Mike Cope's blog

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Yesterday I wrote about my trip to Searcy 30 years ago to begin my freshman year. But later, there was another trip to Searcy. This was the summer of 1984. I was still 27, and I was "trying out" for the preaching job at the College Church. As I heard the story later, the tape I'd sent to the search committee (now I almost can't believe I had the courage -- or audacity -- to send one) got put in a junk pile when they saw my age. But later, after several didn't seem to fit and after a couple sniffed at the salary, they had to return to the pile. So the call came, inviting me to come speak on a Sunday morning and evening. At the time, I didn't even own a suit. So my dad bought me one so I could try out in appropriate attire. (I know, I know . . . some of you at Highland are wanting to ask, "So whatever happened to those suits and ties you used to wear while preaching?" Hey, they were never "me"!) Shortly after that, Neale Pryor called me at home in Wilmington, NC, to say the elders would like to invite me to become their minister. It was a bittersweet evening, as we rejoiced over the new ministry but grieved over having to tell the people in Wilmington we were leaving. In the following couple months I turned 28, Megan was born, and we endured the 110 mph winds of Hurricane Diana (for seven hours). Then, in October 1984, Diane and I returned to Searcy with our two year old and our newborn. Now I was back with all of those people I mentioned yesterday whom I revered (along with many others). Only now, I wasn't their student; I was their preacher. What was I--what were we--thinking? But people were gracious. The seven years were, for the most part, wonderful. The four services every Sunday wore me out, but, hey, I was young! (Besides, Diane had the really hard job, as those of you who were around Megan in her healthy years know.) My life was blessed by older mentors, by deep friendships, and by lots of students to teach and train. The memories wash over me now: Jimmy Allen's and Neale Pryor's gospel meetings, laughing until I fell on the floor at Christmas parties at Dwight and Barby's house (I'm especially thinking of those moments today, because Barby's battle with cancer ended yesterday, and this wonderful woman went to be with the Lord), running every day with Leon, watching out the windows of my office as hundreds of students crossed Race Street, listening to J. D. Bales as he tried to talk some sense into me (he was always very gracious with me, though I frustrated him at times), sitting in on Ray Muncy's upper level history classes, going to Hunan's (the only Chinese cafeteria I've ever been to that included a taco bar in the buffet line) with the Coxes and Cochrans, playing ball on Monday mornings in the old gym with Matt before he started kindergarten, taking Megan to her special speech classes on campus, crying as we learned more about her challenges, holding each other as we wondered how we could survive without sleep, wrestling matches on the floor with Matt and Megan, "the house" (was it on Center or Market? Anyway, it's where a bunch of college guys lived whom I had mentored and who, in turn, took Matt into their inner circle . . . it was a house of laughs and love . . . but should probably have been condemned for health reasons.), calling James to ask exegetical questions, crawling into Tom's office in the Bible department when I was upset, speaking in chapel and at club devotionals and at the lily pool devotionals, "Peak of the Week" in the Administration Auditorium and then in the Benson Auditorium (it was a bigger crowd, but never felt quite the same as our first few years crammed into the admin), being asked by David Burks to speak at the first graduation ceremony of his presidency, playing pick-up basketball games with Avon Malone and Jimmy Allen, and having an asthma attack from laughing so hard at Craig's imitations of Harding and College Church people. I remember Diane and me dressing in leather and chains, dying our hair purple and pink, and going onto campus to trick-or-treat on Halloween. (I was 29, and she was 28! Students who figured out who it was nearly passed out. I think they were thinking that a preacher's wife should not be THAT HOT.) We left Searcy in the summer of 1991. It was the last year I spoke at Harding or the College Church (other than three funerals). Eleven years of my life--four as a student and seven as a minister--have been spent there. What a blessing! I wish I could go back in time and do some things more maturely, but unfortunately maturity usually only comes after failures, forgiveness, and the passing of a few years. We've returned to Searcy a few times since then. Maybe the most memorable was in May, 1992, when we went back for Diane's graduation. She attended from 1976-78, then took a class or two a semester from 1987-1991. After doing her student teaching in Abilene in the fall of 1991, she was ready for graduation.


  • Thanks for sharing some of your story, Mike. Sounds like God taught you a lot through all of that. As I quickly approach full-time ministry, I'm scared, excited, and chomping at the bit to preach all at the same time.

    God bless you, brother.

    By Blogger Josh, at 8/12/2004 06:43:00 AM  

  • I was there attending Harding Academy and the College Church while you were preaching. It does seem like a long time ago. (Another indication of that is the fact that Vicki's oldest is a freshman at Harding.)

    By Blogger Val, at 8/12/2004 08:06:00 AM  

  • Hey, Mike -- can I be like you when I grow up?

    By Blogger Q, at 8/12/2004 08:11:00 AM  

  • Mike, what a wonderful walk down memory lane! I am glad I was by myself this morning when I read your entry for today. Sometime I want you to blog about the interview process at College and Ray Muncy's question to you.

    Just know that however much you feel blessed for having been here those years, we feel twice as blessed for having had the opportunity to sit at your feet. God impacted MANY lives thru you, and the impact has not waned in the years that have passed. We still miss you and Diane and the kids.

    Love you much,

    By Blogger David U, at 8/12/2004 08:35:00 AM  

  • 27. Wow that does seem young! That means you were my age when I met you! WEIRD!
    All I can say is Abilene,ACU and the surrounding area is very glad you left your strong Harding ties and transplanted to us! You were only at Highland the last year of my time in Abilene, but it is hard to picture anyone but you preaching in Highlands Caverness auditorium.

    By Blogger SG, at 8/12/2004 09:41:00 AM  

  • I have been to Searcy probably six times in my entire life, but I have actually eaten at Hunan's Chinese Buffet and Taco Bar. And as if that combination wasn't weird enough, the night that I went they had an inexplicable offering of multi-colored miniature marshmallows as well. I have this vivid memory of Jon Shoulders sitting down at the table carrying a bowl containing one egg roll completly buried in marshmallows!

    By Blogger Matt Elliott, at 8/12/2004 10:51:00 AM  

  • I'm not sure Hunan is even there anymore (I don't remember it), but for top of the line Chinese food (and soft serve ice cream, you have to go to China Star III on Race St. We're not sure what happened to I and II, but III really hits the spot.

    By Blogger Greg Kendall-Ball, at 8/12/2004 11:40:00 AM  

  • China Star III is indeed the best Chinese to be had in Searcy. Whether that's really a superlative or not... well, it's good anyway.

    Where else is chocolate pudding an integral part of Chinese cuisine? My friend Xiaolei (whom you might have guessed is Chinese) finds American Chinese restaurants funny. Her favorite is the yellow rice: "I got no clue what that is." ^_^

    By Blogger Q, at 8/12/2004 11:49:00 AM  

  • Mike, I'm curious about Ray Muncy. I never met him, but know him only as the man who baptized my dad (John Clayton). Coincidentally, or maybe not, Dad's first lecture was at Harding, around 1968 I think.

    By Blogger Cathy Haught, at 8/12/2004 02:40:00 PM  

  • Q,

    I once went to a Chinese restaurant in Germany. I was amazed to find many of the items covered with cheese.

    By Blogger Serena Voss, at 8/12/2004 03:49:00 PM  

  • Cathy - I have a biography of Ray Muncy's life called MAKING HISTORY. He was a great gentleman, teacher, and elder. And he was my dear friend. I returned to Searcy in 1994 to do his funeral. Your dad has had a great impact for good; so glad to know about Ray's connection with him.

    By Blogger Mike, at 8/12/2004 04:38:00 PM  

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