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Friday, May 13, 2011

In Memory of Pastor Forrest Pollock and Preston

The following was written in Word yesterday, May 12 as Blogger was down for service. May 12 is the anniversary of the death of Pastor Forrest and Preston.

Before the Air Force moved me and Tim away from Florida, we were members of a very large church Bell Shoals Baptist Church, in Brandon, Florida.  By the time we left, it had become one of the fastest growing churches in the US.  As large as it was though (5000+ members), it did not feel that large.  I was involved with the choir and I volunteered for the English as a Second Language program.   There were many other programs and ministries available at that church. 
After Tim and I got married, we were not members of any particular church.  We tried out several different churches.  I remember one day driving by Bell Shoals Baptist when I saw their announcement that a Rev. Bill Anderson was going to be a guest speaker on that upcoming Sunday.  I remembered Rev. Anderson from when I attended his church with a former boyfriend.  Due to being stalked by this former boyfriend, I stopped attending church.  Soon after, Rev. Anderson retired from ministry.  So that following Sunday, I attended Bell Shoals for the main purpose of listening to Rev. Anderson.  I attended alone because Tim had overnight duty the previous night.  At that time, Bell Shoals was in a transition as they searched for a permanent replacement pastor.  Rev. Anderson spoke highly of Rev. Forrest Pollock.  The first time I heard Rev. Pollock speak, I just felt deep down that Tim and I were supposed to attend Bell Shoals.  At first, Tim was not too keen on the idea but he quickly warmed up to the idea and actually enjoyed Pastor Forrest’s sermons.  Tim told me later that it just felt weird to him to have a pastor who was just a couple of months older than himself. 
Tim and I became regular attendees and pretty soon, we became official members of that church.  We joined a Sunday morning class.  Most of the people were friendly.  People there really cared.  And Pastor Forrest cared deeply for his congregation.  He was not untouchable like so many other pastors whose churches I had attended in the past.  He was down to earth and mingled among the congregation.  He shook hands with the people and looked directly into faces as he shook hands.  He was a very sincere man, very unique.  I had never had a pastor quite like him.  He was one of us, a common man.  He hosted ice-cream socials at his home, dinners for guests and new members.  He even personally signed and sent birthday cards to church members.   As large as the church was, I was very impressed how Pastor Forrest took the time to make us ALL feel welcome and loved. 
When Tim got orders to move us outside of St. Louis, I was sad about the prospect of leaving a church where I loved to attend.  I felt like I grew so much as an individual while at Bell Shoals.  Pastor Forrest had a huge impact on my life.  His sermons definitely were not boring and I never felt like my eyes were rolling into the back of my head.  I often remember this one sermon in particular.  It has to do with a pillow and I still chuckle when I remember it.  I don’t remember the topic from that day and I don’t remember the point of the story.  Maybe it was about sharing.  Anyway, Pastor Forrest described how he woke up in the middle of the night and his pillow was missing.  He felt around for it in the dark but was unable to locate it.  His wife was awakened and he asked her if she knew where his pillow was.  Her response,”no honey, but you can have mine.”  I remember thinking at the time how sweet it was of his wife to offer her pillow.  See, I don’t like to share my pillow and I will do anything to prevent Tim from using my pillow.  His head sweats way too much.  So bad that the sweat works its way through the pillow case and cover and leaves ugly stains on the pillow.  We replace a lot of pillows.  I felt convicted after Pastor Forrest shared that story.  I remember thinking that I needed to be more loving by sacrificing my pillow whenever Tim saw fit to use it.  Of course, Tim, knowing how protective I am of my pillow, had to make a comment after church.  Well, I never did succeed in lovingly sacrificing my pillow to Tim.  I just cannot give up my pillow to a sweat head. 
Pastor Forrest was a very unique man.  He was a much beloved pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist.  I remember how he did many series of different messages.  Some of the ones I remember include The Juicy Fruits (fruit of the spirit), The Untouchables (substance abuse, racism, gambling, sex, etc.), The Beauty and the Beast (relationships and marriage).  He was funny, he was humble, he was passionate. It was very clear that Pastor Forrest was a highly intelligent man but he was also one of the most humble people I’ve met.  I felt so honored to have him as my and Tim’s pastor. 
After Tim and I moved away, I continued to keep in touch via internet.  I would listen to Pastor Forrest’s sermons online.  Oh, how I missed Bell Shoals Baptist and my friends there.  When Tim and I went back to Florida to visit family, we always went back to Bell Shoals for church. 
I remember the evening of May 12, 2008.  I was reading our hometown paper online when I saw a small article announcing that a local pastor was missing.  It piqued my interest so I opened the link.  Surely, it wasn’t any pastor that I knew.  But sure enough, Pastor Forrest and his son were missing after taking off in a plane that morning in North Carolina.  He was on his way to some sort of ministry conference that week.  I immediately got on my knees and began to pray that they would be found safe.  I had trouble sleeping that night.  I could not get Pastor Forrest and especially his son out of my mind.  Ever since I’ve become a mom, it really distresses me when I hear about children losing their lives.  As soon as I got out of bed the next morning, I checked online for updates.  I checked Bell Shoals Baptist’s website for additional information.  Nothing.  Except that they were still missing.  The news came the next day that the plane wreckage, along with the bodies of Pastor Forrest and Preston, had been found.  I dropped to my knees in horror and started sobbing.  How could God take such a wonderful man away from his family and his congregation who loved him so much?  How could God allow a young boy to perish along with his dad?  As smart as Pastor Forrest was, why did he take the risk of taking off in the morning darkness when it was windy?  What was going through his mind?  What was going through Preston’s mind?  Still to this day, I can’t help but wonder what was going through Preston’s mind in the moments before the plane crashed.  Preston was so young and so full of promise.  Just like his dad.  What were his last thoughts?  I’m sure he must have counted on his dad for reassurance and comfort that everything would be okay as the plane spiraled out of control.  What were Pastor Forrest’s last comments to his son before impact?  I had so many questions swirling around in my head.  I was just in disbelief that a great man of God was taken from us so tragically.  What was going through the minds of the surviving children who opted to stay behind with their mother?  How could God take a beloved father away from his children?  His children who adored him.  How could God take a beloved husband away from his beloved wife?  I was just in such disbelief. 
The death of Pastor Forrest and his son deeply affected me.  I can’t recall being so deeply affected by any other death prior to that time.  Why?  It wasn’t as if Pastor Forrest was a close brother or cousin.  He was just my pastor.  But he was so much more.  He was a man of integrity.  And a man who loved people unconditionally.  He was truly one of a kind.  There will never be another like him. 
May you continue to rest in peace Pastor Forrest Pollock and Preston.

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