First off, we want to say how excited we are to serve on the LIFE worship team. It’s a bit of a stretch for us to be in the production room, but we’re committed to do our very best to work in harmony with you all!
Steve and I are up here together, because we’ve shared so much together. We met 50 years ago this year! I grew up an army brat. My dad was part of the greatest generation. He was part of the Normandy invasion charging onto Omaha Beach on D-day, and he fought in the Battle of the Bulge and various other battles through Europe. He met my mom in Japan after the Pacific war ended and they had 6 kids. We moved a lot and at 5, I started school when my dad was stationed in Munich, Germany. When I was 10, my dad was stationed to Massachusetts where he eventually retired from the army and we could now root in and make our home. I grew up knowing who Jesus was, but that was it. As a little girl, I said my prayers at night and had a picture of Jesus that hung on my bedroom wall. I had a Bible that I would read, and I loved reading Old Testament stories and looking at the maps in the back. Every Sunday we watched Davey and Goliath in the morning while my dad prepared a big Sunday dinner. That’s what we did on Sundays. One of my sisters was born with Down Syndrome, and I guess that’s what made us homebodies. I had loving parents and we were a close family but never went to church together.
My brother, Richard, began going to the Baptist church in the neighborhood with another family, and had a whole group of church friends, including Steve. As teens, Richard and Steve worked summers as kitchen staff at the church camp. During youth group week the kitchen staff chipped in to send me to camp for the week. I had my own friends and I was having my own amazing summer, but I went anyway. At camp week, I experienced my first answer to prayer, and by the end of the week I had asked Jesus to come into my life. After that week at camp, I started attending the church and 3 months later I was baptized. Steve and I started dating, and we were married 5 years later in the same church.
For the next 25 years we raised our 3 kids. I was a stay at home mom. They grew up in a church with loving families and friends. Over the years I would pray for them when they left the house for school. Lord give them the strength to stand up to their beliefs and values, to stand firm in the Lord. Lord keep them safe and Satan keep away! God, in His grace, heard my prayers, they all accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior at a young age and they followed Him in baptism before their high school years. I prayed that they would put their faith and trust in the Lord as they grew older. A favorite verse I shared with my youngest son when he was confused with what direction he should take in life is Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but by everything in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God.” Once again, God graciously answered.
Our oldest is Melanie Barker, married to Andy, who is an Elder here at LIFE. They have 5 kids. Our second child is Christopher. He’s on pastoral staff and a worship leader in a church in Massachusetts, and he and his wife have 5 boys. Our third child is Jonathan. He’s serving in the Coast Guard in Maryland, and he and his wife are small group leaders at their church. They have 4 kids. God has led us through so much together, 3 children, a growing family (14 grandchildren if you weren’t counting), becoming empty nesters, the deaths of many loved ones but we had no idea what lie ahead when we moved here from Mass and started a new life …What happened in the next 10 years has been an amazing journey of faith and trust.
In brief, I grew up in a Christian home. My mom would say, “The only thing you can bring to heaven is your children,” and I knew she was praying for me. I accepted Christ at camp and was baptized at a young age, never got mixed up in the “wrong” crowd, was active in youth Bible studies and various ministries at church – I was that kid. As Barb said, God has blessed us with family, friends, home, church and job.
I was the CFO for a company when we moved to NC as part of an office consolidation. But in the spring of 2008 with further consolidation, I lost my job, and you may remember what happened that fall: the recession hit. I know life has hills, valleys and forks in the road, but this was a sinkhole. I felt empty. I separated from lifelong friends, questioned my self-worth, and had significant financial loss; I felt like it all crashed in on me. In church and countless Bible studies you can learn Biblical truths, and believe these with conviction, but what cannot be taught is to trust God, that truth has to be played out in life’s experiences. Now we were at the proverbial “end of our rope”. We had to put our faith and trust in God for what we could not see clearly.
I looked for anything and had a few small consulting jobs. I liked pies…my Grandfather and Dad had bakeries, and it seemed to be an unserved market. So I spent idle time baking and giving away free pies to markets and restaurants trying to create an interest, and we sold a few. But the tension remained, I wanted to consult, a “real” job. I never accepted baking pies as my future. With the tension building, we desperately needed God’s leading to give us some sense of direction.
Then, I had an opportunity to do some consulting work for a ham processing plant in Conover for 6 months leading to potential full-time finance position, that seemed to be it. I met with the staff there and was set to start the next day. That evening, we were watching TV and a news flash broke in that there was a tornado sighting near Hickory. A reporter then came on interviewing a resident who said a tornado had hit Mom and Pops Country Ham, blown off the roof and damaged all the contents. Barb and I looked at each other, and almost in unison said, “I guess God wants us to make pies.”
I stopped looking for any outside work and we pursued Carolina Pie in Mooresville. As the business grew, there are so many other stories that I don’t have time for now of how God provided people, facilities, equipment and opportunities. We haven’t finished this journey of ours; there is still a future to be written. But our testimony is not just 2 young people making a profession of faith in Christ at summer camp, but as a couple looking back over 50 years and seeing the hand of God in our lives and in the lives of our children, and we know even though we don’t deserve His love and often fail, we are loved by a trustworthy, sovereign God, as His child for His glory.
And we can say, from experience, with the prophet Habakkuk who writes even in the face of life’s calamities, “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength!” (Habakkuk 3:18-19a)
Though the fig tree should not blossom,Habakkuk 3:17-19 (ESV)
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
He makes my feet like the deer’s;
He makes me tread on my high places.