For a few months as I drove past the Carnegie, OK turn-off on Highway 152, I would feel a strong inclination to hang a left and drive the 13 miles into town. Carnegie was not unknown to me. My dad had grown up there. His parents and grandparents were from there. My great-great grandfather, John Weaver, had owned and operated a grocery store in the town. When I was a boy my family would drive to Carnegie to attend the Weaver Family reunion at the Carnegie City Park. My memories of that reunion include a small hand operated Ferris wheel that we used to play on. It had two “baskets” opposite of each other suspended from arms of sturdy steel that 2-3 children could sit in. On the side of this playground wonder-ride was attached a large metal disc probably 8 feet across from top to bottom that spinning by hand would send the baskets loaded with children round and round, up and down on the Ferris Wheel. The faster you could spin the wheel the faster the Ferris Wheel would turn along with the stomachs of those in the baskets. That ride was one of the few attractions and memories I had of Carnegie. But it wasn’t enough to pull me towards the town that summer day I yielded to the growing inclination to visit Carnegie again. It was something much stronger than playground equipment.
Up until that day my work with RAM involved mostly the town of Cordell; another 20 minutes west of the Carnegie exit on Hwy 152. God had done some amazing things in Cordell as I witnessed people being saved and drawn into His Kingdom from divergent walks of life; teenagers to senior citizens to everyone in between were responding to the grace of Jesus. The church was increasing in its understanding and embracing of God’s will and mission. I had developed a good relationship with the congregation’s youth minister and was intentionally mentoring him to become the evangelist for the church. He had been reluctant at first to make the transition, but was slowly beginning to gain the confidence and desire to do it. The timing was right for me to start turning more of my focus elsewhere and unexpectedly for me, it began with that turn-off at the intersect of Hwy 152 & Hwy 58.
When I drove into Carnegie that day I went to the little building where I knew the church met. I had been in that building years ago, once again, back when a child. I remembered the painted mural of the Jordan River on the back wall of the baptistery, greens, blues and browns, trees, and leaves and water. I couldn’t enter the building to see if the Jordan still flowed behind the pulpit. I had heard conflicting rumors about the status of the Carnegie preacher. They had a preacher; they didn’t have a preacher. The door was locked and there was no car out front to suggest a preacher was still on the payroll. Now what? Who should I talk to in hopes of finding an answer to my question? I called my dad. He grew up in Carnegie. He would know who to call.
“Ask my cousin,” my dad informed me. “They live out on the west side of town.” “Thanks Dad,” I said and off I headed for my second cousin’s farm. When I pulled up into the drive of their place a woman stepped out on the porch to assess who the stranger was in her driveway. I quickly got out of the car and introduced myself as Doug Weaver’s son. That got me immediate access into her living room and within a few minutes we were in the middle of friendly conversation and my explaining why I showed up at her house.
“Well, if you are trying to find the preacher for the Church of Christ you need to speak with the Marshalls,” my cousin told me. “They own and run the NAPA store . They’ve been a part of that church for years. They’ll know.” “Thank you,” I graciously told her.
“Their son Bryce was our son’s best friend. They were joined at the hip! If you wanted to find one you only had to find the other one. They were always into something!” she told me with a smile. I thanked her again and got in the car and headed to the NAPA store.
The NAPA store sits on the corner of the main intersection of town. When I walked into the store I immediately noticed a young man at the counter. He was probably in his mid-twenties. His hair was cut short, nearly shaved. I noticed he had a small silver earring, not in the lobe but the cartilage of the top of his ear. That looked painful! I approached him with a smile and told him who I was and that I had been directed to this store where I could find the Marshalls and hopefully the answer to my question.
“I’m trying to find the preacher for the little Church of Christ here in town,” I said.
“You got a minute?” he asked me.
“Sure,” I said expecting some much anticipated direction.
“Come back in the back to my office.”
I followed him to the back of the building, in between shelves of NAPA car parts. There was no mural of the Jordan River on the walls. We ended up in a little cubby hole area with a desk and nothing much else in the room. He sat down in a chair next to the desk and as I sat down in a chair across from him against a brown-paneled wall he said to me, “I’m the preacher.”