Once our ministry was named and we were relocated to the Charlotte, NC area, we started the search for a home church. Charlotte is blessed with many churches so we visited different ones until God directed us to First Baptist Indian Trail. What a blessing! After one Sunday there, it was obvious we belonged. Pastor Mike Whitson embraced us. He fed us with powerful truth’s from the Word every service. The church continually offered classes for growth that became significant in establishing our perspective of ministry. God greatly expanded our understanding of who He is and strengthened us with confidence in Him. This new knowledge fortified us to stick with His call when opportunities for ministry were limited. Because our ministry was brand new, pastors were unfamiliar with us and did not book very many meetings. We were full of passion for the calling, but the opportunities to minister were few. This can be a catalyst for discouragement, but Pastor Mike believed in spreading truth and he repeatedly introduced and recommended Sam to many churches where we still minister twenty-five years later. When the Lord opened the door for Sam to speak in the annual state pastor conference, he connected us with even more pastors. This provided invitations we never dreamed we would receive.
Initially the small number of meetings also meant small income for a family of four growing sons who devoured large quantities of food. The Lord, who faithfully supplies our needs, used First Baptist Indian Trail to provide maintenance jobs around the church to supplement our income. They also positioned Sam as staff evangelist and provided health insurance and gave him an office in a trailer beside the church. This allowed Sam to have a private place to study, make calls to pastors and offer counsel to struggling marriages.
We had a small computer someone had donated for record keeping and word processing so Sam could design workbooks for the conferences. The church graciously allowed us to use their high speed copier to print the workbook pages. We would stack those pages in piles on tables. Then we gathered the boys and volunteers from church to walk around the tables, picking up sheets to bind into a book using the church’s binder. We used the tape duplicator at church to produce cassette recordings of Sam’s messages and conference teaching. It is amazing how audio/video resources and even note taking have advanced from those days. Now messages and workbook notes are all available on our ministry app.
Before we moved to Charlotte, we had sold our house and used the money to pursue ministry calling. After renting for a year, Rusty Wing, a realtor who was a member at First Baptist, offered his services, and found us a house and a lender who would finance someone with an unpredictable income, then donated his commission so we could actually build equity in a home. None of this would have been possible if the Lord had not orchestrated the events. To this day, Rusty and his wife Kathy wholeheartedly support us and serve on our ministry board. The miles on our vehicle were swiftly mounting and breakdown was highly likely as Sam traveled to meetings which meant he would miss the opportunity to minister. Preacher Mike stepped in to find a vehicle and Rusty pledged a monthly donation to help cover the payment.
These may seem like trivial details from long ago, but we recognize the hand of the Lord providing and directing every step of the foundation of Family Fortress ministries. Without these provisions, the ministry would have dissolved.
For the first few marriage conferences, Sam traveled and taught by himself while the boys and I stayed at home. Eventually we added a split session where Sam spoke to the men while I spoke with the ladies. Families from our church volunteered to keep the boys for the weekend whenever I traveled. This was instrumental as God developed the dynamics of the way we minister today. He directed families to minister to us so we could minister to others. We are forever indebted to the precious people who opened their homes to our sons. On weekends I did not travel with Sam, he would alternate and take one of the boys with him for individual time with Dad. I don’t like being separated from my husband, but I am grateful the Lord allowed the boys to bond with their father and be exposed to godly Christians all over the nation. This expanded their vision and understanding of the Kingdom.