Daddy loved music. He had a choir in every church be pastored, and Central Assembly was no exception. Mother directed the choir for many years.
In 1965 there was a tremendous revival that swept our youth. Many were saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit. The first thing we young people wanted to do was find some way of sharing the new life we had found. We decided to form a choir, and share the life of Jesus thru music. The choir was directed by one of the girls in the group, Gloria Locklear, and I became her assistant.
The church began advertising us as the Singing Ambassadors, and soon the city of Boise became aware of this turned-on, young, singing group.
Gloria directed the Singing Ambassadors for four years. During this time we made several record albums locally. Then Gloria met "Mr. Right" and was married. She and her husband moved away to attend college.
Several people worked with the choir on a part-time basis following Gloria's departure, but with the type of ministry it had become, it really needed a full-time director.
Daddy and the board discussed who should become the new director for the group which had become such a vital arm of Central Assembly. They came up with a list of several people including me. Daddy okayed every name on the list, but told the board members he wasn't sure about me. He didn't want the fact that we were related to cause problems for me if I was chosen as director. Because of my name being on the list, daddy stepped back from making the final decision, and told the board members to make this selection a real matter of prayer. If they felt the direction of the Lord on any of these names, including his daughter, Sharon, he would accept their choice as being from the Lord.
The board members did make this a matter of prayer and fasting. Several of them prayed for many, many hours. They felt that their choice was very important because of the tremendous impact the choir had made in the lives of the young people and also in the ministry of the church.
Early one morning my phone rang. It was one of the board members asking me to meet with the board that evening. I had butterflies all day, and I, too, asked the Lord for direction, especially because I was now married with two young children, ages three months and fourteen months.
That evening I felt a quickening in my heart as the board members told me after much prayer, they felt very definitely led of the Lord to ask me to be the director.
I did not have a strong musical background, but I did have a great love for music, and a real desire to serve the Lord. I decided that if the Lord wanted me, then together we could do anything.
I was so very close to my dad in my growing-up years, and had absorbed so much of his love for people, I had the priceless opportunity now, to put into action all that I had learned from all those years of association with my father.
First of all, the twenty-six young people who had stayed with the group during this transition time got together with me and we prayed up a storm asking God for divine direction.
Next, I wrote every young person who had ever come thru the doors of Central Assembly, and invited them to a planning meeting. Imagine my excitement when fifty-six young people showed up.
Daddy gently guided me and with the Lord on our side, the group began to come together once again into a dynamic tool for the Lord. Daddy understood that young people often like different types of music other than the established music of the church. So although he encouraged a balance, he allowed the group to sing songs full of the life and joy of youth.
My brother, Ted, had two friends, identical twins, who played football with him. They were big handsome guys. Thru his witness, and his invitation to a special youth revival, those two young men accepted the Lord. They had become part of the choir several years after the group was formed. Greg had a deep bass voice, and Jeff played the drums. When I began to direct the choir, my brother Ted and these two young men really got behind me and supported my efforts by their faithfulness to the ministry. Jeff totally gave his drumming ability to the Lord and to the choir.
Jeff and Greg spent a lot of time in our home because of their friendship with Ted, and their involvement in the music ministry. They both shared with me their special love for Pastor Buck:
Jeff: "My first exposure to Pastor Buck was while sitting around the dinner table wit Ted and my brother.
"The special thing about him was his willingness to listen to you while you were trying to sort things out, and not just telling you what to do. He didn't attack what you were believing as a young Christian. He sought to understand it, and then reflect why he didn't feel the same way, discussing the pros and cons. When you left, you would know where he stood, but he didn't berate how you believed.
"He was really low key, and one of the valuable things about him was that he didn't say, 'Let me tell you what the Bible says' and just give a pat answer to the need in your life, but he would help you search out what you were feeling, and would give God some working room.
