A chance remark led to a 50-year reunion of the youth group from First Baptist Church in Clovis, N.M.
Joe Provence of Plainview, alumni director emeritus at Wayland Baptist University, served as youth director at the Clovis church from 1961 to 1964. During the past summer, he remarked to Joe Jesko of Arlington, a Wayland trustee, he would love to reconnect with some of the young people he had not seen in decades.
“We should work on that,” Jesko said.
So, they began collecting addresses, compiled a mailing list and selected a date. They booked a hotel in Lubbock, hoping Herbert Bergstrom, former pastor at First Baptist in Clovis, could attend. Bergstrom, 97, lives at an assisted living center in Lubbock.
Although Bergstrom was hospitalized the week before the reunion, his daughter, Judy Bergstrom Gary, retired missionary to Guadaloupe and a member of the youth group, led a devotional on his behalf.
Provence returned to Lubbock a few days after the reunion to visit Bergstrom at Crown Point Health Services.
“I told him that we were planning another reunion in a couple or three years—maybe on his 100th birthday—and he laughed at that,” he said.
Provence and his wife, Freda, had been married only two months when they accepted the call to First Baptist Church in November 1961—he as youth director and she as church secretary.
Ministry was ‘learning experience’
“What a fabulous learning experience that was for us,” he recalled. “We have discussed those days and the life-lessons with which we left. Dr. Bergstrom was a wonderful teacher, friend, mentor and boss. I was fortunate to learn from the very best.”
The reunion drew more than two-dozen participants. In addition to former members of the youth group, Ken Robinson of Artesia, N.M., former minister of music and education at First Baptist in Clovis, and his wife, Addie, and former youth workers Sylva Compton of Clovis and Joyce Hargrove of Seminole also attended.
During the reunion, participants held a memorial service to honor 18 youth and youth workers who are deceased. Workers remembered included Mary Ballew, Freddie Deaton, Charles Hargrove, Bertie Jesko, Mary Louise Jones, Jimmie Kinard, Eula Mae Madole, Eva McDaniel, Elva Noffsker and Oleta Self. Youth remembered were Sara Nell Bergstrom, Alan Ford, Jim McDaniel, Pat McDaniel, Ella Mae Mitchell, Donna Phillips, Dudley Self and Carol Thompson.
“The hotel block was listed as ‘Clovis Youth Reunion.’ Most of the ‘kids’ are now retired, so we really got some strange looks from the front-desk staff,” Provence noted.
“There were lots of laughs, a few tears and many, many great memories.”