GLORY DAYS FOR GRANDPA

1 10 2021

SOUL MINING WITH PASTOR RUDY

I was going to call this new column, “Sheptock In Shamokin.” My Grandfather John Sheptock was born in Mt. Carmel in 1900 and was raised in Marion Heights. Like so many others who called this area home, he spent years coal mining in Shamokin. I didn’t know my Grandfather very well as I was only a toddler when he passed away from black lung in 1961. Yet, I have always been strangely drawn to knowing better who he was for I admired the sacrifices that he made to provide for his family and his extremely hard-working ways that I hope I inherited within my own wiring.

Years ago, while speaking at a Youth Conference in Mahaffey, Pennsylvania, I took my oldest son and we toured one of the old coal mines. I didn’t have to worry about making any reservations because we were the only two that showed up for the 3:30 PM tour. As we sunk and submerged deeper into the underground obstacle course, I felt like I was bonding with the man behind the man who was John Sheptock. And when we got to the part of the ride when all the lights were turned out and we were lost in the utter night of the place, I knew at that moment the great lengths that man went so his family could get by. Maybe one of the reasons I am a Minister today is because I want no part of an environment that shuts the sunshine out. There are days even my church office becomes a hindrance rather than a help because there are no windows to open and no fresh air to breathe. And one thing I can say about our new hometown is that one doesn’t have to go far to see the creativity of the God who put His majestic trademark on all that He made. 

Grandpa eventually did move out of Shamokin and made it all the way to Clifton, NJ where he got a job as a Breaker for the Erie Lackawanna Railroad. These are the basis of my Jersey roots. John married Anna and raised four children of which my dad, also named Rudy, was the third in line. I have a faint memory of sitting on Grandpa’s lap but that is about all I can recall. He was quiet, which I am not, and he was not very emotional, which I am and when he did something for you, it was his way of communicating his love. I always knew about the Sheptock roots being in the Shamokin area and part of my fascination with God bringing me here is to discover more about the Sheptock’s who came before. In knowing better where I came from, I believe it can be essential in making better decisions in knowing where you are going. The past is a wonderful place to visit, but it is not the area where you want to settle down.

My past 39 years have been spent serving the Lord in full time service. Yes, I am the new Pastor of the Shamokin Church of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, but I am also an Oldies Disc Jockey on WISL 1480 on Saturday and Sunday. Wherever I have been, I see the whole community as a place to shine the light. I have been a Coach, a Teacher, A Mentor, A Newspaper Columnist, A Husband, A Dad and now a Pop-Pop to 8 grandchildren. I was at my last Church in Cape May County for 24 years. I was 37 when I got there and now 61 as I start all over again. I saw dreams come true and prayers answered. I fought through the loss of my dad to cancer, 2 of my sons to die on the same day they were born, a heart attack, a mini-stroke, 2 bouts of shingles and while I never got covid, I did get cancer this year. I am not one of those who believe that if you have faith, you will be healthy, wealthy, and free from trials and tribulation. I am almost the complete opposite because I’m still here after many punches from this world that could have knocked me completely out.

Why did I leave the Church in Cape May County to come to Shamokin, Pennsylvania? I didn’t come to retire that is for sure. I came because I like challenges. I knew that if my grandfather could mine the coal of Shamokin, maybe the Lord could use me to mine the soul of Shamokin. Life is not about playing it safe or giving in to fear. I love hearing the stories of what was but only to ignite the fire of what will still be. I hate when people look at me and think the best days are behind me. I love when God uses where I have been to totally impact where I am now. I see Shamokin as a place to not just bring glory to God although make no mistake, for me that is paramount.  But I also know my being here is to have my life become a living thank you card to my grandpa. And I don’t want to see people dying from a darkened heart on my watch!

I have heard the stories of what Shamokin was. I have seen the nostalgia ooze through the eyes of the people who have reminisced about the good old days. But I don’t want to just be about the glory days that pass us by where, as Bruce Springsteen reminds us, “it leaves us with nothing but boring stories.” I want to use every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year that I have left to make a positive impact today and leave an optimistic bright hope and future for tomorrow. How about you? What’s your story all about and who are you allowing to write the big finish?

Rudy Sheptock is the pastor at Shamokin Christian and Missionary Alliance Church and hosts weekend oldies radio shows on WISL-AM 1480. His columns appear in each Friday edition of The News-Item and he welcomes reader feedback at oldieswithaheart@gmail.com.


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