Why would anyone choose to hitchhike from Greenville to Fort Worth? Would you believe, “mainly for the adventure”?
At least that is what a retired pastor from Pamplico claims. And, he has the map of his “big adventure” to prove it.
Intrigued by cowboy stories – like those by the late author Zane Grey, whose many tales of the Old West are speculated by some to have inspired the Lone Ranger television series – Bruce Hall grew up wanting to “go West.” So, after graduating from North Greenville College and Furman University in 1949, Hall decided to attend Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Texas.
How long did it take him to make the 1,044-mile trek? Exactly 23 hours and 25 minutes, spending two nights on the road, according to his travel log. His route took him from Greenville to Montgomery, 338 miles; to Delhi, La., 341 miles; then on to Fort Worth, 365 miles.
“I met many interesting people along the way,” Hall recalls. Among his 22 different drivers were an Alabama legislator, who showed him the State House; a Mississippi College professor, who took him to the Vicksburg battleground; and a Presbyterian elder, who tried to convince him that sprinkling was the proper mode of baptism.
But Hall, who served as pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church for nearly 40 years prior to his retirement, most likely would not recommend that young ministers embark on a hitchhiking adventure to Texas today.
“Times were so different then. Safety wasn’t such an issue,” Hall emphasizes, noting that it was shortly after World War II when he set out on his adventure, and servicemen and students commonly hitchhiked then.
When Hall arrived at Southwestern, the religious education building, now named Price Hall, was being completed. In fact, he served as its first caretaker. “This was the Lord’s way of helping me through school,” he says.
He met many leading Baptists during his years there, including Billy Graham. But even more importantly, he met his future wife, Margaret, then a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University who was working on a master’s degree in religious education. They were married at First Baptist Church, Dallas, in 1952.
Immediately following graduation, Hall was ordained by First Baptist Church, Aynor, where he served for three years until he was called to Mt. Zion in early 1957. While at Aynor, he also served as pastor of Gethsemane and Antioch Baptist churches. After retiring in September 1996, he has been pastor of Ariel Baptist Church in Coward for the past two years.
Serving a long-term pastorate has many benefits and joys, the 81-year-old minister advises his prot?g?s. Specifically, he lists: “You really get to know and love your people and the people of the whole community; you put down strong roots; and there is the assurance that the Lord has called you to a particular church, and you are not looking around for a ‘bigger’ one.”
On a more personal note, he adds, “Our daughter, Becki (now an elementary music teacher in New Zion), had the stability of not having to move from place to place while growing up; and, so importantly, my wife has always served along with me in my ministry, serving as music director of Mt. Zion for the nearly 40 years we were there.”
“Even today, we still serve in both capacities at Ariel,” he continues.
Reciting his favorite verse, Isaiah 40:31 – “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength?-” – Hall observes that Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “If,” states, “Don’t look too good nor talk too wise.”
“This would be my advice,” he concludes. “Always lead by example, work with the people; do not seek to be above them and lord over the church members. Remember: They are educated, cultured and intelligent people.
“Most importantly, pray. I have never seen anything accomplished except as an answer to prayer” – along the Way.