If a pastor most clearly reflects the character of God, then the Lord speaks softly, smiles easily and sings sweetly.
A 50-year-long illustration of this can be found in Ron Barks, who took in a party in his honor Saturday afternoon, marking 50 years as an Assembly of God minister, the last 32 in Carrabelle.
With plans for 50 more.
“I’m hoping to be able to,” he said. “I’ve prayed about it a lot. I’m just not ready to lay it down. I think I can appreciate Him a whole lot more now.
“A lot of crises, you’re stumbling through it, and you’ve never found it, and you find in that crisis that God is faithful,” said Barks.
Barks was flanked at the celebration by his three daughters, various extended family and plenty of well-wishers from his congregation and the church community throughout Carrabelle.
Closest to him was his wife Joyce, a former resident of Charlotte, North Carolina who Barks wooed, and won, a few years after the death of his wife Wilma after their many years together.
Joyce was a widow of several years when Barks ventured up to a North Carolina church that was ministered to by one of the Marines at Camp Lejeune Barks had mentored years earlier during four years of the Vietnam War.
Joyce had prayed for a godly man, and that’s who she got, as the two hit it off in short order. Barks would croon the 1946 pop classic “Tenderly” over the telephone as they talked long into the night, or as she set off on his busy morning commute.
Barks’ ties to North Carolina date back to 1964, when he was fresh out of Southeastern Bible College. As a young man growing up in Pensacola, he had been affected by his experiences at youth camps, where he first sensed his calling.
“I think I knew early on that was the purpose of my life,” he said.
After studying marine biology at Pensacola Junior College, and the Bible college, he and his wife Wilma married, and lived in a mobile home working with the Lumbee Indians, the largest tribe in North Carolina.
Actually, he was called to the ministry in 1960, and was licensed by the West Florida District Assemblies of God on May 7, 1964, and then at age 23, the minimum age, was ordained while a member of the North Carolina District Assemblies of God on April 26, 1967.
In Sept. 1964, he pioneered a church in Jacksonville, North Carolina and served as a contact chaplain for Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.
“The church was 100 percent military,” he said. “That was my heart, my head, was to do something for the military families and personnel.”
Barks pastored several churches from the Outer Banks of North Carolina and in Bonifay, and Crestview. He moved with his family to Carrabelle in June 1982 and his three girls, the eldest Marie (Walker), now of Crestview, Ellen (Saberg), of Moultrie, Ga., and youngest Gwen Barks, of Tallahassee, all of whom graduated from Carrabelle High School.
Barks was presented by West Florida Assembly of God District Superintendent Tommy Moore, with a framed poster of 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3, which reads 2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Barks joked at how he knew the young Moore when he was just a boy of 11, and his father pastored a church in Gainesville.
A varied and healthful buffet, with fruits, vegetables, pasta salads, and desserts - from macadamia nut sand dollars to chocolate dipped bacon, was on hand.
“Everybody in this building are people you’ve touched,” said Saberg, as she thanked everyone from sharing in the celebration.