This article, written by Colleen Schroeder Friesen, was originally published in The Messenger, May 1982.
Distinguished Alumnus Bernard Wall--Serving With Joy
Congratulations are in order for Bernard Wall of Madera, California. He has been selected to receive Fresno Pacific College's first Distinguished Alumni Award.
The Distinguished Alumni Award is designed to honor those whose lives have demonstrated the college's emphasis on service and excellence. Financial success or professional accomplishment are not necessarily major factors in the selection of candidates. A "distinguished alumnus" is one who "diligently labors among us" (I Thess. 5:12). Bernard Wall is such a person.
Bernard was among the first graduates of Pacific Bible Institute (now Fresno Pacific College). A member of the class of 1946, he attended PBI the first two years of its existence. While at PBI Bernard met and married Margaret Funk. Their life together has been one of service and dedication to the Lord's work.
Dedication runs in Bernard's family. His father wanted to go to China as a missionary. The Lord closed that door, however, and opened others in Madera, where he served as pastor of the Madera Mennonite Brethren Church in addition to his duties as a mail carrier.
Bernard was also a mail carrier until his retirement. For the past thirty years he has also served in some official capacity in the Madera Church. Bernard has been a Sunday school teacher, deacon, assistant pastor, interim pastor, and pastor, all while working for the post office.
"No one will ever know the sermons I formulated while driving a mail truck," revealed Bernard. "Seeing the secular and spiritual lives intertwined together like two plants made church life more meaningful."
Holding a job in the secular world was necessary since the church could afford to pay him little or nothing for his contributions.
"We've always had to do a lot of improvising," says Margaret, "making do and making over. But the Lord always took care of us."
The Walls have five children so there was always a good deal of improvising. Their children--Sam, Ruth, James, Mary, and Esther--have always been a source of great satisfaction for Bernard and Margaret.
"I baptized all five children," says Bernard. "I also performed the wedding ceremonies for four. I would have performed it for all five, but one son married a girl whose father was a pastor, and he wanted that honor." He smiled and added, "But I did the devotional."
One would think that now that their children are grown and married the Walls would relax and enjoy their retirement, but that is not the case.
"We've been busy, busy, busy all our lives." But when asked if she would have lived any differently, Margaret replied, "I can't imagine any other way of life. We just keep on going." Bernard added, "I feel sorry for the people who retire with nothing to do. I just can't imagine that."
Bernard keeps busy with his hobby, woodworking. (He made all the pulpits and cabinets in their church.) And, he will continue to teach Sunday school. He finds that this is the job that has given him the most joy.
"When you teach Sunday school you work with the Word. There is a close, personal fellowship." He appreciates that kind of setting because people can share more deeply and talk about more personal application of the Word to their lives.
In the future, Bernard is looking forward to continuing as a lay person in the church. "I've had an official role in the church for 30 years. Now I'd like to talk to people without the church as a backdrop. But," he adds with a chuckle, "I hope they still let me preach once in a while!"