HURDLAND – Rev. Robert Shobe may have slowed down, but he has not stopped pastoring First Baptist, Hurdland. Come September, it will be 50 years of faithfulness to that church.
Shobe surrendered to preach in 1967 and served Emmanuel Baptist in Hannibal and did supply preaching for various churches. He was at Hartford when he learned Hurdland needed a pastor, and accepted that pastorate in 1970. For several years, he and his wife Susie lived in Lancaster but pastored in Hurdland. The church provided a parsonage and they moved to Hurdland in 1974.
Until a dozen years ago, Shobe was bi-vocational – working as a meat cutter to supplement his pastor’s salary. He no longer is a meat cutter.
In a half-century, there have been community challenges. For example, in 1993 the West Quincy Missouri levee was breached and flood waters poured in for over five miles. This shut access to Quincy, Illinois, where a hospital is. Those going to Quincy had to travel considerable distance to find a bridge open. Without the levee breach, it is a 57-mile trip from Hurdland.
The Shobes said, however, they have seen nothing like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Like many smaller churches, families have moved away. In the 1970s and 80s, the church averaged 75 in Sunday attendance. Now it is a dozen, maybe 15.
“God keeps the little remnant going,” Susie Shobe said.
The church still has a monthly business meeting, usually only attended by the Shobes and deacon Rex Sykes. “We need to have a written record and be above board on things,” Shobe said.
One bright spot is a midweek Children in Action, which draws an average of eight children, although only one is affiliated with the church. Susie Shobe said for three years they’ve tried to work with the other adults who bring the children, but so far haven’t been able to reach them. Still, they bring the children to be trained by the church.
“I remember when we had 50 kids in Vacation Bible School,” Susie said.
Robert Shobe has various health issues, including his heart, diabetes, kidneys, and arthritis. Neither his health, nor the declining membership, will keep him out of the pulpit.
“If the Lord didn’t tell me to be here, I’d walk,” Shobe said.
He offers this advice to other pastors: “Do as God says. Move when God moves you. Stay where God puts you. He knows where you are. He’s put you there to stand strong.”