The ministry of Pastor C. D. and Vanda Cauley started with a simple game called Drop the Handkerchief.
“Back in 1944, young people often gathered around a fire,” Pastor Cauley explained to AFA Journal, “and a player went around the circle, dropping the handkerchief behind someone. Then, everyone asked if that person was pleased or displeased. If the person was pleased, the game continued. If not, we asked what it would take to please them.”
With twinkling eyes, Cauley smiled at his wife and added, “I think they had it all planned out because her friend said the only thing that would please her was for Vanda and me to walk together to a small bridge in the distance.
“So, we did, but we walked very slowly. And that was all it took.”
Kept for a purpose
At 95 and 93 years of age, the Moss Point, Mississippi, couple has walked together ever since. Married for 76 years, the Cauleys have built a ministry that embraces the globe.
It was almost a ministry cut short when young Cauley nearly lost his life – twice.
First, during Army training in 1945, he rolled a convoy truck down a Tennessee mountain. His truck cab separated from its chassis, flipping down the rocky gorge. When it finally came to a stop, Cauley walked away, barely scratched.
An Army ambulance screeched up the mountain to his aid, and Cauley recalled medics scrambling down, shouting, “Where is he?”
“Other guys pointed to me as I sat on a rock, shaking like a leaf,” said Cauley. “Like many young people, it didn’t dawn on me that day how God was keeping me.”
God kept Cauley that day and throughout his Army days. Then, after the war, Cauley’s brother invited him to church. He soon gave his heart to the Lord, and God began dealing with him on a deeper level. But Cauley had his own plans.
Forging a path
With a wife and a young son, he took a job making “top pay” at Ingalls Shipbuilding in nearby Pascagoula, along with two of his brothers.
One day, while moving a bulkhead aboard ship, clamps gave way, dropping the gigantic piece of steel directly on Cauley’s midsection, virtually severing his body.
When Cauley was moved to the dock via a wire basket, his watching brother was certain he could not survive such tremendous blood loss. Doctors in Mobile, Alabama, were equally skeptical.
However, Cauley had a very different, otherworldly experience that day. Unconscious, he envisioned himself moving upward. From his lofty perspective, he heard beautiful singing and saw scores of people traveling with him, toward a glowing light.
“I couldn’t see it, but the glow of heaven was so bright,” Cauley recounted. “I was excited, anticipating what I would see next.”
Looking down, he saw the earth as a huge ball, with fire shooting in crisscrossing arcs around the globe.
Cauley recalled, “As I started coming back down, I thought, ‘I ought to wake up.’ Sure enough, my vital signs started picking back up.”
So began Cauley’s miraculous journey from death to life. As his home church prayed and fasted, doctors were amazed as devastated organs resumed functioning. And despite predictions of total paralysis, he eventually left the hospital on his own two feet.
Filled with passion
A changed man, Cauley began his ministry career by meeting a need in a nearby community. He and another young man planned a youth meeting for a Tuesday night. No one showed up.
But Cauley told his discouraged friend that numbers didn’t matter. They had obeyed God’s call, and He would credit them for obedience. And God did. Soon, the youth service was larger than the adult service.
“I still remember my first sermon,” Cauley added. “It was on the crucifixion.”
That simple sermon on the immediate, lasting impact of Christ’s crucifixion marked the start of a ministry with lasting impact.
Today, the Cauleys’ children and grandchildren all work in full-time ministry or as lay ministers. Several are active participants of Forts Lake Assembly of God, the church Cauley founded in 1950 in Moss Point.
A vibrant congregation, Forts Lake Assembly (fortslakeag.org), is renowned for its summer camp meetings, especially the youth camps Cauley instituted in 1986, where thousands of young people have been led to Christ.
In 1990, Cauley passed leadership of Forts Lake Assembly to his son Tim. Cauley continued preaching on local radio shows and still does jail ministry regularly.
Earlier this year – undeterred by even COVID-19 – Cauley preached via Zoom to Relevant Church in Paducah, Kentucky, where his grandson Joel Cauley is lead pastor. That sermon is archived on Relevant Church’s Facebook page at facebook.com/RelevantChurchKY.
Pastor C. D. Cauley’s legacy extends beyond his family or Forts Lake. This humble man of God has influenced hundreds of pastors, evangelists, and missionaries in ministries around the world.
Reflecting on the journey
Seventy-six years later, Cauley and his bride sat serenely in the foyer of a beautiful, modern church, situated amid multiple buildings on acres of manicured grounds. They lovingly recounted how the church started on the front porch of a nearby house.
From that porch, Cauley preached to listeners sitting on rough-hewn log benches. The congregation multiplied and purchased an old Army tent that endured muddy floods, icy cold, and hot, humid summers.
A church building was needed! Faith was high, but funds were lacking in the modest Forts Lake neighborhood.
A traveling preacher’s wife advised Cauley how to build the church: “She said, ‘My boy, start a block fund. Everybody can afford one concrete block. Let them bring a block or money for a block until you have enough blocks to start the foundation.’
“That’s what we did! We built this church, block by block, debt-free.”
The current sanctuary was also erected voluntarily, without ongoing debt. Obviously, shipwrights helped in its construction, evidenced by its gorgeous interior wooden beams and ceiling. It is a fitting tribute to a man who almost died while building a ship – and the God who saved him.
“God has been so good to us,” said Cauley, holding his wife’s hand. “But why me? I will never be able to understand what God saw in me.”
Perhaps God saw willingness. And just maybe, on that fateful day at Ingalls shipyard, God looked down the road and saw Cauley’s legacy, a fire leaping around the globe.
God called. Pastor C. D. Cauley answered. And for almost eight decades, he and his bride have faithfully walked in obedience to that call. Step by step. Block by block.
October is Pastor Appreciation Month
For an extraordinary idea to show your pastor he’s appreciated, see the Whitestone Inn feature in the September AFA Journal. Be creative or give an old favorite:
monetary love offering
gift cards to local restaurants
gift cards to buy study aids
vacation or short getaway
book of encouraging notes
commitment to daily prayer
personal coupons for practical chores
one-year gym membership
meal a week (or a month) for the year
billboard rental to show appreciation
faithfulness in attendance, support
(Editor's Note: This article was first published in the October edition of the AFA Journal and is posted online HERE)