Our story is but one of millions that testify to God’s faithful, gracious and often-surprising guidance. I (Edward), who am writing this, was born the oldest grandson of African missionaries on my mother’s side and poor Southern sharecroppers on my father’s side, I was born six weeks premature in a rural Alabama clinic in 1944.
Unable to take nourishment, my birth weight of five pounds fell to three pounds over the next three weeks. The doctor’s words were grim: this baby faced certain death unless something happened soon. My parents, Bennie Lee and Sybil Fudge, prayed all night, promising to give their baby son to God if God spared his life. God graciously answered their fervent prayers: the doctor’s “final” attempt to stop the stomach spasms succeeded.
The next year, just 80 miles north in Franklin, Tennessee, Jamie and Celia Locke welcomed the birth of their first and only child, a precious little girl whom they named Sara Faye. The Lockes also lived modestly. Jamie was a model of hard work and total devotion to his family and especially to his little girl. Celia was always the motivator, the dreamer, encouraging Sara Faye to set high goals and to achieve them.
Both sets of parents raised their children — the Fudges, six, the Lockes, one — in the nurture and instruction of the Lord, and all of them serve God today. I grew up in Athens, Alabama. Sara Faye grew up amidst the rolling hills of Middle Tennessee, surrounded by the gracious culture of the Old South.
I attended Athens Bible School for 12 years, began preaching at age 16 and sometimes picked cotton to buy winter clothes. Sara Faye frequently accompanied her parents to church meetings, where her father often led the singing. At home, her piano-playing mother also inspired and cultivated Sara Faye’s love of music and beautiful alto voice.
We both were salutatorian of our graduating class, but Sara Faye’s class had 100 students and mine had only 17. I graduating from high school in 1962, and enrolled at Florida (Christian) College, which changed its name the next year. Sara Faye entered Florida College in 1963. In all, I was privileged to sit at the feet of the late Prof. Homer Hailey for three years of textual Bible study.
After my freshman year, I left school to work for a year and save money to return. Sara Faye’s freshman year was the year I was working. We met at FC in 1964 when we both returned as sophomores. After two years there, Sara Faye transferred to Peabody College (now a part of Vanderbilt University). I took my third year at FC, but made arrangements with Abilene Christian College (now University) for all my classes to be credited toward graduation there. My senior year, I lived in Abilene and attended ACC.
For a brief video intro to Sara Faye:
We both graduated from our colleges in May 1967 and married the following month. Then we moved to Abilene where I earned a master’s degree in biblical languages and Sara Faye started her career as an English teacher.
After received my M.A., we moved to St. Louis (Kirkwood), Mo., where I preached from 1968-1972 and Sara Faye taught Senior English at Kirkwood High School. I also attended Covenant and Eden theological seminaries while in St. Louis. As newlyweds with no children and two jobs, living in a church-furnished parsonage, we thoroughly enjoyed St. Louis — and still call that our “Camelot years.” But Camelot would not last forever.
In 1972, my father, Bennie Lee Fudge, died suddenly from pneumonia at age 57. I was 28 and Sara Faye was 27. We prayed and decided to return to Alabama to help my mother, Sybil (Short), with the family’s CEI Publishing Company until she sold the company and returned to Africa to help care for her elderly parents. There, for a decade, now figuratively remembered as “the wilderness years,” we underwent a crash course in learning to depend on God for everything as, one by one, old securities crumbled until only God remained. We also saw first-hand God’s faithfulness and provision for those who trust in him.
During this period, a sectarian cabal secretly bought the formerly-family publishing business. On July 10, 1975, the day they took control, the new owners terminated me when I refused to change my teaching of salvation by grace through faith rather than through doctrinal precision, rule-keeping or church affiliation.
About the same time, I was dismissed from the country church where I was preaching, after I left the impression “that the Baptists and Methodists might also go to heaven” and also called on a visiting Black brother to pray. Meanwhile, two legalistic debaters from other states arrived to denounce me by name in churches throughout my home county, flamboyantly charging that my teaching on grace had “chopped the anchors that hold the ship of Zion.”
Through it all God provided our family’s actual needs–for a year in strikingly extraordinary ways, then in 1976 through a typesetter job for me in a printshop. The same year Sara Faye and I, with some other friends, started a nondenominational church in a renovated barn. (These were the circumstances surrounding the researching and writing of The Fire That Consumes, another story of grace and providence all its own.) I served the “barn church” as unofficial and unpaid pastor until 1982, when I was hired as founding editor of The Good Newspaper, an interdenominational Christian newspaper to be published in Houston, Texas.
Houston and a new career
When The Good Newspaper died in 1985 in a sagging Houston economy, God prompted and then providentially arranged for me to enter law school at age 40, something I had never planned or even considered. Our two children then teenagers, Sara Faye resumed teaching as a substitute to help pay the bills, and I worked as a clerk in three different law firms.
After 42 months of working days and attending law classes at night, I received a doctorate in Jurisprudence in 1988 from the University of Houston College of Law, then practiced for four years with the downtown firm of Jenkens & Gilchrist and six years with the westside suburban firm of Simmons, Fletcher & Fudge. In September 1997, I joined the Lanier Law Firm, where I am now listed “of counsel.” Firm owner Mark Lanier and his wife Becky sponsor my multifaceted ministry, and I give thanks to God for their generous stewardship.
God has opened doors
When the adversaries fired me in July 1975 from what had been my family’s business, the adversaries boasted that they had driven me underground. However, God missed their announcement! Instead, he opened doors for me to minister in Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Adventist, Episcopal and nondenominational churches as well as in Independent Christian Churches and numerous varieties of Churches of Christ.
God has enabled me to write books (see “Written Ministry” on this website), The Fire That Consumes, a 500-page first edition scholarly work, was an Alternate Selection of the Evangelical Book Club.
I have been given opportunities to lecture at many seminaries, graduate schools and universities in the USA, Canada and New Zealand. And God has enabled me to write for many Christian papers, journals, magazines, and several secular ones as well.
Since 1996, I have written and produced gracEmail, an internet column for subscribers around the world, and have taught and counseled thousands of others via email and through this website.
Involvement at Bering
When we moved to Houston, Texas in 1982, Sara Faye and I joined the Bering Drive Church of Christ, with our two small children, Melanie (then 9) and Jeremy (then 7). Melanie is now married to Michael Simpson, an I.T. (computer network) manager for a national company headquartered in Houston. Melanie teaches music in a new public elementary school. Their family attends Crosspoint Community Church in west Houston.
Jeremy and his wife Kristy live in the North Dallas area and with their three daughters are part of Heights Baptist Church in Dallas. Jeremy is a partner in a corporate immigration law firm in Dallas, and also manages its office in Houston. Kristy stays busy as a fulltime Mom.
Since 1982, I have served Bering Drive Church as a teacher, elder (for 19 years) and occasional substitute preacher. Sara Faye has sung on the praise team, worked as a leader and active participant in Women’s Bible Study and, since 1983, been director of the Children’s Library.
God has given us five grandchildren, two in Houston and three in Dallas. For all these reasons and for many more, Sara Faye and I understandably, cheerfully and constantly give God hearty thanks and praise.