He Tiptoed Into Our Hearts
Yesterday, I attended the funeral of Kenneth Eugene Gilming. The funeral was conducted by and in his own founded church, the Cherry Street Baptist Church, here in Springfield. As I sat and listened to grandchildren and children extol him and his Lord, there could not have been a better tribute to this gentle man.
My memories were drawn back by these internal testimonies to the public entrance of him and his wife, Norma, into my world in 1959. I remembered the firestorm that was ignited by some of the male students of BBC. "How dare a woman be brought into a fundamental Baptist college!" Threats of leaving the school, boycotting her classes were voices that burst into the conversations of students. Irregardless of these voices, Ken and Norma took their places on the staff of BBC. At that time BBC was in the process of refining its teaching staff to Baptists, so these two qualified enormously in their academic credits and their doctrinal stand. It did not take them long to earn their places and positions in the various capacities and necessities of the blossoming BBC, they effectively filled everything that was required of them. Any and all of the negative feelings were easily swept aside. I say, "easily," because that is how they appeared. Even, Bro. Gilming's habit of tiptoing to the podium of his classes.
By the time I graduated in 1960, the Gilmings were as much a part of the ministry of BBC as any of the professors, teaching pastors and managing personnel of BBC. I with a better grasp of the English language and a stronger base in my doctrines went out of BBC to serve. Only when I returned periodically to BBC functions did I acknowledge and recognize that the Gilmings were static parts of the foundations of that college and its influences upon the BBF.
Upon my return from Ethiopia, I wound up caught in the lure and call of the national mission field of New England, and for eleven years seldom ventured West even to Springfield. The only contact I had with BBC and its workings was through the Tribune. Some of the BBC influences drifted into New England, with the conception and inseption of the BBC East. Bro. G.B. Vick and John Rawlings, along with others opened a new college, hoping to help in the BBF influences toward New England. The Gilmings, by that time, had naturally been brought to positions of greater influence in the Springfield BBC. Eventually, it came time for my own children to be encouraged to go to BBC. My wife and I, though financially unable to help much, encouraged each of our children to go to BBC for at least one year. We had confidence in the school along with the Gilmings to give our kids the strong base they needed to face an increasingly secular world.
My second daughter eventually wound up under the ministry of the Gilmings in their own personal ministry there in Springfield, and she began to report of the good things that she was experiencing in that church. In 1985, we left New England and moved back to Springfield, and shortly, I became pastor in Macon, MO and thus a part of the MOBBF. It was then that I became more acquainted with Kenneth Gilming, the fellow pastor and grew to appreciate him in this new relationship. It was very obvious that he was more a pastor than a professor in my eyes. When I was being bothered by some of the drifting of the MOBBF and the college, Bro. Gilming called me aside and tried to encourage me to not pull away but remain with my standards and convictions. I did try. Eventually in November of 1997, I cut ties with what I felt was my base melting away with arbitrary decisions of 8 men.
Yesterday, as I sat in that funeral and recognized faces of 50 year old friends, (most of them are a lot older than 50.) I was glad to have the heritage I have, and very glad to have been on the ground floor when Kenneth and Norma Gilming walked into BBC so many years ago.