I first met Stephen when I was a junior at Freed-Hardeman. Stephen interviewed me for a Summer internship with the Lennon Road congregation in Flint, MI. Although I probably wouldn’t have hired myself at that time, having no experience and no self-confidence, Stephen hired me and gave me the opportunity to gain both experience and confidence.
Although that Summer was 33 years ago, I remember it vividly. I worked with the youth group all Summer, teaching class and having a lot of fun with them throughout the week. I also was given the opportunity to teach a weekly adult class. I was so in over my head, but the brethren there were so kind and patient. Throughout the week, Stephen and I would study the Bible together in his office. We would visit together; not just easy visits, but visits that I personally found to be extremely uncomfortable, but which needed to be made. We also conducted personal Bible studies together. Stephen was/is a master at personal Bible studies, and I was able to learn so much as I sat in on these studies as his “silent partner.” I was also impressed with Stephen’s passion for the “work of preaching” and for the people to whom he ministered.
I remember an incident that happened one day in an Auto Parts store that is responsible for shaping my present attitude and thinking. Stephen and I walked into an Auto Parts store to get something, and a member of the church was standing at the counter. We shared greetings, and then something was said that caused this man to let loose with a string of curse words. I was totally shocked! I couldn’t believe my ears. When we got back in the car, I started to rail on this guy and Stephen stopped me. He reminded me that bad habits are hard to break and that if I knew how far this man had come, and how hard he was trying, I wouldn’t be so quick to condemn him. I cannot tell you how many times throughout the years I withheld judgment and chose patience and understanding instead because I can still hear Stephen’s advice replay in my mind, and that advice has made all the difference in the world for me.
Before Kim and I married, we met with Stephen for some pre-marital counseling. Stephen was excited that we were going to marry and warned me to ratchet down my jovial attitude. He warned that if not governed, it had to potential to create problems for me. At the time, I didn’t much appreciate his critique, but I’ve never forgotten those words and have tried to do just as he advised (not always successfully). Today, I can see the wisdom in his advice (and so can Kim!)
The Summer of 1983 that was spent with Stephen and Vicky Rogers was one of the most productive Summers of my life. During that Summer I gained a lot of “hands on” experience that would eventually help equip me to do what I am doing today. Not only did I gain experience that Summer, but I gained something even more valuable — a lifelong friendship with Stephen Rogers. Thanks Stephen.