Congregation surprises pastor with pictures on pews



Pastor Randy King thought it was odd when his wife, Annette, said she was going to the church on a Saturday.

While she was gone, he took care of some duties at home.

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The next day when they arrived at Tampico Christian Church for Randy to do a service on Facebook Live, Annette told him to close his eyes as they walked inside.

“I didn’t know what to expect. I really didn’t,” Randy said. “I was walking down through there and I just knew people were in the church and somebody was going to holler out and scare the living daylights out of me.”

Once he made it to the front of the church, Annette told him to open his eyes. When he looked around the sanctuary, he saw members’ pictures attached to the pews where they normally would sit.

Annette captured the moment on video on her cellphone and shared it on the church’s Facebook page.

“Oh man!” Randy says before taking a minute to collect himself, shaking his head and saying, “Whose idea was this?” Annette responds, “Your ladies,” referring to church members Opal Roark and Beverly Babbs.

“Mercy, mercy, ladies. I love you. Good lands. You know how to get to a guy. Whew!” he says before taking his glasses off to wipe his eyes.

“They kind of rocked my world there for a little bit,” Randy said a few days later when talking about the surprise. “All of those pictures, it just got me right there. You’re looking at the people that are normally there, pictures of them, and they are sitting where they normally sit. It meant a lot to me. It really did.”

Annette said it was great to see his reaction.

“He was so emotional when I got him into the church,” she said. “I was so excited. I posted a video on our church page Sunday so everyone could see his reaction.”

For the past month, Randy has livestreamed Sunday services on Facebook because of gatherings being limited to 10 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Churches closed their doors to the public, and many started posting services on their website, Facebook page and/or YouTube channel.

Initially, Randy said he was hesitant about switching to technology.

“I wasn’t for it. I really wasn’t all for that,” he said. “I’m not into the technology stuff. This high-tech Facebook stuff, I’m not really all that used to it.”

Several people, however, mentioned they still wanted to get the message from the church they attend.

“We started doing it. I agreed with it,” Randy said. “The first Sunday, you can go back and watch it, I’ve loosened up the past couple weeks.”

Randy said he normally likes to move from behind the pulpit and walk around, but with the livestream, he has to stay in the same spot.

A church member watching online recently noticed he was having to stay behind the pulpit.

“They called me and said, ‘I want to know who tied your legs together so you couldn’t get from behind the pulpit,’” Randy said, laughing.

The only people in the church besides Randy are Annette, someone recording the video and someone coming in to sing.

“My first Sunday was real difficult. It was hard to get used to,” he said of preaching to an empty sanctuary. “You get close to them, and nobody is there, and you know they want to be there. This is a time none of us are used to. We’ve not experienced anything like this. Going into the sanctuary and nobody is there and you’re preaching, it takes some getting used to.”

Now having the pictures on the pews, it doesn’t feel so lonely.

As he went around to look at the pictures, he laughed when he saw the ones of Jamie and Misty Gray of Vallonia. Jamie is asleep in his picture, while Misty is looking at her watch, both wondering when the pastor is going to stop preaching.

“There was some humor in it. There really was,” Randy said.

In other places, families, couples and individuals have pictures where they sit. In the back, there’s a picture on a wheelchair where longtime member Don Sturgeon sits.

“It was touching, and it really meant a lot to me,” Randy said.

Roark said they got the idea to put the pictures on the pews from social media.

“Other ladies and I saw on Facebook some church had done this, so I said, ‘Let’s do it’ but couldn’t put on Facebook because Randy would see, so we tried to contact as many members to bring photos to church,” she said.

Members stopped by the church on the afternoon of April 18 to drop off their pictures.

“Everyone was excited and thought it was a great idea,” Roark said. “I think everyone we contacted brought in their photo.”

The hope was that Randy would enjoy and appreciate the gesture, and Roark said he did.

“Randy loves his church members and all people. He always has a hug and asks how you are. I knew he missed us,” Roark said. “Randy is such a caring person, he called to check on us to see if we’re OK. Once, we missed church for two weeks in a row on vacation and he said we didn’t tell him. I told him we didn’t even tell my daughters.”

Members shared their comments on the Facebook posts with the video and pictures.

“Great job, ladies. Made me cry watching how touched Randy was. He is a wonderful preacher,” Penny Meadows wrote.

“Such a great idea. Those ladies pulled one over on you, preacher. Enjoy your sermons so much,” Brenda Tormoehlen said.

“It looks great,” Becky Montgomery said in tagging Roark. “Thank you for taking the time to coordinate it with everyone. We have an awesome group of ladies.”

Christopher Schrader said the two main things he is missing during the pandemic are church and camping, so he was glad to see the pictures on the pews and likes watching the services on Facebook.

Randy said he plans to keep the pictures in place until church returns to normal.

“I know those people care about me and I care about them, and I know they are praying for me because it’s difficult for us pastors to preach to empty churches,” he said. “It’s different. I can say we’re adjusting and we’re doing whatever we’ve got to do to get the message out.”

The Sunday services are live on Facebook at 11 a.m. Before, the services were at 10:30 a.m., but Randy said when they can start meeting in-person again, he plans to move it back to 10 a.m.

He also said he might continue to livestream because he knows of people locally and out of state who can’t be there in-person for various reasons.

“I guess any way we can reach people, that’s what’s most important,” he said. “Whatever it takes to reach people for Jesus Christ, that’s what’s important and that’s all that matters. If we’ve got to do extraordinary measures to do that, then that’s what we’ll do.”

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Find the video of Pastor Randy King’s reaction to seeing members’ pictures on the pews inside Tampico Christian Church and watch services live at 11 a.m. Sundays on the church’s Facebook page.


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