All Earth to Him: Pastor Frank Hamilton
All Earth to Him is CreedorChaos’ look at some of the work God is doing through the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world. Here Brannan talks to Frank Hamilton, a PCA minister currently in Muncie, Indiana, about truck-driving, the call to ministry, Scotland and more.
You’ve attended church all your life, but you weren’t called to the ministry until you were 42–what did you do before you were called, and how have those experiences affected your pastoral work since?
Yes, I attended church, but like a lot of young people, in my teen years (army service 4 years) I didn’t. After marriage we went “when we had nothing else to do” but not often. When the children grew we took them to church, but I was a long-distance truck driver and not home very much, so when a Sunday came around and I was home, there was other things that needed to be done. In 1967 I went into sales and management in trucking and we moved to Florida to manage the company’s new office. We continued our sporadic attendance in church and most of the time I stayed home to cut grass or work around the house.
It was at this time the Spirit of God began to work in me. The emptiness of my life was a heavy load to bear. I was night manager in trucking, Helen was working days and we met, sometimes, for lunch. I rarely saw the kids except on the weekends and our family life was being fragmented. I called in “sick” one day (rare for me since I was, and still am a workaholic) and found a secluded spot at an old WWII airbase. I spent the day in prayer seeking God’s direction and He met me. Repentance was real and I felt the presence of Him, who died for me, and my life changed immediately. Church became important and our family grew together. We began to pray, “Lord, what would you have us do to serve you?” It was suggested that I go to seminary and train for the ministry. I ran! My thought was, ‘God has got the wrong number. I’m just a truck driver that wears a suit and tie.” But, praise His name, He doesn’t give up…when He calls you had better answer. So, at the age of 45, with the encouragement of my Pastor Ross Bair, I began to study at RTS Jackson, 27 years after leaving school, and graduated four years later.
As I reflect on my life at that point, I saw the wisdom of the Lord, by using my life experiences of 25 years in the business world to minister to others.
What has been the character of your ministry over the years? How and where have you previously served the Lord?
Over the years my ministry opportunities have been diverse. During my seminary years I served as Student Supply in a rural church in Mississippi as well as being involved in prison (Parchman – Mississippi State Prison). I also held several jobs which gave opportunity to use the counseling skills I learned.
My first pastorate was in a small community in Northern Mississippi and I remained there for three years. It was a church that needed a mature person because of some difficulties that had occurred during the last two ministers. It was, again, a learning opportunity using the skills taught in my life “in the world.” The Lord then called me to be the Executive Director of a drug and alcohol rehabilitation ministry. Once again I exercised the lessons of life and was able to reach hundreds of men and women who were trapped in addiction. For the next five years we ministered in both North and South Carolina and were able to see the Lord working in the lives of those sent to us. Since this ministry was so demanding I was putting in 12-15 hours seven days a week, preaching eleven times a week, and since I lived on campus, I was called on, any hour night or day. As a result burn-out was fast approaching and I asked the board to give me some help. They couldn’t and so I was forced to resign for health reasons.
For the next year or so I went back to driving truck and preached a few times where invited but I missed the fellowship of ministry and began to seek a call. A friend, who was clerk of presbytery, called me about a church that was looking for a pastor in North Carolina so I applied and preached a few times and was called in 1989 to Andrews, NC. The next nine years were the happiest and most satisfying of my ministry and as I approached 65 I began to think of retirement. We celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary with a trip to London, Paris and Scotland. That was where the Lord laid a heavy burden on my heart for the home of our parents and for the people of Scotland, where only 2% attended worship services.
When we returned the burden would not go away. I began to correspond with folks I knew had contacts in Scotland and began to investigate how I could be used to bring the gospel to “a dry and thirsty land.” MTW had no desire to send anyone to Scotland so I asked the Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship (since I was an evangelist serving with them since ’88) and they were enthusiastic and encouraged me to apply to the board. We began to seek support from churches and individuals and in almost seven months had the support we needed and resigned from Andrews Presbyterian Church. Our visa came in a few months and by 1996 we were ready to move. We had made several trips to seek a place of service with very little success and then I contacted a pastor in Dundee who said, “I don’t know where we can place you, but, come on over we will find someplace.” St. Peter’s Free church was where Robert Murray McCheyne’s served in the mid 1800′s …WOW! What a blessing…what an opportunity. We began to work there in February 1996.
Tell us more about your experiences with missions in Scotland and with the Church there.
During the next four years I was invited to preach in many churches throughout Scotland from Inverness in the north to the western islands, Skye and Arran, and from Aberdeen to Edinburgh, down into the lowlands. One of my greatest joys was preaching in the church in Greenock that my grandparents attended and where they were married. We were made welcome as Scots everywhere and not looked down on as “Americans.”
Besides being asked to serve as associate Pastor in St. Peter’s, I was elected to represent the church at Edinburgh/Perth Presbytery and one year as representative to General Assembly. We lived in a small village west of Dundee called Longforgan and soon became accepted, not as a visitor, but as one of the villagers. Both of us were involved in many community activities, in our village, in Dundee, and west to Glasgow and the western part of Scotland. I taught E.E. in several churches and Helen and I were active when Franklin Graham put on the Perth Crusade. I was involved in prison and drug ministries and, in general, evangelistic outreach wherever I found opportunity.
One of the joys was to be involved in the planting of the church in St. Andrews. To see it grow from the few that attended to what Alasdair and Grant have done with it today. St. Cyrus was another attempt of church planting that is still an “on-going work”. We would still be there if it were not for my health going bad. I developed a heart condition that couldn’t be dealt with and needed to come home.
After 25 years you’re still active in the ministry–where has the Lord called you now?
Since the Lord called me to serve Him in 1978 I have actively sought to do His will and will continue. I have been asked to be the interim pastor in two different churches during the past few months. One in N. Florida and another in Indiana but I have committed myself to stay in Muncie until the Sr. Pastor is hired. If the Search Committee is successful soon I will probably begin 2008 by serving the Lord somewhere else. He knows where…and He will tell me in His time.
Any advice for those of us in or going into the ministry or mission field?
My advice…? Follow your heart and do that which the Lord is telling you to do. Seek His will, He will not steer you in the wrong direction. Give God the glory in everything and the blessings will be abundant! O, yes, don’t ever think about retiring. I have tried it…it’s not for us. I’ll be 75 years old soon and I’ve just begun to serve my Lord…and He is not through with me yet!
Thanks to Pastor Hamilton for sharing his exciting and encouraging story with us–may the Lord continue to bless him and his ministry, wherever he leads. Pastor Hamilton’s wife, Helen, has written a book on their adventures in Scotland, Sixty Days in a Pop-Up.