I graduated eight grade with just the intention of going on to Kermit High School, a school that had less than 500 students. However, by this time, while I had not given a sermon, I had already started giving devotional talks in Sabbath School and in evening programs. Nothing too elaborate, five ten minute chats.
At this time Jerry Cates, a magnanimous man who had a traveling entomobiotics business was coming to Odessa. He had a very particular vegetarian diet and my mother ever the gracious meticulous host made special foods which he thought were just great. He was like many Adventists convinced that the world was just around the corner from ending and that we should be using our resources and best efforts to let the world know that. For some reason, he took an interest in me and thought that it was never too early to start preparing me for what I was born for: to be a pastor. He was friends with Dr. Leonie, the principal of an Adventist boarding school, in the Valley of Texas. He was trying to get me there and while I loved the idea of going to a school where everyone was Adventist, the finances seemed unrealistic.
We continued going to church every week and he was there sporadically always pushing the idea. It was a great dream and both my mother and I loved the idea but there was that money thing. But there was another distraction that summer. There was a girl who had started attending church. She was someone’s cousin or someone friend and she thought I was cute. Never having as much as held hands with a girl, any girl who thought I was cute was of course drop dead gorgeous. I flirted with her all summer but never worked up the courage to do anything.
Than in no time at all, Jerry had somehow figured out a scholarship with less than a week to go before school was supposed to start. I found out on Thursday that we would drive down to Valley Grande Academy, 10 hours away and I would live there. So this meant that Saturday would be the last time I would see this girl. But my mom decided that we had to pack and get ready and that we would skip church this once. In fourteen years of life, I cannot remember one time before that which we had to skip church and this was the once she decided! I had to go see this girl. I got so motivated that I got on my bike and I was going to bike the 40 miles between Odessa and Kermit to go see her. I got on my bike and left.
This was the beginning of a pattern. I was inches away from being where I’d said I’d wanted to be: where God had his school but I had to go see about a girl. And well, I didn’t even begin to see how there could ever be any contradiction between the two.
Luckily someone picked me up on the way to Odessa and dropped me only a few miles from the church. I biked there and she was there. All of the church went to the park and I told them all about how I was going to be able to go this boarding school. This girl I had such a crush on was sad and all the guys were trying to encourage me to kiss her goodbye.
Well we played and had fun and I couldn’t work up the courage. Finally they said everyone was going home (someone was going to throw my bike in their truck and give me a ride home). I had hinted and hemhawed about kissing her all night finally in a last moment of desperation, like a small child I closed my eyes and puckered my lips out. She obviously had more experience and she went in with the open mouth approach. Well, it only lasted a second because the adults were coming and my first kiss was her lips enveloped around mine. Not very glamorous but it sure was exciting. By the way, if you are wondering why I keep calling her that girl, it’s because sadly but truly I cannot remember her name.
The car ride home was thrilling. I was so excited, so happy. I got the girl today and I’m getting God’s school tomorrow. How could life be any better? Me and my cousin Ulisses use to climb this baseball lights on the edge of town that sat probably a good 70-80 feet above ground and stand on top of them. The wind always seemed to make them sway but you would stand up there, not realizing your life was in risk because it felt like being on top of the world. The feelings I had that night surpassed being on top of that water tower.
We drove the 10 hours or so the next day and we pulled up to Valley Grande Academy. I went to my dorm room and put all my stuff up and the next day my mother left crying. I cried to but I told her, I’ll be home again. I was wrong; I never returned. I had a summer job every summer after that and then it was adulthood. I moved out of my house when I was 14. I left my family then. I never got to say goodbye to my friends from Kermit and barely to the ones from church. But there I was among God’s people, in God’s school and nothing could possibly go wrong. Besides, if it did, I’d already kissed a girl.