Don Sales was a goof off in high school, or so I’m told. He and his good buddy Bill were class clowns, never taking anything seriously including schoolwork. There were so many more fun things to do than crack the books and pay attention in class.
“Most likely to succeed” was probably not written in either of their yearbooks. Perhaps many who knew them then would not have expected much out of them. Sure, there were some teachers who saw potential in Donald and may have even encouraged him to try harder, but at the time he might have seemed like a lost cause, probably not a great prospect for higher education.
He played in and out of high school (was on the football team in Sheridan, Wyoming) and enjoyed fishing and hiking the Wyoming hills with his Irish Setter. He always had jobs and worked hard, but he also enjoyed those pre-sunup fishing trips with his dog.
Life was good, but goals were not something he thought a lot about. He and Bill just had a good time. They weren’t bad teenagers, just not highly motivated to make the school honors list.
Then, Don became a Christian. He had a purpose for his life. He answered a call he felt deep in his soul to ministry. He began to study towards that goal at a Christian college in Washington state, and he excelled in his classes, as he always could have done if he had wanted to. He began earning A’s in such difficult subjects as Greek and reading books that expanded his mind and soul. He still does.
He also met a girl, five years younger than he, at a “welcome home” party back in his hometown, and he saw in her the same spiritual depth he felt in his own heart.
They shared the goal of ministry then and still do after more than 65 years together.
Bill’s life did not take the same path, and years later when the two high school buddies met up again, they found there was little left in common between them. Bill is dead now, and I hope there were those who mourned his passing.
Donald John Sales, or Pastor Sales to most who know him, is still serving the loving, wonderful God who changed his life so many years ago. His Savior transformed the class clown into the class teacher and the Wyoming fisherman into a “fisher of men.”
As was the poet Robert Frost, Don Sales was faced with “two roads diverged in a wood.” One might have been “as just as fair,” but he took “the one less traveled by,” and it “made all the difference” not only in his own life but in all of the lives he touched as a result of that choice.
I count myself among the hundreds of folks who have been blessed by his choice to take that road.
I never knew the goofy teenager who hung out with his buddy Bill, although I suspect there is still a bit of a crazy kid in there somewhere, and he still enjoys a good joke and an afternoon along the river with a fishing pole in his hand.
I do know the man that God transformed into his servant and friend — and my father.