Dr. Tom Ward is the founder of Partners in Ministry, the current pastor of Eastpoint Community Church and has the notable distinction of being the first pastor I ever remember having. Pastor Ward planted the New England Baptist Church way back in 1973. About seven years later the Thompson family would move to Massachusetts and find their church home.
When we moved to Massachusetts, we were a broken family. My mother, Susan, had just recently died leaving my Dad with two boys to raise, one of them severely autistic (before there was much awareness of such a thing). It was certainly a difficult time. I have faint memories of visiting several churches in the area. Year later I recall asking my Dad why we settled on New England Baptist. He replied it was the only church we found where the Bible, and the Bible only, was preached.
We certainly had our challenges during those times. But, there to help us was our church. To be honest, being that young, my memories of Dr. Ward are a bit faint. But I’ll never forget the high esteem my dad had for our pastor. When we weren’t listening to him on the radio we where reading devotionals and other material he wrote through Partners in Ministry. Even at that early age I was learning to appreciate the role of the pastor and his pulpit.
Though we had a fairly large church for that day (somewhere around 500 members at one point if I recall correctly), our family was not lost among the crowd. We knew we were loved and cared for within our church family. My dad was even mentioned during one message. When preaching on the topic of the just living by faith, not only was reformation monk Martin Luther used as an illustration, Jim Thompson was described as a man of faith. How else was a single man able to raise two boys on his own? In my mind’s eye I clearly remember where I was sitting and exactly where he was on the platform when he said it.
The memory that stands out the most was the time we invited Pastor Ward to my Webelos graduation during my years in the Cub Scouts. Unfortunately he was unable to attend. But, shortly after the event, he called me into his office after church one Sunday morning. There, waiting for me, was one of the popular toys of the day, a pogo ball. He had bought it for me as a graduation gift. As a kid from a poor family who struggled with low self-worth and self-esteem, this was huge. Pastor Ward actually thought of me. And now, I could play with something that was actually considered cool by other kids. It was a small gesture that had a huge impact.
So, Pastor Ward, I don’t know if you’ll ever read this, but I thank you for the love and concern you showed for me and my family. God used you to begin to show me what means to shepherd the flock of God.