Dexter Statesman
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After almost four decades, pastor says farewell to Bernie congregation

Friday, January 9, 2004
Joe Masters and his wife Dorothy have lived in Bernie since 1965. Masters was pastor of the Missionary Alliance Church in Bernie from 1965 until 1993. They are currently preparing to move to North Carolina to be closer to family and say it will be hard to leave the town they have grown to know and love.

Joe and Dorothy Masters have called Bernie home for the past 39 years. They say they have thoroughly enjoyed the town and its people, but will soon begin to pack their belongings and move 1,000 miles away to North Carolina.

Masters, also known as Brother Joe, served as pastor at the Missionary Alliance Church in Bernie for 30 years after serving at a church in Stillwater Okla. for ten years.

Masters was in Oklahoma when it was time to move to a new church. He applied for a different area and Bernie was available. As a strange coincidence, Master's mother-in-law had previously been in Bernie doing mission work. She came back and told the Masters how nice is was and how it would be great if they could live in a place like that someday.

"It's amazing the way God works sometimes," Masters said.

He said they have made many friends in Bernie over the years.

"As soon as I got here I realized that these people were, as we used to say 'my kind of people," Masters said. "They are a people that have a big heart and they have always treated my like family all of these years. It didn't matter if it was our church, or someone else's church. The people in those churches became, I think, more than friends. They were almost like family."

Masters said it was not going to be easy for he and his wife to leave, because it's the only home they know.

"It's going to be like pulling teeth to leave here."

Masters said the old saying, 'you can't go back' has a lot of meaning. He once revisited his hometown of Lexington, Ky. to find nearly everything had changed. Old family and friends had moved and buildings had been torn down and rebuilt. The knowledge of this fact helps the Masters understand why it's time to move on and why it has to be done, even thought it may be a bitter pill.

Although Masters job was to be a spiritual leader to his church, he feels he was more of a student than an instructor.

"I don't know that I've taught them anything much, but they've certainly taught me a lot," Masters said. "They've taught me what family means and what love and compassion means. This is a wonderful place for that."

The value of a small, tightly-knit community is something the Masters know all about after living in New York City for four years, where Masters says people had a tendency to keep to themselves.

"We didn't have that many friends in New York at all. People really didn't even want to say hello to you."

Masters said the people are what makes Bernie such a hard place to leave.

"The Bible says, if you want a friend, be one. I have sure found that to be true here," said Masters. "Being in Bernie since 1965 has been a very enriching experience and we'll never forget the people that have been a part of our lives all of this time."

Dan Burkemper - dburkemper@dailystatesman.com