A ministry marked by giving
- Mardi Ford
He gave his life to Jesus when he was 17 years old, but by the time Vernon Slippy hit 30, that life was a mess.
God finally got Vernon's attention one sad and lonely night when he was feeling as if he hadn't a friend in the world.
God reminded the young man how much He still loved him, that He was his best friend in all the world, and that He was waiting patiently right there beside him to turn his life around.
Vernon rededicated his life Â— for all the right reasons that time Â— and has never looked back.
"I don't look back because I'm not that person anymore," he says. "The Lord's been good to me Â— gave me things I don't deserve. It is a privilege for me to handle His Word."
At the top of that list of things he doesn't deserve is a large family and a wife he cherishes and admires.
"I want to say right at the outset Â— my wife, Kay, is half or more of who I am," Slippy says.
The Slippys' service to the community began 28 years ago. They bought a big two-story house up on Third Street and ran a crisis center as a non-profit known as the Crisis Action Team, Inc. It was a forerunner of the Shelter From the Storm.
"In fact, Kay was the Shelter's first executive director after we closed the crisis center," Slippy says.
There were as many as 15 to 20 people at a time living in their house, taking in battered women in the middle of the night and juvenile delinquents who'd been taken out of their own homes by the state. They had a food bank and clothes closet. People came in and out at all hours of the day and night.
"It was a whirlwind. But it all came to an end one night when a troubled kid tried to burn the house down. We decided that was probably more than we wanted to deal with," he says.
For the next several years, Slippy preached wherever anyone would listen Â— and sometimes they didn't. Once in a while he would drive up to Wallowa County just to knock on doors and talk to people about Jesus.
"I had to Â— I just couldn't stop talking about Jesus," he says.
In the summer of 1987, the fellowship at what is now the Grande Ronde Community Church asked him to fill in as an interim pastor until they found a full-time minister.
Weeks later, Slippy remarked to the church that they didn't seem to be trying very hard to find a minister.
"They said, Â‘Why should we look when we already have one?' And that was 20 years ago," he says.
In 1991, he was ordained as a minister in the church.
One of the greater services he and the church provide the community with is in Slippy's role as chaplain for local law enforcement. For that role, he has also completed FBI hostage negotiation training.
Slippy has been called to serve during murder-suicide and hostage situations, police shootings and more. He is usually chosen to bear the bad news to loved ones of an accidental death. He counsels officers after a shooting, or if they are overwhelmed with stress on the job or pressures at home. He counsels witnesses, helping them work through what they have seen, heard and even tasted, he says, during a shooting, murder or suicide.
The most difficult cases, he says, are the suicides.
"The kids' suicides. I don't think they understand the finality of death," he says. "And not because of all the violence on television and in games and all that. I just don't think they've had enough life to understand the finality of death."
In the pulpit, Slippy says he is more of a Bible teacher than a preacher. He spent two years leading his flock through the often daunting Book of Revelation, the 66th and final book of the Bible.
He'd rather have fewer people who are truly growing in the Lord show up on a Sunday than have a church jam-packed with those who are not.
"How do I explain? We don't judge people where they are when they come here, but we don't put up with a lot of foolishness. We want people to grow in the Lord here. The solid families in this church know their Bibles," he says.
On Oct. 20 from 1 to 3 p.m., Slippy's congregation is throwing a party in his honor at the Grande Ronde Community Church, 410 Fir St.
"Rev. Slippy has been involved in many areas of this community for so many years. We want to honor his service not only as pastor but as police chaplain, as well. Many people may also remember when the Slippy's ran the crisis center," says church member Nancy Tarpy.
The congregation extends the invitation to the community as an opportunity to visit with Pastor Slippy and "let him know if he has touched your life in some way."