The following is an open letter to my first pastor, Derrald Hilderbrand.
Dear Brother Hilderbrand,
Although it has been many years since I’ve sat under your ministry, you and your wife played such an important role in my relationship with God, and I just want to take a little time to say thank you for everything you have invested in my life. You were my first pastor and the one who gave me a foundation for my Christian walk which began when I was 16. I have many fond memories of the time spent under your leadership. I warmly recall the nights that you came to our “chicken coop” to teach Mom, Tom, Bob, John and I Search For Truth Home Bible Study. We felt so blessed to have you come to our humble home and share the Word of God with us, and we learned so much from you. Because of the unconditional love we felt from you and the congregation, coming to church was such a joy. Due to the fact that we didn’t have a vehicle at the time, you were always willing to come and pick us up or send someone else in your stead if it wasn’t possible for you to do it.
Some of the best times I remember were those occasions when we would all load into the church van, and you would take us to a fellowship meeting. Always, on the return trip, we would be tired, but so full of the Holy Ghost that we would be singing almost all the way home. Not all pastors can sing, but God blessed both you and your wife with that talent. I can still see you lining up all the kids on a Sunday morning and leading them in singing such songs as His Banner Over Me Is Love, Everybody Ought To Go To Sunday School and The Birdie With The Yellow Bill. (You even did the motions too!) It was your dear wife who taught me how to sing alto and helped me to discover the blessing of singing in the choir.
I’m thankful you got me involved in different ministries within the church. I was really scared at first to teach Sunday School, but the Lord was my helper, and I ended up loving it. It was a privilege to be able to go to Royal Acres Nursing Home to sing with the young people and hear you share the Scriptures with the residents. In my mind, I can still see old Herb and Mame Moss telling their stories and hear Henry Menghetti in his broken English and quavering voice singing Trust and Obey. Another thing that brought me joy was being around your sweet daughters. I always felt honored when you or your wife would ask me if I would babysit “Betty Boop and Brooke –a- well.”
Finally, I want to thank you for the weekend you took my brother Tom and I to visit your alma mater, ABI. I’m so glad that you steered us in this direction. There were many paths I could have gone down after graduating from high school, but I’m thankful I was able to spend 3 years in more concentrated study in the Bible. Of course, the fringe benefit was I met my husband to be there, and you performed our wedding ceremony in August of 1983. It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost 25 years since that time! Anyhow, I just wanted to express some thanks and take a trip down memory lane in the process. You and your wife will always be tops in my book.