Fresh out of seminary and trying to plant a church is not an easy situation. The men who were earmarked for leadership had a poor notion of seminary education and a consequent faulty set of expectations of me. I think they adopted the caricatured model of seminary being some magical institution that opened my head and poured into it all the knowledge of Scripture and theology I would ever need. They were quite puzzled that I needed to spend my mornings in the study rather than going door to door and winning converts to fill our chapel.
I did go door to door, but since no one ever taught me how to be effective at this, it yielded few results. A nice atheist couple with whom I had extensive conversation never attended church. And yet a year later they called me on the phone, asking if I was willing to christen their new baby. I did learn that the longer I could engage strangers in friendly talk, the more inclined they were to receive an invitation from me.
We lived on Railroad Avenue in Neptune, NJ. As you might have guessed, across the street from out second floor apartment were railroad tracks. It was a shabby apartment in the shabby part of town. There were large patches of pealing paint in the stairwell, and the roaches ran for cover when we turned on the light at night.
Philip, our first born, was a rug rat here. He was 16 months when Calvin was born, but hadn't decided to walk as yet. We had a borrowed little 6 mo. crib in the middle of our living room, and that is where we laid our precious new family member. We thought it a good idea to tell Phil that we were bringing home a baby for him. He took well to this catechizing, and he used to crawl over to the crib, pull himself up and reach into the crib. He would gently stroke baby Calvin's head and say, "Baby, baby". It was really quite cute.
But Calvin had developed jaundice and returned to the hospital at 8 days of age. His bilirubin count was just a few points below demanding a transfusion before his body caught up with the process. My poor wife had to commute to and from the hospital to nurse him (even though the medical community discouraged it). When the Sabbath came, these nascent leaders demanded that she continue to play the piano for services. I was too foolish and too weak to stand up for my wife, and she carried the burden.
When Phil crawled over to the crib and did his routine, he reached his hand into the empty crib and said with an inquisitive tone of voice, "Baby?". We both wept.
Phil may have enjoyed that apartment more than anyone else. He loved standing at the front windows, watching the choo choo chug by.