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A retired pastor's wife reflects on a life of ministry

Staff writer

Rosella Martin of Hillsboro didn’t know what she was getting into when she prayed as a teenager to marry a preacher. She felt it was a calling, but the 58 years of ministry she had while married to Pastor Loyal Martin were definitely on-the-job training.

“Pastors have their job descriptions, but their wives have to discover their niches,” she said, “and maybe it’s different at each place.”

The couple were married in 1956 and have moved 13 times. Their average stay at a pastorate was seven years.

“It took me a year to get familiar with a new situation,” Rosella said. “I didn’t like moving.”

Whenever they moved to a new congregation, Rosella discovered that the women of the church had specific expectations based on what the former pastor’s wife did.

She finally learned that she had to take the initiative to determine her own role.

“I had to be my own self,” she said.

For example, women expected her to sit with her husband at special church functions, but she liked to sit among other women. Instead of sitting at the head table, she liked to be in the kitchen.

When they were introduced to a new congregation, she would say, “After our honeymoon is over and you start seeing things you don’t like about my lover and husband, I ask only one thing: Please don’t come to me with your criticisms. It is your duty to tell God, go directly to him, or go to the church council.”

She also had to learn not to criticize her husband’s preaching or to make comparisons between her family and other families.

It was important not to have favorites in a congregation but to be inclusive in an attempt to avoid jealousy and envy.

“It was too easy to serve with reluctance, resentment, and resistance, to minister with my brakes on instead of joyfully,” she said.

Through prayer with women, holding cooking classes for girls, counseling them, and conducting Bible studies, she learned how to be a loving, understanding mentor.

Public speaking was difficult, so Rosella used her artistic ability to provide chalk drawings that accompanied the speaker’s presentation.

The couple had three children, each one born at a different place. Fortunately, they all graduated from high school at Fresno, when Loyal served as an overseer of 46 congregations in the Pacific region.

Rosella isn’t one to sit still, so she went into nurses’ training after the children were raised and became an licensed practical nurse in 1987.

The Martins officially retired from the ministry in January, but since then, Loyal has conducted numerous funerals.

Although Rosella is 80 years old, she is not in love with the idea of retiring and doing nothing. She believes in exercising.

“Whenever I feel tired, I go for a walk,” she said. “I swim in Marion and work out.”

She still has a heart for ministry. She looks for ways to reach out to others, being sensitive to their needs, and giving them encouragement. She enjoys entertaining guests including Tabor College students.

Last modified Nov. 16, 2015

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