the church duties. The church offered me $16,000 with no benefits. Thus, we took a $28,000 annual cut in pay to relocate. There is where the struggle came in.
Yet, slowly but surely, the church grew and the church board gave salary increases. Not once did I ever ask for a raise. Not once did we fail to pay a bill or to write a tithe check. Eventually, we bought a house and, as the family grew, we bought another. My boys developed a Southern accent and finished high school in Georgia. All played sports and all were married in Georgia. Two remain in Georgia while the youngest joined the U.S. Air Force, met his future wife in Texas, and settled in New Mexico.
Of the 11 grandchildren, nine were born and bred in Georgia, the other two in New Mexico. The oldest grandchild just graduated from high school and is on her way to a Georgia college.
My wife, who received her first nursing degree from East Tennessee Sate University, took three more degrees over the years from Georgia universities and is a professor and an associate dean at a school of nursing in a west Georgia university.
We have had the opportunity to relocate to other states but we have declined. The future is unknowable but, unless something changes, I would say that we will live out our years in Georgia. I can’t speak for what the two oldest sons and their families will do long-term but I support their decisions whatever they may be.
One of the good things about living in a place for a long time is that one can put down roots, make friends, and watch as people grow and change. I had dinner the other night with a friend that I met during those early years. I married him and his wife. I baptized or dedicated their three children. Now they are grandparents themselves.
The church I came to serve in Georgia, I served for over 13 years. It is no longer a small church and I am proud of the small part I played in its growth. Almost 17 years ago, I left that church and did something I had never done — I planted a mission church. I am deeply gratified at what God has done there as well.
This past Sunday, a young man and his family were in our church. When I first met him, he was in elementary school. Somewhere I have a photo of the kids at church praying for him when he was in the sixth grade. He now plays in the National Football League and is a graduate of Georgia Tech, where he excelled. Those who have grown up and done well are too numerous to count. Yet, I am proud of them all.
Hopefully, I have “miles to go before I sleep.” I have embraced Georgia and love it here and I pray that I have many more years to serve.
One thing, however, I have been unable to do. In one certain football game each year, I have been unable to root for the University of Georgia.
I suppose you can take the boy from the mountains but it’s hard to get the mountains out of the boy.
So, even after 30 years, this fall I will still say, “Go Vols! Beat Georgia!” I was, after all, raised in the hills as a Tennessee boy.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese (www.midsouthdiocese.org). He may be contacted at email@example.com.]