September 8, 1999

Neither planned to stay so long,
yet two pastors mark 50th year

___By George Henson
___Staff Writer
___Fifty years down the road, two Texas pastors have found that what may seem like a detour sometimes really is a destination.
___Paul Miller of Odessa and Fred Sain of Prairie Hill both celebrate 50 years as pastor of their churches this month.
___Neither ever imagined they would remain 50 years at the same church.
___Miller explained that while he was serving in the military, God began to call him to be a pastor. He responded that he wanted to preach in a small church in a poor area.
___After leaving the military, Miller was ordained at Bethel Baptist Church in Chillicothe April 7, 1946, while a student at Hardin-Simmons University. After graduating with the highest scholastic average of his class, Miller was asked to stay on at the university as an instructor, which he did from 1947-1949.
___One day as Miller was leaving the administration building after turning in his students semester grades, he met a colleague who knew of his desire to be pastor a small, poor congregation.
___"He told me, 'Have I got a church for you. It's out in the mesquite bushes, has tar-papered rafters showing on the inside, 10 benches for pews, a moth-eaten piano and a pulpit made of apple crates," Miller remembered.
___Although he had been looking forward to some time off after the semester ended, Miller took a bus to Odessa to preach at Trinity Baptist Church.
___"I arrived in the middle of a sandstorm, and my first thought was, 'I'd hate to live in this hole,'" Miller recalled.
___He preached for them that Sunday, and one of the deacons told him they'd like to call him as pastor. They were a small church, the deacon explained, and couldn't afford to pay him much, if anything. But he was told he could live in four rooms attached to the church building.
___Miller said his interest wasn't piqued, but they begged him to at least come again and preach the next Sunday.
___Miller did come again, but this time he brought his mother with him. He lived with his parents in order to help care for his father who had leukemia.
___After that day's services, the church called him as their pastor. "I figured I had an easy way out," Miller explained. "I'd just go home and wire them the next day that I declined."
___While talking with his mother, however, the situation changed.
___"She told me, 'If God is calling you to that church we'll all just go live in those four rooms in the mesquite bushes,'" Miller remembered. He wired the church he would accept their call as pastor.
___In 50 years, Miller said, he never has asked for money or had a pledge drive.
___"Not one time in 50 years did we ask for money. We just pass the plate and the Lord has always provided, and now we have a beautiful little church."
___Miller, who will turn 80 in November, has needed kidney dialysis for the last 14 years. Problems with joints also have bound him to a wheelchair, but he said his overall health is good, and the vigor in his voice makes those who speak with him believers.
___His church celebrated his 50 years as their pastor Sept. 5 with a lot of singing and fellowship.
___Sain began as pastor of First Baptist Church in Prairie Hill Sept. 23, 1949, while a junior at Baylor University.
___"Back then almost all the ministerial students had little country churches they pastored while going to school," Sain said.
___He wasn't really planning on staying at the church halfway between Waco and Mexia for very long, however.
___"I thought I might stay for a year until I graduated," he recalled. "But then I stayed for another year while I went to graduate school."
___After securing his master's degree at Baylor, Sain went to Fort Worth to attend Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
___The church asked him to stay on until he found something else. So Sain agreed to make the 200-mile round trip, and he still hasn't found anywhere else he would rather be, even though he did have chances to move.
___"I had opportunities to move on early in my ministry, but I always felt the Lord had more for me to do here," he said. "If I had my life to live over, I'd ask the Lord to put me right here again."
___Sain and his wife, Sally, will be honored with a reception at their church Sept. 19 at 2 p.m.
___So what is the secret to staying pastor in the same church for 50 years? Both men had the same answer--unconditional love for the people God brings to you.
___"You have to teach and feed everyone the same," Sain said. "Whether they're rich or poor, healthy or sick, you have to love everybody the same. You can't have cliques and not socialize with certain people. You have to love everybody."
___The two veteran pastors also share another thing as well: Neither has plans to retire.


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