Although his last official day was Friday, Bro. Roy Faulkner is still at his office, cleaning out the many books and files that he has collected over the years.

And after 25 years as director of the Laurel River Baptist Association, there are many memories that accompany the items of memorabilia that line the shelves and desk of Bro. Roy Faulkner.

His office features shelves filled with books - reference books of various sorts that he lends out to the many pastors and church leaders.

"I'm a prolific reader," he said. "I've already given away some of my collections to people and I'm extending my home office for others."

Faulkner said he never dreamed when he took the position of the Association's director that it would extend into a 25-year career. But he knew early on in life that he wanted to serve God and people.

"I was reared in a Godly home and I'm very thankful for that," he said. "I was raised in Lynch. My parents were from Woodbine and Rockholds but my grandfather worked for the railroad. They moved to Corbin but then went back to Lynch when my dad got a job at U.S. Steel, where he retired."

The family resided in Cumberland and immediately became involved with Central Baptist Church there. That is also where Faulkner gave his life to God, an act that launched his career in ministry.

"I got saved when I was 16," he said. "I will never forget it. It was on a Tuesday night of a revival. Our pastor was Bro. Jack Bruce, who later pastored at Swiss Colony Baptist. Bro. Bruce really influenced my life."

After graduating from Lynch High School, Faulkner attended Southeast Community College and then transferred to Cumberland College (now University of the Cumberlands) to finish his bachelor's degree. Having already been called to preach, Faulkner was ready and willing to serve God through the ministry.

It was during his last year of college that Faulkner began preaching at Totz Church.

"Pastor Thurmond Taylor at West Corbin Baptist Church called me and asked me to preach at Totz Church, which was by a coal mining camp. I went there to preach and there were nine people there. Myself, my mother, my father and grandmother were four of those there that first Sunday," he said, laughing. "I stayed there a year."

Seeing spiritual decisions made is primary for preachers and pastors but when Faulkner felt that his service was not productive, he began praying for guidance in his future. He had such an experience early in his career with a church.

"I was there for nine months and not one decision was made - no one was saved, no one joined the church," he said. "I prayed and asked God to show me if I needed to leave. We sang three verses of the invitation and no one made a move, so I told them then that that would be my last Sunday there."

But after the service, a woman who had been one of the 39 people attending church there approached him and said she was going to move her membership there if Faulkner stayed.

"I told her that I'd been praying about staying there and I would have stayed if someone had made a move," he said. "She tried to talk me into going back in and singing another verse of the invitation but I'd already told the church I was leaving."

Faulkner had previously received a call from the director of missions about filling in at Evarts Baptist Church in Harlan County.

"I went there as interim pastor and became pastor after six months," he said. "I was still single at that time but there was this pretty young woman named Kay who went there. She got saved and I baptized her and later married her. We saw that church grow from 40 for Sunday morning services to 150. We stayed there for 25 years, and Kay has stood by me all those years. I couldn't ask for a better wife."

Faulkner said their union has been successful because of Kay's deep faith and dedication.

"I always tell single preachers that when they look for a wife, find one who loves Jesus more than they love you," he said.

Faulkner said the 25 years in Evarts gleamed him many fulfilling experiences.

"I baptized 250 people, saw the church grow and preached over 500 funerals," he said.

Two particular funerals, however, still bring tears to his eyes.

"There was a mine explosion. The two owners were friends of mine, so I went as a liaison and stayed at their office to help the families of the miners that were killed in the explosion," he said. "I'd go home to clean up and change clothes. They brought the men out on a Saturday morning. It was around 6 a.m. when they brought the first body out. It had started to rain a little but as it went on, the rain kept getting harder and harder. I was there, praying with the families.

"I'll never forget that morning," he said, as his voice choked with emotion. "During the next week, I preached the funerals of four of the five people that were killed. They had a joint funeral for the two brothers."

Despite that tragedy, the church continued to grow under Faulkner's pastorship as the first full time pastor.

"For years I was the only full time pastor from the city of Harlan to Virginia," he said. "Most churches couldn't afford a full time pastor. When some of the churches in that area didn't have a pastor, I would go and fill in and do funerals. Back then, it was a community ministry."

But the end of the mining boom brought an exodus of the population in that area and the church attendance suffered a drastic drop.

"At one time we had 2,500 in Evarts, but after the coal mining stopped, it dropped to 1,200," he said. "Kay and I enjoyed it there. I remember one revival we had that lasted three weeks. I baptized 35 people, mostly adults."

But after 25 years at one church, Faulkner said he became "Holy Restlessness," a term he said he coined. Then he got a call from Bro. Johnny Jervis, who was on the board of the Laurel River Missionary Baptist Association and pastor of Swiss Colony Baptist Church.

"Bro. Jervis told me they needed a director of missions. I came over and preached to the executive board (of Laurel River Baptist Association) which was held at Providence Baptist," he said. "They voted unanimously for me, so I gave my two weeks notice and moved to London."

"That job was being the pastor to the pastors of the 36 churches in the association," he said. "I have greatly enjoyed that job - I've met great ministers and great people. When you work with churches and pastors like that, they become a part of your life."

But he again felt that he needed a change and decided to step down to enjoy some free time with his wife, who has some illnesses. He also said his own health was "not where it should be."

"But we've been here 25 years and this is home to us now," he said. "We're going to stay right here and I will be around to preach if some churches need someone to fill in while they don't have a pastor or if a pastor needs someone to preach for them."

Faulkner has witnessed many changes in the procedures of church services - moving from the traditional church setting of pews and pulpits to auditorium style seating with stages and folding chairs for a more contemporary atmosphere.

"But there's just something about picking up that church hymnal, turning to a page and singing the verses of the old songs that's still with me," he said. "Now you have big screens on the walls and they've covered up the piano and organs and replaced them with guitars and praise bands."

The trend of more informal church services also extends to the style of clothing worn to church services.

"Now you see preachers get up to preach wearing blue jeans," he said. "I almost always wear a suit or a jacket and tie. I always looked at it that I am representing the King of Kings and I needed to look the part."

While he is always thankful for his experiences with the local churches, he said he hopes to continue his ministry by preaching at area churches.

"I hope I will be preaching and ministering to churches," he said. "My heart has always been in pastorate and I'd enjoy continuing to do that.

njohnson@sentinel-echo.com

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