Most church members are afraid of Junior High students. The main reason….Well….Junior High Students are crazy! Their brains are not fully developed yet, in fact, their brains are not even close to being developed.(The average person’s brain is not fully developed until the age of 25!) The parts of the brain that thinks of an idea and the parts of the brain that realizes consequences are not fully connected. So many teenagers make poor decisions and must learn from their actions. Middle School students (6-8th grades) are developing into young teenagers that are full of energy, questions, hormones, and very little attention span. In a short amount of time, they can be a handful to oversee and push the most qualified teacher or volunteer to insanity. Most “overseers” usually don’t last long.
The average youth minister in America stays at a local church on average of 18 months. That is not a good statistic. Now that might say more about the misguided expectations many churches and pastors place on a youth minister…but overall…why is it common for so many youth leaders and volunteers to give up so easily?
This was not the case for Trinity Baptist Church youth volunteers Sue and Carl Moore. For 42 years (that’s right, 4-2!), they served as JUNIOR HIGH LEADERS for the Educational department on Sunday mornings. The Moore’s absolutely loved Junior High students! They understood the students need for “acceptance and constant questioning” as possibility, opportunity, and potential to love students at a crucial time in their teenage life. When most people were rejecting these students, The Moore’s were accepting them just as they were….the crazy but amazing Junior High Students. Apart from the students, one of the lasting legacies the Moore’s made on TBC is helping design and oversee the building of the Education Wing on the Mulberry Campus. The Junior High Lounge is still named after them and used every week by our Jr. High Minister, Claire Glover.
In order to compile this article, I met twice with Carl Moore (who is now 96 years old). His wife Sue passed away in 2010. The first time we met, I went with my then assistant, Sarah Benson. We met with him to get photos and stories about the past youth program at TBC. Sarah and I planned on staying one hour. We were there for over three. He told us lovely stories about his ministry to students and how much he adored and loved his wife, Sue, of 65 years. Each night before he goes to bed, he looks at his favorite picture of his bride and wishes her goodnight. Even in death, they are not separated from the love they had for each other. Before we met with Carl, Sarah said that she would not cry…well…once we were finished, there was not a dry eye in the room. Words cannot express the love this man has for his wife and his family…and for the hundreds of Junior High students they adopted at TBC. I met with Carl again last week. He is alert, full of grace, laughter, and answered every question I had without hesitation. I also used part of the “Trinity Trumpet Spotlight” article (written October 2010) for information about dates, church involvement, and part of Sue’s early life.
Carl was born on June 17, 1916 in the small town of Quincy, Michigan. He was a northern boy who was raised on a farm by his parents. Carl grew up helping on the family farm and engaging in 4-H Club activities. Carl had been awarded two scholarships and enrolled in Michigan State Agricultural College and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Husbandry. He was appointed Asst. Agricultural Agent and 4-H Club Agent over two counties. Then during the onset of WWII, Carl was drafted as an officer in the military and served in the Army Air Force (now U.S Air Force). He flew B-26 Marauder planes over Europe. However, Carl says “a World War, and blind date can change everything.” After the draft in 1940, Carl went to training in Tyler, Texas. While in the “Rose Capital of the World”…he met a young teacher in training named Sue Watkins. Friends had set them up for a blind date, and after that date…they knew they were a match made in heaven.
Sue Watkins was born three years later about 70 miles from Dallas, Texas. Sue, who her family called “Popsy”, grew up in a family with a Southern background. She had all the usual childhood diseases, including rheumatic fever, which may have caused her poor eyesight. Sue attended East Texas Teachers College in Commerce, Texas and graduated with majors in Home Economics and Science. She accepted a teaching position in West Texas, far away from her home. Sue taught school in West Texas for a time, but grew homesick and returned to East Texas. Even though she went back home after becoming homesick…God had a better plan for Popsy.
