Joan Elizabeth Fields Long
I was born at home on May 23, 1931. I grew up on a farm in Randolph County, North Carolina during the Great Depression with two sisters and four brothers (I am the only one left living). As a child, I loved to go to church, especially Sunday School at Providence Friends Meeting, a Quaker congregation, and I joined the church when I was thirteen years old. I took an active part, considering myself to be a Christian because I had a list of good and bad things that I lived by, but I did not yet fully understand salvation. I thought I would go to Heaven for doing good things.
After graduating from Randleman High School in 1949, I got a job in Greensboro, North Carolina. When I was 19 years old, I met Staff Sergeant Cecil Long from Loco, Georgia. We met on a "blind date" and ten days later, he asked me to marry him. After four months of dating, we were married on April 22, 1951, in my home church. He grew up in a Christian home, graduated from a Christian Junior College, and had in mind to become a preacher. Without money to go to a seminary, he joined the Air Force and left that idea behind for a career in the military. We went to church all the time we were stationed in Greensboro, but in 1956, we were transferred to Elmendorf Air Force base in Anchorage, Alaska. We made friends with people who did not attend church, and we got out of the habit of getting up on Sunday mornings, but I still thought my morality would keep me out of going to Hell. I got a Civil Service job with the Weather Bureau, and we stayed busy to avoid homesickness. The winters were cold, and the daylight hours were short, but the summers had long hours of daylight. We were there when Alaska became a State, and there was much celebrating.
In May of 1959, we were transferred to ROTC at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. We were so happy to be closer to many of my relatives and we returned to church. We had been married ten years when God blessed us with our first child, a girl, Allison Jane. Our son, Brent Neron was born two and a half years later. Around this time, a group from the church that we were attending decided that we should start a non-denominational church that would be independent of any conference or association. There was a church in Durham with the same belief, and they sent people to help us get started. One of the families lived on a dairy farm. They had retired and had an empty cow barn. We cleaned it out and started having Sunday services in the summer of 1964. (No, we did not sit on bales of hay as some people asked.) That same family gave land to build a building. First a basement was dug and enclosed, and we spent a winter there. The following summer, the upper part was finished. We soon had 100 people attending. We named it Forest Grove Chapel.
It was there that I heard sound teaching of the Bible and learned that all my good works would not save me. That by trusting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and having a personal relationship with Him, was my only hope of getting to Heaven. I was 33 years old when I was baptized. Cecil's calling to be a teaching elder after many years was fulfilled. He had gotten his degree in Business Administration from UNC and retired after 20 years in the Air Force. The Lord had blessed him with a job as the Business Manager of the Psychiatric Department at Duke Medical Center. We stayed and worked in that Chapel until the first Sunday in 1984. Our congregation had gotten very small, and we had gotten older, and the responsibility was getting too much for us. We had seen both of our children saved. We sold the building to the Independent Baptist, and they are still using it for God's glory. We gave the proceeds from the sale to the Pittsboro Christian Village (a retirement home) for their benevolent fund. A Wesleyan Church was being started in Chapel Hill, and we went to help them out and stayed for 12 years. In 2001, we started going to Farrington Road Baptist Church. We knew Pastor Jim and Sylvia and several people there, and the rest is history!
I have experienced a wonderful Christian life, and I’ve been blessed to have taken part in many Christian ministries and fellowships, teaching children in Bible school and Sunday school, and leading a women’s Bible study for more than 40 years. One of the highlights for me was the opportunity to work on the 1973 Billy Graham Crusade in Raleigh. Cecil was in charge of getting materials to the churches in Chapel Hill. Since he was working full time at Duke, I helped out by visiting all the preachers of the churches who wanted to participate in the Crusade. We were both counselors at the Crusade. Cecil got to sit on the platform with Billy Graham for two nights of the Crusade. We took our children and neighborhood children every night for ten nights.
I have now been a widow since January 25, 2013. Cecil had a stroke in 2006. The first four years, he was able to go places and even played some golf. The last three years of his life, he could not walk or talk. I was able to keep him at home with help for which I am thankful. He loved Gospel Music and before he got sick, we attended many concerts. We were married almost 62 years.
As an 89 year old Christian, I would like to advise all young people to get up on Sunday mornings, find a Bible teaching church like Waypoint to attend, and learn early in life that following the Lord is the most rewarding experience you will ever have on earth and beyond.