EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is an excerpt from The Welcome Committee of Butternut Creek by Jane Myers Perrine (Faith Words).

Chapter One

On a blazing-hot June afternoon in the middle of a clogged US 183 in Austin, Texas, Adam Jordan clenched his hands on the steering wheel of the stalled car and considered the situation. As a newly ordained minister, he probably should pray, but he felt certain the drivers of the vehicles backed up behind him would prefer him to do something less spiritual.

The day before, he’d headed west from Lexington, Kentucky, toward Central Texas, a twenty-hour, thousand-mile trip, in a car held together by his little bit of mechanical skill and a lot of prayer. Sadly, on Tuesday, the Lord looked away for a moment as Adam attempted to navigate the crowded tangle of highways that is Austin. The radiator coughed steam as the old vehicle stopped in the center lane of more traffic than he’d ever seen gathered together in midafternoon. Did rush hour start at three o’clock here? He soon learned that rush hour on US 183 could last all day and much of the night, because the city grew faster than its highway system.

He got out of the car and began pushing what had once been a brilliantly blue Honda across two lanes of barely moving traffic and onto the shoulder amid the honks and the screeches of highway noise and curses of angry drivers. If his defective directional skills hadn’t led him on a fifty-mile detour into South Austin, the pitiful old vehicle might have made it to Butternut Creek—but they had and the car hadn’t.

As happens to everyone and everything over the years, the Honda had faded and frayed until no one could tell what it once had been. The identifying hood ornament had long since fallen off, and the paint was a crackled and blistered gray. And white. With rust peering through it. But it usually ran.

Adam’s first thought was to abandon the heap right there, but he’d heard Texas had laws against that. Instead, he called Howard Crampton, an elder of the church and the chair of the search committee that had called Adam.

“Hey, Howard,” he said when the elder picked up the phone. “I’m stuck in Austin on 183.”

For a moment, Howard said nothing. Finally he asked, “Who is this?”

So much for believing the church breathlessly awaited his arrival. “Adam Jordan.” When silence greeted that, Adam added, “The new minister.”

“Hey, Adam. Good to hear from you. Sorry I didn’t recognize you at first. I’m in the middle of a bank audit and my brain’s filled with numbers. What can I do you for?”

“My car broke down on 183, north of something called the Mopac.”

“Know exactly where that is. I’ll send a tow truck to pick you up.”

“All the way from Butternut Creek?”

“Not too far. Sit tight.”

As if he could do anything else.

And that’s how Adam entered Butternut Creek: sitting in the cab of the tow truck, chatting with Rex, the driver, about fishing and hunting, neither of which he did back then, with his car rattling on the flatbed behind the two men. Although his disreputable arrival didn’t signal a propitious beginning, he fell in love with the town immediately.

They entered on Farm-to-Market—FM—road 1212A, which passed between the Whataburger and the H-E-B. Rex pointed out the football stadium and high school about a hundred yards to the north and up the hill. Then the residential section began, big Victorians shoved jowl-to-jowl with bungalows and ranch houses, split levels alongside columned Colonials, interspersed with apartments and motels. Here and there, large, beautifully manicured lawns stretched out, some decorated with a gazebo or fountain while in a yard next to them appeared an occasional pink flamingo or enormous live oak trees dripping with Spanish moss.