The Foundational Pastor

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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. 

Love always, 

Carol(Contino)Connell

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12 thoughts on “The Foundational Pastor

  1. Beautiful. Being raised in a pastor’s home and then marrying a pastor, I know that these types of letters are not in abundance. Yes, we sometimes get sweet letters and cards, but a big, prepared, heartfelt thanks is not real common. Your letter will mean so much to the Hilderbrands.

  2. Carol:

    I heartily concur w/this post. The Hilderbrand’s were very instrumental in our Christian foundation and upbringing and in our going to ABI. I am looking forward with anticipation to mom’s & my being able to see them over Thanksgiving. It’d be extra special if Betty & Brookoel (& Comer family) were there too. We’ll see.

  3. What a beautiful tribute to the Hilderbrands. Sure do love them and their family. Perfect post for pastor appreciation month too!

    Thanks,sis. The next one will be about “Bobo” as soon as I can find more than 5 minutes to sit and gather my thoughts.

  4. Carol, what a wonderful idea! Your letter is bringing back lots of memories for me of my first pastor, along with many others who have impacted my life.

    Pastor’s Appreciation Week should be more than just a dinner after Sunday morning service and a gift from the church.

    Yes, I think I’ve got some more reflecting to do, and then some writing and some thanking! I look forward to it!

    Blessings,
    Janet

  5. Greetings. It’s amazing, the way the Lord brings into our lives the exact right people at the exact right time. Over the course of years I’ve had a few who fit this billing as well. I think that the one who stands out the most is Mark Gardner. I had just reported to the USS Guam and met Mark shortly thereafter. I went to church with him on a wednesday night which was the first time that I had ever been to a full gospel church. It was a night I will never forget. During the prayer time before service, I was over by the door in prayer when I received the baptism of the Holy Ghost. It happened so fast as to make ones head spin. This was in August of 1984. It’s been an incredible journey; many mountains, many valleys (most of the valleys were of my own making) but a joy to be sure.

    Sorry for not being in touch more often. Time is short it seems and everyone is running to and fro. Bro Mark Gardner is now a missionary in Namibia, however, he was back in the states for a few months. When you find people who have such a sincere love for the Lord Jesus, it’s special. Sorry for rambling. Have a blessed day in Jesus.

    timbob

  6. Dear Carol and Pete
    I received more than I ever gave.
    I learned more than I ever taught.
    Much, much more.
    The joy of serving eclipses any shadow of misfortune, and we quickly forget those mini-moments of disappointment that we may occasionally experience along the way.
    There is true joy in serving Jesus.

    Your expression of appreciation says more about you than it does me. It reveals the beauty of what the Holy Ghost does in a person. Godliness is always accompanied by a genuine spirit of thankfulness.

    Thank you for thinking so kindly of us. We love you all.
    Pastor Hilderbrand

    p.s. on top of it all, it was so much fun.

    Brother Hilderbrand, thank you for your kind compliments. We are really “not all that” and have a long way to go to be like Jesus, but it is certainly a worthy goal for which to strive. We love you and your family buches and do hope we can chat for a million years or so over in the Gloryland!

  7. Good morning, Carol.

    I was so touched this early morning to read the beautiful tribute you wrote to your pastor, and then to read all the responses by your friends, and by the Hilderbrands. What a blessing.

    Have a wonderful Sunday…and more.

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