BOTTINEAU Back in the mid-1950s, a young Michigan man just out of school was undecided what his future would hold. He was clueless.
He had grown up on a 160-acre farm. He knew the corn needed cultivating and that the cows needed to be milked. He loved the farm but more than the soil was being cultivated.
His mind was in a stir. It was late June and a decision had to be made. What did the future hold for this young man named David Hayes?
Terry Goehring, administrator of Good Samaritan Society in Bottineau, left, and the Rev. David Hayes review some paperwork Sept. 26 in Goehring’s office.
The answer came when he was cultivating the field of corn. He decided that he was going to go to Bible school and that school would be the Grand Rapids Baptist Theological Seminary and Bible Institute. Hayes started his studies there in September 1954.
He left the institution as the Rev. David Hayes and began a life of serving others. His first assignment was to First Baptist Church in New Lisbon, Wis., where he was a youth pastor from 1961 to 1965.
Following calls to serve others led him to his first pastoral position at First Baptist Church in Necedah, Wis., in 1964. From there he went on to serve as a missionary pastor at the Wah-Bun Chapel in Ponemah, Minn. He remained there from 1965 to 1982.
Other calls to serve found Hayes moving to Northome, Minn., in 1968, and to Waskish, Minn., in 1976. He served parishioners of Pitt Community Church in Pitt, Minn., for a time in 1982 before moving to North Dakota.
Hayes was pastor of Turtle Mountain Alliance Indian Church, north of Dunseith, from 1982 until 2002, and has served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Bottineau since 1983. He has been the chaplain, and sometimes been the bus driver, for Good Samaritan Society in Bottineau since 2002.
Fifty years as a pastor. "Isn't that something," Hayes said, with a relaxed smile. "I got started as a youth pastor at First Baptist Church in New Lisbon."
Through the years there have been many changes. People, churches everything has changed so much, especially the music, Hayes said. "I like to call it 7-11 music. It's seven words repeated 11 times. The words are good, but there's so little melody in it and there's very little meaning in it. It's a combination of a lot of chords and things like that," he said. "Not all of it, though," he stressed. "There's some beautiful new music that is fantastic, but so much of it is called music but it is hard to sing there's no tune, there's no melody."
When it comes to families there is a big difference too.
"When I started in 1961 it was basically regular families. Now morality has slipped so badly. They call anything and everything a family," he said with disappointment in his voice.
Hayes said he struggled with that for a while and then changed his outlook on many of the issues and is now generally satisfied with how things are.
"When you go to seminary they give you a lot of stuff that nobody ever asks about but the real practical stuff they never talk about," he chuckled. "Some of what I learned there was good, but much of it was a total waste of time. People deal with real things in their lives and really don't care about the theological things of it, but it is good for the pastor to have a solid foundation."
Good, tough times
There have been some really, really tough times for Hayes and some times when miracles truly occurred.
During one period of his ministry the average attendance at Sunday services in July was two to three people and the offering for the entire month was $1.63. "That's discouraging," Hayes said.
"There's a verse in the Book of Acts when Apostle Paul was having some rough times, and he said, 'The Lord stood by me.' I had some things happen one summer that I just couldn't believe how I really felt like no other time ever that the Lord had stood by me," he said with a choked-up voice.
He fondly remembers the time when a three-day anniversary of the unorganized church at Ponemah was celebrated in 1978.
The dates were set in January for a celebration in July and "you never know what the weather will be like six months down the road," Hayes said. When time for the celebration came there were horrible storms in the area during the daytime hours but each evening the skies were clear and there was a gentle breeze, providing for an absolutely perfect evening. "If you could order weather, it would be the kind of weather you would order," he added.
Hayes said the most remarkable of all the events he witnessed was during the celebration when banks of clouds drifted by and covered the moon each evening to provide darkness when it was time for showing the movie, "The Ten Commandments."
"Two nights in a row the clouds drifted by and then left after the movie was done. There were people who saw this. When the third night came along, I thought, 'This is strange. Two nights in a row this has happened, I can't possibly hope for the third night.' You can talk about miracles but it is very hard to believe in them. It's one thing to be in front, preaching about what happened more than 2,000 years ago but to think that a miracle can happen now is when we hedge our faith and say this is the 21st century, stuff like this doesn't happen."
But good things continued to happen for Hayes. In 2002, he went to visit someone in jail and came home with a son. "My, what a blessing,"?Hayes said with joy.
Hayes has many recollections of his years of being a pastor and has no regrets about his choice made more than 50 years ago.
"I was brought up that the Bible is the standard you go by, and I'm still glad to proclaim it in the way it was meant to be proclaimed."