Enduring the pain of change can make a lifetime of difference.
subject to change
By Bill and Brenda Evans
Five states and four years into his journey, Cecil Hutchinson made a U-turn. Eating the dust behind him were Fort Knox, Cleveland, Little Rock, Nashville, West Virginia, and God. Boot camp and the 101st Airborne were back there, too. Hard labor as a deckhand in Cleveland and joblessness in Nashville were yesterday as well. It was 1966, and he was a brimming-full, 22 year old. A world of possibilities lay ahead, he figured—or at least Columbus, Ohio.
Spread out over a gently undulating plain, Columbus’ outskirts were checkered with rows of lush, green crops and white farmhouses. The city itself rose tall and multi-storied with business, industry, banking, hospitals, and universities. Here on this fertile plain just about everything in Cecil’s life was about to change.
He tumbled headlong into love for a spirited strawberry blonde named Gloria. They met in September and married in November. Two short months later, Cecil started a new job at United Parcel Service, a job that evolved and grew with him for the next 28 years.
From Darkness to Daylight
But the more things changed, the more they stayed the same. The Holy Spirit had pursued Cecil through high school, the military, and five states. His persistent pursuit carried over to Columbus, where He worked through Cecil’s Grandmother Hutchinson.
“Every time I saw her, she talked about the Lord. When I was in the army she sent me cards, and just reminding me of the Lord. She just kept on trying,” Cecil said.
“Just to show you her persistence, when her church was planning a new building, she went door-to-door asking neighbors, friends, anybody to buy a brick to help build the Free Will Baptist church. She never gave up on anything—most of all me.”
“In 1982 the Lord was really after me. I began reading prophecy and economics. Late one night on March 14, alone in our family room, I came to the end of myself and committed my life to Christ. He changed me from darkness to daylight.”
“My faith was a new thing in my life, and I was not certain how it would affect me at work. Gloria and I were very social and that always involved drink, so I began by pouring out my liquor. Then I cleaned up my language. I thought I wouldn’t tell anybody that I was saved, but I think the change was obvious.”
In fact, the transformation was radical. Cecil lost his old identity but gained friendship with four men who are still his buddies 27 years later. Gloria, too, was transformed. This change was not about new clothes or a new leaf, but a new life. She sang the Gospel while rocking their young children Michael and Kimberly: “If you believe, you shall receive. All you have to do is trust and pray. Believe…you must believe.”
Heaven’s makeover touched everything from the Hutchinson’s checkbook to their garden. “ We tithed right away,” Cecil says. “I don’t even remember how or when I knew to tithe. We just did it first, before anything else. We didn’t buy new cars; we tithed. Gloria’s dad always said that if you can’t afford to pay for it, you don’t need it anyway. That became our practice.”
“The garden was a powerful object lesson to our children,” Gloria says. “We prayed as we planted and tithed as we gathered by giving away vegetables or salsa that I made. Our children noticed that the Lord blessed us, that our garden thrived when the neighbor’s didn’t, and that if I needed to get away from them or Cecil, I’d go weed.”
After 28 years in Columbus, a sudden tectonic shift dislodged the geography of their lives. Cecil was offered a buyout and retirement package from his management position at UPS—an offer he could not refuse although was just 51 and their two children were still teenagers. They prayed, packed, sold their Ohio home, bought one in Sebastian, Florida, and headed south. After all, they had dreamed of living on Florida’s Atlantic Coast since they first visited Cocoa Beach 20 years earlier.
The Hutchinsons knew no one in Sebastian, and the move was difficult for their children, though ultimately a blessing. They began to search for a good church, part-time jobs, and friendship.
Change is often painful, whether geographic, physical, or emotional. In Sebastian, Gloria has survived cancer twice. They have ridden out two hurricanes, evacuated for one that didn’t hit, and been threatened by others. One year, Cecil made nine trips to West Virginia to care for his father during a serious illness. And, as with many families, they have suffered wounds too deep to share in casual conversation.
But Cecil remains philosophic about enduring troubles: “Pain and suffering are for reasons. We’ve never counted on being exempt from tragedy just because we have faith. Gloria and I apply Romans 8:28 and know that, under God’s control, good will come from bad.”
Planning for the Future
Cecil and Gloria have learned to make strategic adjustments when they encounter life changes. Recently, they made a financial move that set their house in order and assured that their objectives for the future are securely in place.
“You know how you’re always going to do something with your money…but not today. That’s the way it was with me,” Cecil says. “I had stocks just sitting there, and I had no idea how I could give them to the Lord’s work until I learned that the Foundation offered a Unitrust. It was exactly what I needed.”
“I wanted an income, a tax break, and to leave gifts to Free Will Baptist Bible College and International Missions. I had no idea how to do that until the Foundation came along.” Gloria adds, “Pastors need to bring in the Foundation staff to educate others about how to plan for the future. That’s how we learned what to do.”
Cecil’s permanent smile turns serious: “If people put it off—they have the heart to do a thing but put it off—that’s bad. The Lord never told Abraham to wait and let his son Isaac pay the tithe. When Melchizedek came by, He said, ‘give your tithe.’ And Abraham did!”
“Finally,” Cecil says, “I have a peace of mind about the money I’ve accumulated and what I’ve done with it.” And that will never change.
About the Writers: Bill Evans, former director of the Free Will Baptist Foundation, lives in Catlettsburg, KY, with his wife Brenda, a retired English teacher. They are grandparents of eight. To learn more planned-giving options offered by the Free Will Baptist Foundation, visit www.FWBgifts.org.