PUNGO — In life one thing leads to another.
In the latter years of my life, my wife Betty and I worked with individual volunteer missionaries through the United Methodist Church. During those nine and a half years we recruited, trained, and sent about 1,000 volunteer missionaries who served from two months to two years, some even longer. They were not paid a salary, which meant they had to seek their own support.
The largest number served within the United States in many different locations. The second largest number served in Chile, primarily because we had served there as missionaries and we knew many people in that country. After we retired, it occurred to us that we had in our files many interesting accounts of their experiences, which we thought were worth sharing.
What to do about it? Our conclusion was to write a book about their experiences: Following God’s Call: Individual Volunteers in Mission, published in 2008, now out of print.
In 2011, I had lunch in a restaurant one day with Joe Burroughs and Stuart Chaplain, friends with whom I grew up in Pungo. We had been riding bicycles on the boardwalk earlier that day. At lunchtime, the two of them started telling some very interesting tales about people in Pungo. Stuart said, “Someone ought to write these stories down, because when we’re gone, they’re gone.” Then he pointed to me. “Walt, you’re the man to do it!”
Gradually I started writing them down, and Pungo Tales was published that year. The thought never entered my mind that another book would be published, but people told me there were other tales that were not in the book. So finally the next book came out, also published in 2001: Pungo Tales Two: Some Old, Some New. Whereas the first book was mostly about people of the past, this new one told about people who are still alive as well as some from the past.
Later, I went to a meeting of writers at the Senior Resource Center, Inc., in Creeds and listened as individuals read their writings to each other. Some of them had written about their pets, and we could see how special those pets were. Pets have become a very important part of some families, and we could feel the depth of love the owners have for their pets.
That led to the next book in 2013: Pungo Tales Three: People, Pets, Places. In 2014, the next book came out: Pungo Tales Four: Then and Now. It was interesting to think about things that used to be in Pungo Village when I was a boy that are no longer here.
Some people mentioned that these books don’t share much about my own life. This year, I sent one more manuscript to my publisher. It is called Pungo Tales Five: My Story and More, and it arrived in time for this year’s Pungo Strawberry Festival. It is mostly a focus on my life, but it includes other tales, as well.
What have I learned in this process of writing? One lesson is how important it is to write. Over and over we hear statements like this: “My dad told me so many stories about his life, but I did not write them down and now they are gone.” I encourage people to write down those stories with the thought that they could be published, or at least could be beneficial for younger family members.
Also, I have learned how much I love Pungo and how I am happy to have been raised here. Abraham Lincoln said, “A person should be proud of his home town and live such a life that his home town will be proud of him.”
As I interview people, it is a joy to get to know them better. Indeed, Pungo is a wonderful place to live. It is important that we who live here work together to help to make it an even better place.
The Rev. Walter A. Whitehurst lives in Pungo. Email the author for information about the books via email@example.com or call him at (757) 426-0230.
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