After the war was officially declared in 1941, Carl went to Navigator school and became an Army Air Force Navigator. From 1944-45 Carl completed fifty combat missions as a B-26 Navigator and was awarded the Air Medal with Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart and numerous commendations. His craziest memory flying was the day his team lost an engine flying over the Sahara Desert and they had to figure out how to land safely. He wrote about his Marauder experiences in his book Flying B-26 Marauder Over Europe (Tab Books 1980 & 2012). He won the Purple Heart while flying over Germany bombing bridges and his team caught anti-aircraft artillery. While in the air, his plane was hit and he was hurt by glass and plastic shrapnel. “It was not too bad…but it got me a Purple Heart,” Carl said smiling with a slight smirk and laughter.
During this time, Carl and Sue developed a serious relationship. Upon his return to the U.S., Carl and Sue announced their engagement and were married in October of 1945. He said with affection, “My favorite date with Sue was the date before we were to be married” “Why?” I asked. He replied, “Because we went to a good movie and did a lot of smoochin!” I guess I walked into that one.
After the war and marriage, Carl earned his PhD from Purdue University. In 1948, Carl was employed at the Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas, Texas. In 1955, he moved to San Antonio as Vice-President of the San Antonio Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank. He brought his family Sue, Cindy (who died in her youth), Henry and Susan. A year later, they moved to 2322 Blanton (across the street from Buckner and Martha Fanning) where they still reside.
Carl was invited to serve in several civic positions for many years: the Board of the Baptist Hospitals for 32 years, the Board of the Character Education Foundation, as Director of the Church Loan Foundation and the San Antonio Rotary Club (We are fellow members!). In 1968, Carl was asked to serve as Chairman of a group to secure financing for the ALIVE Pavilion at Hemisfair’68, San Antonio’s World’s Fair. The pavilion’s witness was to show Moody Institute “Sermons From Science” films. These films had a significant impact for Christ, but it would take three years after the close of the fair to complete the financing. During this time, the Moores also became very active in Trinity Baptist Church. Sue served as the President of Trinity Women in Action (TWA) and led the TWA Prayer Group that met for many years in their home. Carl served on the Board of Deacons where he was chairman, vice-chairman and secretary for several years, Chairman of the Personnel Committee, Counseling Committee, Stewardship Committee and one year on the Budget Committee.
Carl and Sue also worked in the Middle School Sunday School Department for 42 years, teaching both the children and grandchildren of many grateful church members. They created games and skits to teach the students Bible verses…they served with passion each and every week. Some of their past students are now Trinity leaders. The Moore’s are legends! Carl and Sue loved those Jr. High students for who they were…and saw their potential for Christ. “They were at a crucial stage in their life….they were trying to figure out who they were as a person and going through many life changes….we were there just to teach what we could and help them find the answers.” Carl recalls that all too often he did not know the answer and thought to himself “what can I even possibly do to help this teen.?!” But time after time his and Sue’s love would rule the day and bring peace and love into the student’s life. “That’s the crazy thing about youth ministry” Carl said laughing. “You just have to show up and care…its not that hard” After leaving the youth ministry, Carl said he and his wife really found no interest in the Adult Education department. He said to me laughing, “After 42 years of working with Junior High Students..who are not suppose to be smart, I was not challenged by many of the Adult Sunday School classes. They seemed boring and dull in comparison…Imagine that!”
Carl and Sue are my youth ministry heroes!
Since retirement Carl has been busy writing novels (16 and counting) and keeping up with Henry, Susan and their families. In 2010, Sue passed away after suffering from Dementia over a ten year period. Even in those last years where Carl said that Sue could no longer remember anyone, “She was still my Sue….regardless if she did not remember me. I knew she was mentally gone but I served her until the Lord took her home physically.” Carl was a loving and caring husband each step of the way! Carl reminds me of the power of “presence” with both his Junior High students and with his wife during the last year, Carl shows us how to minister with actions more than just with the spoken word. words. St. Francis of Assisi would be proud of this Baptist family.
“Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” – St. Francis of Assisi
I will dedicate this blog just like Carl did when he wrote the book So You Have a New Bible (Trafford Press, 2007): “This writing is dedicated to Sue and to the dozen of other fellow workers who strived to present the message of the Bible to growing, inquisitive, questioning, flexible, but lovable young persons.” Amen Carl. Amen.