Pastors' Memoirs

Virgil Bland Shrader, 1928-1999

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  Virgil B. Shrader was born in Marlinton, West Virginia, to Mennonite parents who were farmers. At the age of 20, he married Julia Zelia Jackson in Charleston, West Virginia, on February 14, 1949. Among many things that he did before entering the ministry were: working at the Cases saw mill , the coal mines and he logged dye wood to pay the hospital bill of his firstborn child (which is me). Before entering the ministry, my mother took me into the bedroom every morning and prayed for hours for God to use Dad in some way. She prayed for months ( to me it seemed like a long time). One day he heard a voice asking "Will you serve Me?" while driving to work. Dad thought someone was playing a trick on him.

  On the way to work on a icy road in November, while working in the mines, the car Dad was driving went over Cheat Mountain. None of the passengers were hurt, only dad. He was taken to the hospital with a fractured skull and a burst ear drum. The doctor wanted to know if he was hurting or needed something for pain. He said that he didn’t have any pain at all. While lying in the hospital he heard the voice again, "I have spared your life, now will you serve Me?" He knew this was God speaking to him. He then entered the ministry after the death of his second child in the year of 1954.

  His first charge was a little place called Riverside, West Virginia. He served several churches, plus an African-American church that did not have a pastor. They were so good to us that they saved the front seat just for us on Sunday morning. After Riverside, it was onto Jarrsville for two years where Dad entered Salem College. While at Jarrsville, there were two old sisters that didn’t get out to church, so Dad recorded the service for them. On the way home, he stopped in on the family to share the service with them. While in the middle of this, an old lady peered through the front door and saw the sisters enjoying the service and us children jumping up and down, so the old lady left and told everyone Dad was a Holy Roller (AMEN).

  Then onto Upper Tract, West Virginia, and Dad was back to school at Salem College. Money was very tight so Mom worked at the grade school cafeteria where she brought home leftovers for us to live on, and the money she made went to Dad for college. Next it was to Albright, West Virginia, for two years. That is when a bunch of West Virginia pastors thought they would like to go to the Virginia Conference. I think they were called the " West In Virginia Rat Pack," and Dad was in the middle of them. In Virginia, he served Rustburg, Blairs, Altavista, Nottoway, Shenandoah, Carson, Floyd Co., Keysville, Eagle Rock, and others. At Iron Gate, a woman told me that Dad took her to the hospital when her husband was in intensive care. He sat with her all day long. When he was in Remington, he was very active in the volunteer rescue squad, and also he became an active chaplain in the Civil Air Patrol.

  Dad had a woman call him and asked him to take her son that was going blind from diabetes to a doctor that was over 200 miles away, and he was off in five minutes with no questions asked. He was very strong when it came to doing what is right in the church. But, he had a very big heart of gold. If you needed him, he was there; or if you needed something he would try to get it for you.

  Virgil retired from the Virginia Conference in 1989. He went back to farming, what he loved second best. He still remained active in the church. He helped in the clean-up of Hurricane Hugo in North Carolina. The lives that he touched were more than I will never know. Only God has the number.

  I sadly miss Dad but, just as God called him to serve Him, he was called home to be with Him. We will all miss his wisdom and love. May we love and serve God the way Dad did. May God Bless us all.

— Donna Marie Shrader Swann



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