While I was a seminary student and intern at Lakeview Baptist Church in Auburn, Alabama, I was required each week to follow-up with people who visited our worship services on Sunday. Assignments for follow-up visits would be given on Monday during staff meeting, and visits were made on Tuesday evening following dinner and evangelism training.
So, let’s get to the part about Pat Dye’s farm…
On Monday, Jacob (another intern) and I received an assignment to follow-up with a man who had visited on Sunday. It was an address located in a rural area near Auburn, and since Jacob knew the area well, we were excited to go. The next evening, we jumped in his truck and headed down the road to this address.
As we arrived at the given address, we noticed something strange…and exciting…we were at Pat Dye’s farm. Now, for those of you who are not Auburn men and women, this may not mean anything, but for an AU grad, Pat Dye is an iconic Auburn figure, having been the football coach at Auburn during a large chunk of my formative years.
The name on the card was not “Pat Dye,” but we figured that if you’re a somewhat famous SEC coach, you may want to be able to visit somewhere incognito. So, what did we do? We drove right up to his house and knocked on the door. The main door was open, and through the screen door we could hear music playing in the background. “Coach?!?” we called, but heard no reply. Ready and willing to share with him about our faith in Christ and wanting to meet an Auburn great, we were not giving up so easily. We jumped back in the truck and rode to another part of his farm hoping to see him. Soon, we met one of his employees who stopped and asked who we were and what we were doing. “We’re from Lakeview Baptist in Auburn, and we’ve come to see Coach Dye,” we replied. “Well, you just missed him. He’s gone for the day.” We told the man, “Thanks,” and went on our way back to the main road.
It was late and getting dark, and knowing that Coach Dye’s farm was also a hunting retreat (note: guns), we decided it would be best to only attempt a visit during daylight hours. So we returned to Auburn. Now, we could have given up, but we decided to return again the following week.
After a similar experience to the one described above, we decided to ride down one more road which ran adjacent to the property to see if we could find our visitor. Not too far down this little dirt road in rural Alabama, we came across a run-down trailer, and there was a man in the front yard, so we stopped to ask if he’d seen the coach.
Upon his introduction, we realized we had made a mistake. His name was the one on the visitor card. It was not the coach who visited our church on Sunday, giving an alias on his visitor card, but this man. He had just moved into this trailer and was renting some land from a landowner in the area (I don’t think he ever confirmed that it was Coach Dye). He was recently released from prison and was seeking to begin his life again and was participating in a Christian rehab program, which explained his visit to our church. When we asked about the address, he stated something about not having a mailbox or address yet and using the farm’s address temporarily.
We prayed with him, thanked him for coming to church, asked how we could better serve him, and invited him to come again. All-in-all, it was a successful visit. We never saw this man again, but we were thankful for the opportunity to encourage him as he sought to follow Christ in his new life.
Now, you may be asking yourself, “Why is this one of his favorite memories?” Well, to be honest with you, it was exciting. It was really cool to pull up to an address and realize that you were at the home of someone who has celebrity status, at least in that part of the country. It was nerve-wracking to stand on his porch, at his front door, and think, “What will I say if he answers the door? How will I introduce myself? Will he be gracious, or will he tell us to get off his land?”
When none of that happened, and we realized that we got anxious for no reason, it was a good bit of fun to return to the church and say, “Guess where we’ve been?”