"In my sophomore year of college, I was trying to find what direction my life was going to take. I needed some time to be alone, so Pastor Buck let me stay in the church for three or four days. He understood that I needed solitude more than talking. There's nothing quite so wonderful and moving as praying in a dark, empty church at night, just being able to be alone and to worship, praise, and sing to the Lord. It was what I needed most.
"Pastor Buck never pushed, but he tried to genuinely understand. After all was said and done, he would step aside and say, 'From here on in it's not my job, it's God's!'"
Jeff is now a Doctor in Human Factors Psychology. He is a Project Engineer at Hughes Aircraft Co. in California.
Greg: "Ted brought my brother and me to church. Pastor Buck seemed like he was always interested in us. It wasn't a superficial thing as if he was asking you about yourself because it was the thing to do. There was a genuine interest. You could relate to him because he was such a masculine guy. He had real strength, yet he had a deep compassion. He really cared about the people he was working with, and cared about what was important to you. It's hard to describe Pastor Buck, to put into words your feelings about somebody like him. His voice was deep and resonant, yet there was a mellowness and compassion that came thru clearly. You could look at his eyes, that were deep and dark, quiet, yet powerful. You didn't have to put on pretenses. You knew you could be yourself around him, relax and feel at ease. It seemed he knew what you were like anyway.
"When he died it was like losing part of my family. It was a shock. It was as if there were a solid piece of your life that's been there providing a stability and suddenly it's gone! I had to do a tremendous amount of adjusting after his death. Ted was a lot of help to me. He took it better than I did. I felt apart.
"When he was visited by angels, I thought if it had happened to anyone else, I couldn't believe it, but with him, it had to be true. That's the way I felt, because I knew him well enough, and knew that he was so down to earth, something like this had to be real."
Greg is a sales representative for a pharmaceutical company.
Soon after I began directing the group, I became dissatisfied with just drums and piano, and I asked the Lord for a good trumpeter. The Lord answered my prayers by directing me to the very best, a talented young musician and trumpeter, Dan Smith. Dan shares the story in his own words of our meeting:
Dan: "I was confronted with the possibility of going to Central by my roommate. He had gone to a Sunday night service the week before, and said that there was a good youth group there. The next Sunday morning I visited the service and have been going ever since.
"The vivacious people my age made the whole idea seem very enticing, and as an added bonus, lo and behold, there was a forty-voice youth choir that sang just my kind of music!
"A week and a half later, Sharon White came sneaking around my dog food aisle at Buttrey's Supermarket and asked me if I would be interested in playing trumpet with the choir. Sharon had been told by a friend that I played trumpet, and was just back from college and available. Sharon didn't know that I had already visited Central Assembly. I told her I would try to come to the next Wednesday practice.
"Wednesday came, and my boss would not let me leave two hours early. For some reason, going to this practice meant a lot to me. I was excited about it so I went in spite of my boss. June 4, 1970, was my first day with the choir, and the past ten years have been a blessing for me in seeing the choir grow and develop and in seeing many lives changed for Christ. That day in June, thanks to my boss, was also the last day of my grocery store career!
"Pastor Buck wholeheartedly endorsed the work of the choir. He saw it as a ministry that reached a certain segment of people that possibly would not be reached in any other way. It had grieved me so to see some men of God put music off in a corner. But he saw and felt the worship and praise in inspired gospel songs. He realized the joy and happiness that could be received. This quality in Pastor Buck was probably the backbone of the Singing Ambassadors' long-running success and acceptance!"
Dan was really special. He had the technical knowledge that I lacked, and although he was one of the top musicians in Boise, and later would travel with the Spurrlows, he caught the vision of our choir ministry, and added his expertise which was far above the talent in the choir. His trumpet added a new dimension to the sound. Soon other musicians were attracted by the opportunity to play music for Jesus that appealed to young and old alike.
The band grew and soon there were three outstanding trumpeters, along with trombonists, bass guitar, guitar, flute and drums. Dan's work was cut out for him. He and I agreed that although the choir was made up of people whose only requirement to sing was that they love Jesus, the band should have a standard of excellence. He began to arrange music to accompany the choir. With the new accompaniment, the sound became even more exciting and dynamic. The praise songs were powerful, and the worship intense.
