I was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and raised in a neighborhood in Holt, Alabama called "Possum Holler". My parents used to joke and say that she had 6 kids and he had 5 but together they only had seven. Both had been previously married and blended their families. I am the last of the seven. We were poverty stricken. My father died when I was 6 and my mother who had finished only the 7th grade was left to raise the five children still at home on $139.00 a month Social Security. We were not a spiritual or religious family. I guess you could say that we were basically heathen. But even as a child as young as 5, I would get up on Sunday and iron my own clothes and walk to Sunday School and Church.
At twelve I went forward at a revival service at Holt Baptist Church to be saved. Unfortunately, nobody counseled with me or prayed with me to be saved. They filled out a card on me and baptised me. It is very difficult to try to be a Christian if you don't know the Lord. During my teen years I left the church behind. I finished Holt High School and God in His goodness connected me with a student loan to go to the University of Alabama. I borrowed enough each year to pay the tuition ($150 a semester) and worked to pay for books and put food on the table. I graduated in 1968 with a B.S. in Biology. My senior year in college everything was finally looking up.
Even before I had graduated I was offered a contract and teaching position at Tuscaloosa County High School. On the strength of the contract to teach school, I bought my first house before I had ever worked a day as a school teacher. For the first time in my life I lived in a home that actually had indoor plumbing. I should have been happy but I was miserable because my heart was so full of sin and darkness. I did what I thought you do. I went back to church and became very faithful. I went Sunday morning and night and Wednesday night. I sang in the choir and even paid my tithe - but I was lost! I changed churches that fall to Emmanuel Baptist and heard the Word of God preached in a new and exciting way.
I realized that I had never been saved. I knelt on my bedroom floor and prayed the sinners prayer and Jesus came into my hear and changed my life. Praise the Lord it was a lot easier to be a Christian by actually having Christ in my heart! I began praying fervently for a wife. On May 16, 1971(after almost three years of prayer) I looked across the congregation from the choir area and seated 4 pews from the back I saw the most beautiful red-haired girl. She looked so young I probably would never have approached her, but another girl in the church that was interested in me asked Sue to come and ask me on Sunday night to go out to eat with everybody. That is all the encouragement I needed. I pursued her fervently. It was not smooth sailing however, because Sue told me almost immediately that she was in love with someone else. Amazingly, I told her that was OK that I would take what ever relationship she was willing to let me have.
You see, I had prayed for three years and I felt so powerfully inside that she was the girl the Lord had for me. I could wait patiently for the Lord to work it out. There are many events related to this but I will shorten it by saying by July, Sue finally realized that she loved me, too! We married on December 18, 1971, Sue was 19 and I was just shy of 26. She became an R.N. at 19 and began working at DCH while I continued to work at County High. We started our family with the birth of our son Stephen on May 15, 1974. Our daughter, Elisabeth was born on May 21, 1976. Elisabeth was born with Spina Bifida and hydrocephalas. The doctors in Birmingham told me that she would probably not live past 5 years and would have a miserable life not really knowing anyone or anything. They even offered me the "opportunity" to do nothing for her and let her die. We chose to fight for her medically and trust God. She was with us for 26 wonderful years. I can not tell you that they were easy years but they were wonderful. She was physically disabled but she was very bright mentally and had a great personality and wacky sense of humor.
I would like to share one of the most profound gifts that my Heavenly Father has given me. I was working at ACA full-time as the Guidance Counselor (that is another story). In mid-year of the 2000-2001 school year, I felt impressed of the Lord that I needed to spend more time with Elisabeth. She was not sick or anything like that. I thought she needed me spiritually or emotionally. My wife and I talked it over and I turned in my resignation to finish out the school year in May 2001. I spend the entire next year with my daughter every day. If she wanted to go out we went; if not, we stayed home. The following April she became ill and passed away on July 23, 2002. I will never be the same, but it still overwhelms me that I had that year with her. My wife and I prayed how we could honor her life and memory. We felt impressed to start the Elisabeth Hughes Helping Hands Fund. Our goal is to raise enough money to build a Christian children's home in Guatemala through the New Life Advance Missions organization. The first home was completed and dedicated in September, 2006. It was named Casa Elisabeth and 22 girls are living there. We are continued to work toward building a boys home which was completed in 2008. It was named Casa Andrew.
My son, Stephen, has a wonderful family - a beautiful wife and two wonderful children. He is very active in his church.
I hope I don't give you whiplash, but I will share a little of my employment background with you. I continued to work at County High (except for one year at Boteler Jr. High). I went to graduate school and earned a M.A. in Guidance and Counseling in 1972. At County High I taught Biology and Human Physiology. I loved every minute of it. However, in 1980 I had felt the Lord calling me to ministry. I founded Christian Fellowship Church (later changed to New Life Outreach Church) and went full time in the ministry in 1981.
We started a very small church school in 1884 and continued with it for 12 years. Closing the school was not because I didn't love the children or stopped believing in Christian education. I just did not know how to handle the financial burden that arose when parents would not pay their tuition. I closed the school and several years passed and our church went through some very difficult times. I felt the Lord leading me to go back to school and upgrade my certification and go back into education while continuing to pastor the church. When I completed the necessary hours, I put in applications with both the city and county boards. Nothing was forthcoming.
I went to a pastors' prayer meeting and ran into Dan Carden. I mentioned to him that I was looking for a position as a guidance counselor. He said at that time he really did not need any one;but, in a very short while he called me because his current guidance counselor wanted to leave. I started working part-time at ACA in January 1999. Later, I went full-time. I do believe that I am apart of this christian education ministry because the Lord placed me here. I do believe that Dr. and Mrs. Carden are some of the finest and truest Christians I know. All the people I work with here are great. I have had people point out to me some of the difficulties that we have faced as a school and I believe that I am here not because everything is perfect; but, so that I can use the abilities and gifts that I have to help us move closer to what the Lord would have us to be. I came back to ACA part- time the fall after my daughter passed away. Beginning in the 2007-2008 school year I began functioning in the capacity as Dean of Students and Guidance Counselor.
There are many other wonderful things that I could share of God's goodness to me over the years. I hope I haven't bored you to tears. If you made it this far, thank you for letting me share a little of my personal story with you.