Newlyweds Tim and Pamm Yarbrough walk the aisle of First Baptist Church, Russellville, on Feb. 8, 1986.
Russellville FBC: A special place in my heart
Russellville First Baptist Church – the site of this year’s convention annual meeting – holds a very special place in my heart.
It was in the mid-1980s that I relocated to the River Valley as a single man to start a new job at what was then the Courier-Democrat newspaper in Russellville.
There are times in all of our lives that seem more impactful and more significant, and that is what residing in the Russellville area and attending First Baptist were for me.
Being a southeast Missouri boy and completely unfamiliar with the area, I soon found a home at the singles ministry through First Baptist.
In those days the singles ministry of the church included singles of all ages, and it met in an old house on the property of the church called The Agape House.
While learning the ropes of my new job and enjoying the beautiful area that makes up the River Valley, the singles ministry of the church provided me with a safe place to connect and grow in my love for Jesus Christ.
During this time I first got involved in Bible Study Fellowship classes with fellow First Baptist members and other Christians in the community. Bible Study Fellowship is an interdenominational Bible study ministry that provides in-depth Bible classes with the purpose of “producing passionate commitment to Christ, His Word and His Church,” according to the organization.
What a special time it was!
I recall vividly to this day gathering at a local church in the community on a week night in a sanctuary filled to capacity with the sound of hundreds singing the great songs of the faith a cappella prior to the start of Bible study.
Working at the local newspaper afforded me access to the leaders of the city of Russellville and surrounding communities, whom I found governed with integrity and pride for their communities and, many times, were people of faith themselves.
Over the years the memories fade, but while going through some personal items in preparation for our return to Arkansas from the Atlanta area several years ago, I ran across a shoebox filled with notes and letters from a number of city and civic leaders from Russellville during my time there. I smiled as I read notes of encouragement for articles I had written, or events I had reported on, that brought attention to their community.
In 1985, while on the newspaper’s staff, I attended the introductory press conference for Nolan Richardson, arguably the best basketball coach ever at the University of Arkansas.
Also in Russellville, through the singles ministry of the church, I met Pamm, my future bride.
The rest, you could say, is history.
We were married on Feb. 8, 1986, in the old sanctuary at First Baptist, which today has been repurposed for use by the student ministry.
Recently, on a tour of the newly completed sanctuary and facilities of First Baptist, I paused and thought about the many memories I had of my time serving in the church and community.
While time passes, and people and the churches they attend change, the abiding love of Jesus Christ and his purpose for our lives do not.
It is hard to believe that it has been more than 30 years since Pamm and I voiced our marriage vows at First Baptist, but in God’s time it is the blink of an eye.
The ministry of faith that God allowed me to be a part of in Russellville undoubtedly helped shape who I am today, and I am grateful for it.
I have learned over the years to count as a blessing the journey of the Christian faith – both its highs and its lows.
I encourage Arkansas Baptists to count their many blessings as we celebrate the work of God across our great state Nov. 7-8 during our annual convention meeting.
Today is the day of the Lord that we should cherish, as we march boldly with purpose and resolve to make Jesus Christ known in our communities, our state and around the world.
It will pass with the blink of an eye.
Tim Yarbrough is editor/executive director of the Arkansas Baptist News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.