Faithful in all Seasons
“Serve [the Lord] faithfully with all your heart.” Kathy and Leland Flyger, members of the Lubbock Seventh-day Adventist Church in west Texas, have taken this instruction in 1 Samuel 12:24 very seriously throughout their lives. And that’s saying a lot, since this summer Leland celebrated his 90th birthday and Kathy is 83.
“It seems to matter little how many years rack up; they continue to have the same commitment to serving the Lord and being active in church,” says Phil Robertson, Texico Conference executive secretary/treasurer and Lubbock church interim pastor.
Every week, Kathy helps out in the church office, while Leland puts his engineering training to good use fixing anything that’s broken.
This image of the Flygers hasn’t changed since the day they married in 1955, when they lived in Wichita, Kansas, for seven years. This is where Leland says he learned to be a deacon. “The head deacon at the Wichita church took me under his wing and trained me,” Leland says. “He taught me to serve the people and gave me my start in being a church leader.”
It was here, too, that Leland and Kathy recommitted themselves to Christ. “We wanted to dedicate our lives as servants in any way we could,” Kathy remembers.
Planting a Seed in Arlington
When Leland’s work sent them to Dallas, Texas, they searched for a house with the stipulation that he didn’t have to drive facing the sun both ways to go to work. They were unsuccessful at every turn. Finally, they went to Arlington—the one place they didn’t want to live because it meant driving into the sun both ways on the commute. Without any problem at all, a house was available—a house that didn’t require a down payment until they got their tax return. “Looking back, we don’t see anything but God’s hand in it, orchestrating our move,” Leland says.
When they arrived, there was not a Seventh-day Adventist church in Arlington. People drove many miles to the closest towns to attend church. Following a evangelistic crusade by Bill May that was sponsored by the Irving, Grand Prairie and Fort Worth Handley churches, several Arlington Adventists, including the Flygers, decided it was time for a church in Arlington. Together, they started the process, and as of December 14, 1963, Arlington had a church.
Over the next 40 years, the Flygers helped build the church from the ground up as two of 36 charter members. Leland served as head deacon and head elder, and Kathy served as the church clerk, Cradle Roll Leader or wherever else needed. According to Kathy, the highlight of her service was working with the late pastor, Gayle Tucker, in the church office. When Leland retired, he turned his attention to maintaining the church facilities.
“Church was everything,” Kathy recalls. “Our family was church. Our friends were church. All of our kids went to church school and we took turns picking up each other’s kids. There was never a conflict for us trying to live our lives and be involved in church; our life was church.”
Nurturing Growth in Lubbock
Finally, the Flygers decided it was time to settle in and enjoy retirement. They moved to Lubbock, Texas, to be near their daughter and grandchildren. They weren’t there long before Sean Robinson, pastor of the Lubbock Church at the time, reached out and asked Leland if he would serve as head elder. After much debate, Leland accepted.
That was twenty years ago, and the Flygers still feel they have been divinely led to Lubbock—just as they feel they were led by God in every other part of their lives. “We’ve dedicated ourselves to Christ in any way we can be of use,” Kathy says. “And God has taken care of us.”
The Flygers share several testimonies of God’s faithfulness. When they came to Lubbock, the church was raising funds for a new facility. The Flygers committed to regular contributions as long as they didn’t have to replace their vehicle. “Our cars just kept running and running,” Leland exclaims. “We haven’t even needed more than basic repairs.”
Lubbock sees a lot of damaging hail, and as a result, most residents find they need to replace their roofs regularly. In the last three years, all of their neighbors have had to replace their roofs and skylights twice, but the Flygers have only recently, after a particularly bad storm, had to replace theirs for the first time in 20 years.
Five years ago, Leland survived a near-death accident. The fact that he took a turn leisurely rather than at regular speed, he attributes to his angel slowing him down. “Our roof shingles last longer, our tires last longer, and we walk away after dangerous accidents,” Kathy says. “I often find myself wondering if I’ve been grateful enough. We sometimes take these gifts for granted but they don’t happen to everyone.”
Leland and Kathy have continued to be faithful in their service to God and the church, insisting they don’t need payment. “Honestly, the church does for us more than we do for it,” Kathy says. “When Leland woke up ill three years ago, blind in one eye, he was in and out of the hospital for quite some time. We honestly didn’t think he was going to live. Our church family stepped in and took care of us.”
Nurses in the Lubbock church became Leland’s personal at-home nurses cooking healthy food, making nourishing juices and managing the vitamin regimen Leland needed until he was out of the woods with his illness. The church elders brought communion and the church youth visited Sabbath afternoons. With tears in her eyes, Kathy says, “This church has given back so much; we’ve been paid in love and kindness.”
Though Leland can no longer climb ladders or repair the roof, he still does everything he can around the church, including electrical work and plumbing. Kathy dedicates her days to covering the office and preparing the weekly church bulletin. “It’s natural for us to be at the church working,” Leland says. “If we are not there issuing food vouchers, changing light bulbs, painting, fixing or folding the bulletins, we feel lost. This is home.”
In all their years of service, the Flygers have only had their membership at five churches. “There is a longevity of service wherever they’ve been,” says Robertson. “They’ve dug deep and given much; they are faithful in all seasons. I’m honored to know them and grateful for their commitment to the Lord.”
If you ask the Flygers about their ministry and service to the church, they respond in humility. To them, faithfulness is as natural a part of life as breathing. “We’re part of this family and that’s what drives us,” Kathy says. “We’re cherished, we’re nourished, and what little we can do in return, we want to do.”
By Becky St. Clair. St. Clair is a freelance writer and lives in the Napa Valley area of California with her family.