Confessions of faith
When going through a hard time, a man hears God’s strong words about divorce, Jesus, and forgiveness.
Casey Cummings was raised on a ranch near Martin, South Dakota. “My dad was Catholic, but he never really went to church very often,” recalls Cummings.
As the middle child in a family with seven children, Cummings went through catechism classes and first communion. Later on, however, he wasn’t too interested in attending church.
After finishing high school, Cummings worked on ranches in Nebraska for a time. He also traveled out to San Jose, California, to live with an uncle. The change was dramatic. At the time, there were more people living in San Jose than in the state of South Dakota. “After about two months, I was getting tired of the crowds and decided to come back home,” he notes.
Cummings returned to Martin, a town of approximately 1,100 people in western South Dakota. He took on different jobs but still wasn’t intrigued by the idea of church. While he tried out some options, including a Baptist church, he didn’t remain in any. “It never seemed like all was right with those churches,” he says.
Not following the teachings of man
Life carried on with ups and downs for Cummings. He got married, and the couple had four children.
At one point, he was involved in construction work. While at this job, he worked for a man who was a member of the WELS church in town.
“At the time, I totally had a misunderstanding of what the Lutheran teachings were,” recalls Cummings. The idea of a church based on the beliefs of a particular man, Martin Luther, was unappealing to him.
The WELS congregation in town was constructing a new church building, and the WELS member that Cummings worked for was involved in the project. “He asked if he could have me come in to town and help him while he was helping to build the church,” Cummings remembers.
One day when Cummings was working on the roof of the church, the pastor approached him. “He asked me if I considered ever becoming a member of the church,”says Cummings. “I said, ‘I don’t want to be part of a church that is based on the teachings of a man.’ ”
The encounter occurred around 1990. At the time, Cummings didn’t know that approximately eight years later, he would approach the same church.
In the late 1990s, Cummings found himself in a tough spot. His marriage had unraveled, and he was going through a divorce.
It was a hard period. “I was just wondering around lost at the time,” he recalls. He stopped in a Presbyterian church in town, which had a female pastor. “I asked her, ‘What do you think about divorce?’ ”
The answer he received was not straightforward. “She said, ‘Well, I guess sometimes things just don’t really work out and aren’t meant to be,’ ” he remembers.
Cummings went to a different church and received a similar answer. The advice didn’t sink in, and he continued to feel lost. “A good friend of mine was a member of WELS, and he said, ‘Maybe you should talk to my pastor,’ ” says Cummings.
Cummings took that advice. On a Wednesday afternoon during Lent, he approached the same church he had helped build. He asked the pastor the same question he had asked others about divorce. “He told me, ‘I’m not going to tell you what I think about divorce. I’m going to tell you what God thinks about divorce,’ ” says Cummings.
Then the pastor opened up the Bible. After looking at Scripture, the two talked for bit. “He said, ‘We have services on Wednesday evenings during Lent, and you’re welcome to come to one,’ ” recalls Cummings. That same evening, Cummings took the pastor up on the offer and attended worship at the Lutheran church.
The evening service changed everything. “It was the first time I ever really heard the Word,” Cummings recalls.
After that first service, Cummings couldn’t get enough of hearing God’s Word. He started coming to more services. “Up until that point I was never really sure what Easter was about,” he notes. He found the account of Jesus’ resurrection and the assurance of our redemption to be an amazing message. “I couldn’t wait to start Bible information class.”
Belonging to a family
When Cummings began Bible information classes, the setup consisted of one-on-one classes with the pastor. While the normal length of these classes was scheduled for one hour, Cummings often stayed much longer. “Most of the time ours would last two or three hours,” he says. “I was so full of questions, and the pastor was good at answering my questions from the Word.”
After completing the Bible information classes, Cummings became a member of the church. Unlike his experiences with other churches, this time he was ready to stay. “The simple fact that all the teachings were based on the Word of God and not on other things—that’s what really caught me,” he says.
During spring of the year Cummings began attending services, the WELS congregation decided to build a new parsonage. At the time, Cummings saw an opportunity to offer a hand. “I started helping with building the parsonage and really got to know the members,” he says.
Cummings felt accepted right from the start. “Everyone made me feel welcome, even though for most of them I was a stranger. It’s such a wonderful church family.”
After he became a member, a member of the church asked Cummings if he would like to serve on the church council. “At the time I told him I don’t think I’m suited,” says Cummings.
The next year, however, when the time came again for the council elections, Cummings was asked again to consider the possibility. This time, he agreed, and he served in that role for the next 15 years.
Growing in the Word
Today Cummings lives on the same ranch where he was raised and has a few cattle. He works for another rancher in the area.
While he appreciates attending worship regularly, Lent continues to be a special time for Cummings. During that season, he always remembers the first time he walked through the doors of the WELS church and asked the pastor about divorce. The encounter initiated a whole new period in his life.
“Every time Lent comes around, I don’t want to miss the services because they take me back to where I started,” says Cummings. “I remember how refreshing it was to hear such a wonderful message.”
After he became involved with the WELS church in Martin, several of Cummings’ children grew interested in learning more about God’s Word. They went through instruction classes, and today, three of his children are also WELS members.
Through every point in life, Cummings finds himself turning again to the Word for comfort and counsel. “As long as I remember that only one thing is needful, it really helps me get through,” he says.
Rachel Hartman and her husband, Missionary Michael Hartman, serve in León, Mexico.
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Author: Rachel Hartman
Volume 102, Number 6
Issue: June 2015
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