Twenty-year-old Charles Pollard knew nothing about pastoring a church. So when called to a church on its last leg in a dusty Arizona town in the late 1950s, he built the congregation by sharing the sweetest name he knew with the roughest and toughest people he could find.
Barbara and Charles Pollard consult with Baptist Children’s Homes staff who conducted their downsizing sale – Yvetta Smith, east regional director for North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry and Renee Gregory, director of Fancy Finds.
“I visited the prisons and hospitals, and every Tuesday and Thursday, after the family went to bed, I visited the bars,” he said. “I built that congregation from the bars mostly. After they joined the church, I’d go out with them and teach them to witness.”
Now, at 80 years of age, Charles still remembers one convert’s unique gospel message: “Brother, do you wanna die and go to hell and fry like a sausage?”
But building a church at age 20 in a rugged western town wasn’t even Charles’ first ministry challenge. Prior to that, he began a mission to migrant workers in Arizona’s Rainbow Valley. There, he confronted child abuse, murder, alcoholism, starvation and inhumane living conditions. He had successes there, but soon realized he needed ministry training. “The migrant workers were treated terribly. Emotionally, I just couldn’t take it anymore.”
Charles and Barbara Pollard paid some dues those early years, attending college, pastoring a church, and raising two little girls in a 20-foot trailer. “I wanted more than anything in the world to be a good daddy, but I could hardly feed them. I told God, ‘These girls are yours.’ He quickly spoke back, ‘Are you sure? Are you sure they are mine?’”
Charles was learning to fully trust God with the lives of his family. Soon, he saw an ad in the paper for a plumber. He knew nothing about plumbing either – but got the job and began a trade that would see him and Barbara through college and supplement their income for many years.
The two little Pollard girls, belonging to God, did not starve. Now grandmothers themselves, they have added four grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren to the Pollard family. Many in this family serve God in unique ways all over the world – a fact that brings Charles and Barbara “no greater joy.”
Pollard eventually acquired a doctorate in ministry, but still has a warm place in his heart for the seat-of-his-pants training the Lord provided as he preached and studied in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Georgia and Texas. “Everywhere I went God performed miracles. I never went anywhere that I did not see the sweet tender hand of God.”
Barbara Pollard also witnesses that sweet tender hand. “I see our lives as circular – with God’s hand tying the end of things back to their beginnings – showing us that His plans are purposeful and good.”
Strong Baptist connections have regularly entwined the Pollards’ circle of life. While Barbara’s Baptist heritage traces back to the 19th century, Charles became a Baptist just to get a date. “Her daddy wouldn’t let me date her unless I went to church. So I became a Baptist.”
Now, after 16 years in North Carolina, the Pollards feel called to return to New Mexico where they began their lives together – a move requiring significant downsizing. Naturally, a Baptist ministry stepped into the circle.
Barbara remembers, “Our friends at First Baptist Church Cary knew we were planning a yard sale and told us about Fancy Finds Estate Sale Service. It was a natural for us.”
Fancy Finds is a ministry outreach of Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH) where 100 percent of the proceeds from a variety of services enrich the lives of children, aging adults and families served through BCH.
While Charles and Barbara both feel God’s hand in the move, they differ in the details of downsizing. Charles is ecstatic. “It thrills me to let go of stuff. I was born in poverty and raised with nothing. It feels more comfortable to be living with less.”
Barbara’s gentle smile doesn’t wane even as she admits, “It breaks my heart. I looked at my crystal and remembered entertaining every place Charles pastored and now I’m not going to be doing that anymore. But it’s a good time to be done with it and I love that Fancy Finds is taking care of things; I would be talking people out of buying stuff!”
During the Pollard’s downsizing sale, a man they had not seen in many years stopped by to say hello and goodbye. “You’ve always been in my heart,” he told Charles. He showed Barbara a picture of his son – a young man soon headed for the mission field. Barbara last saw him when he was eight years old and one of her piano students.
“It blesses me to think of this young man going to be a missionary. This kind of thing happens all the time. People come up to Charles and tell him of the impact he had on their lives.”
Barbara thinks of herself and Charles as “beloved strangers” – having traveled from church to church throughout six states. “I believe the travel is over. We need to draw in our boundaries a bit.”
Charles is ready for a new assignment out West. “The Baptists have been dying in the city where we’ll live and I look forward to helping them grow again. Our house is a block from the church. I hope they’ll give me opportunity to share the Jesus that I love.” Barbara smiles – knowing the chances are pretty good for her beloved stranger.
Visit fancyfinds.org or call Renee Gregory at (704) 909-8223.