The choir and band were able to perform at the Idaho State Fair in 1975 at six o'clock during the dinner hour, a time when hardly anyone was there. The group went over so well, however, that for the last five years, we have been given our own stage at 9 PM, when hundreds of fairgoers are pouring into the fairgrounds. Beneath a 12-foot high backdrop that says, "UP WITH JESUS," we have been allowed the freedom of singing for Jesus with ho holds barred. As people have stopped to watch and listen, they cannot believe that this is a local group, and many, many people have found Jesus as a result of the seeds planted thru this musical presentation.
The Singing Ambassadors started a "Hot Dog for Jesus" booth to earn money for equipment. We also bought muppets, and added a regular muppet show to our Idaho State Fair outreach.
Daddy was thrilled as he watched the group grow into such an exciting ministry. He felt that we ministered right along with him every Sunday morning and evening. He encouraged the Singing Ambassadors, as he did all of us children when we were growing up, that all these young people were in partnership with him. He saw many, many people find Jesus as a result of the two-pronged thrust of the anointed music ministry, combined with the richness of what he shared directly from God's heart.
The Singing Ambassadors worked together to produce Christmas and Easter musicals, that soon had to be expanded to five presentations to handle the standing-room-only crowds.
One very special Sunday will never be forgotten by any of us. It was my daddy's last Christmas season.
It was the Sunday before Christmas and we had planned to sing the "Hallelujah Chorus" to excite people about our presentation the following week. However, as the time to sing that morning drew closer, I began to get cold feet, wondering if the choir was ready to sing that song. Finally I whispered in daddy's ear that we weren't singing the "Hallelujah Chorus" after all because I wasn't sure the choir could do our best without several more rehearsals.
He really startled me by saying, "Honey, I want you to sing that song this morning. You see I had another visit from Gabriel last night, and he told me that God was sending him to the service this morning. I told him that the choir was going to be singing the "Hallelujah Chorus."
I got goose bumps, and standing in front of the choir, I whispered to them why we were still going to sing this beautiful, triumphant song. Some of them could hear, but most of them could not. As we began to sing, however, an anointing from heaven fell as never before. Some of them could hardly stand. We sang the "Hallelujah Chorus" far beyond our own ability that morning.
After the service two families, who were visiting Central for the first time, waited to ask daddy a question. They did not know each other, and they were waiting on different sides of the platform. The first family told him that they were visitors and wondered about the tall, bright light on the platform that moved back and forth in front of the choir while we were singing. Later, the other family asked daddy the same question. He was able to tell them both that there was a heavenly visitor in the service that morning.
You can imagine the thrill we choir members felt as we learned of the heavenly visitor, and the confirmation by these two families. We understood then the reason for the overpowering anointing that we had experienced as we sang.
Thru the years of ministry with the choir, the Lord has sent exceptional pianists to work with me. To each of them the Lord has given the vision of what He can accomplish thru anointed music. Wanda Lehmkuhl worked with me for the first four years. When she had to move, the Lord immediately brought in Sheri Shirley and her family. These dedicated people gave unselfishly of time and prayer to this ministry. When Sheri's husband was transferred, the Lord had already provided an extra special replacement. Linda Buck, Ted's wife, became not only a sister-in-law, and special friend, but her excellent talent on the piano, combined with her creativity, adds a tremendous zest and energy to the music ministry as she and I work together.
Daddy had the privilege of seeing me and my husband, Alan, join forces as Alan became the sound engineer. Alan also uses his artistic abilities in the many productions, publicity for the choir and the numerous outreaches of the church.
Daddy guided me into some principles that are the basis for the music ministry of the Singing Ambassadors:
The choir and band minister first to God. Secondly to each other. And the direct overflow will be ministry to the congregation.
Next: Pastor Buck and the Kids