In 1994 I sold books door to door with a Thomas Nelson college internship program. My two roommates and I lived in Morganton, North Carolina for twelve weeks, working up to 13 hours a day, six days a week. Sunday sales meetings were always in another town, but I managed to find a surrogate family one sunday or two, and at least one wednesday I ditched work, at the Walker Road Baptist Church.
The head pastor's name was Dr. Rocky Branch. I spent many late weeknight hours in his study and probably many more in his kitchen. His wife Janis made me a birthday cake. Over thirteen weeks, Rocky and Janis nurtured me through what I think may remain the most difficult experience I have ever gone through. Essentially, I'd had some juvenile vision about learning sacrifice and becoming a better christian by working eighty hours a week and it was driving me crazy.
One night I will never forget, Rocky said words that I had never heard before. To this day, I have never heard them again. I don't know if he read them or if God gave these words directly to Rocky. I can't imagine why I have yet to hear them anywhere else, but they are words I have dwelled on every day this summer, and I want to acknowledge and thank Rocky for saying them to me: "There's only one reason to die on a cross. Because it pleases the Father."