While Jonathan and Diane Faucette recount calls they have received that changed their lives, the grandparents of nine are waiting for another call that will again bring about change: news of the impending birth of their 10th grandchild.
Until that call comes, though, the two sit comfortably in the recreation vehicle they call home, telling the story of that first call.
“I started at the sheriff’s office when I turned 21,” said Jonathan Faucette. “I stayed there 17 years. I went out to public works for three more years. I had been planning to run for sheriff.”
Jonathan Faucette has a manner that matches up well with a certain famous, but fictional sheriff of the town of Mayberry. Without doubt, he would have been a strong contender for the position. But Faucette never ran for sheriff.
“God called me to preach in 1998,” he said. “I started pastoring at a little church called Welcome Baptist. I stayed there 15 years.”
During that time, the Faucette began to recognize a need.
“We met a lot of missionaries and families whose churches had pastors that needed a break or had family emergencies. The same story just repeated itself: ‘We can’t find anyone to come and take care of things and do it right while we’re gone.’
“That was a real burden for us,” Jonathan said. “We started praying to God for a way to help these churches in the absence of the pastor. It was most difficult for the smaller churches. The church I pastored at was small. If I had to be gone, I’d have to go somewhere outside the county to find someone who could take over for me.
“We prayed over this probably for the better part of five years. Then God answered our prayer. He called us to do it.
“We were sitting in a motel room in South Carolina,” Jonathan recalled. “We both looked at each other and in almost the same moment said ‘it’s time.’ We knew that God was ‘stirring our nest’ and getting ready to move us out of our comfort zone. We made that commitment to God right then. We didn’t know how it was going to turn out, but we were going to let him take care of it, and he has.”
In 2013, the Faucettes began operating as a “Missionary to Missionaries,” a traveling pastor service for churches whose pastors have to take time away, whether for family, personal or medical reasons. In the first two years, the couple helped nine churches. They would stay at a church from a few days to a few weeks, most times living in their 40-foot fifth-wheel RV.
“We thought that was pretty good,” Jonathan said with a chuckle. “For the last four years, we’ve been on the road more than 300 days per year. We’ve helped more than 100 churches in the last four years. We knew there was a need, but we had no idea the need would be as great as it has been.
“Our schedules fill up pretty quickly. We’re already booking for 2021 and 2022. I had to get a 10-year calendar. I never knew there was such a thing.
“We started out with a much smaller camper,” Jonathan said. “We thought we were going to only need it for a few months out of the year. The first year we were gone about six months. I said, ‘this ain’t gonna work.’ This RV is more like a home.”
God’s call has allowed the Faucettes to travel to areas they never thought they would see.
“To be a farm boy from Orange County, raised right here in this area — and I’m not belittling my dad in any way — but the farthest my daddy ever went from here was Daytona Beach for a race. And now, here we are. I think we’ve been in 43 of the lower 48 states. We’ve been to Alaska, Mexico and Canada.
The trip to Alaska wasn’t easy. “We stayed in a little Eskimo village. No roads in, no roads out. We had to fly in.
“It’s pretty interesting,” Jonathan said. “When we go to a place, though, we stay so busy, all we’re really able to say is, ‘yeah, we were there.’ We don’t get to do the sightseeing. It’s really nice to see and meet the different people from different parts of the country and the world. That’s been the greatest part.”
Now, the Faucettes are preparing for their biggest trip yet: England. The two will spend seven weeks at Lifegate Baptist Church in Corby, England.
“The pastor there contacted us last year when we were in Alaska,” Jonathan said. “He contacted us through Facebook. Normally what will happen is someone will call us and say, ‘So and so said you could help us.’ This pastor has been in England for 20 years. His daughter’s getting married in the U.S. He wanted to have time to do all the stuff people normally get to do for a wedding. He’s also going to do some visiting with some family while he’s back. It’s not like if I was going to leave North Carolina to go to South Carolina. He doesn’t get to do this often. That’s why he’s going for this length of time.
“I had to rearrange three other appointments to be able to go. I’m a softy and I have a hard time telling people ‘no.’”
During their seven-week stay in England, the Faucettes will stay at the home of the pastor for whom they are filling in.
“About 80 percent to 90 percent of the time we take our home with us and stay in the RV,” Diane said. “We can’t really do that for this trip.”
All of this traveling and time away from home is certain to be expensive. How are the Faucettes compensated?
“It’s all done by faith,” Jonathan says. “We have some churches that support us each month financially, and we have a few individuals who offer support each month. When we go to help a church, we don’t necessarily receive anything from that church. A lot of the churches we help are already struggling financially. As for our upcoming trip to Europe, every bit of that is falling back on us financially. We just took that on. Like I say, God always seems to provide.”
Filling the pulpit and teaching Sunday school aren’t the only services the Faucetts provide. If the church needs repairs, if pets need care, if the grass needs to be mowed, the Faucettes will do it.
“Whatever that pastor does, we will take over in his absence,” Jonathan said. “We want that pastor, when he leaves, whether it’s for family or medical reasons, we don’t want him to have to worry about anything. If he has a nursing home ministry, or a prison ministry, or if he makes hospital visits, we do it. We do it all.”
They have been well-received by the congregations they serve, bringing relief that the responsibilities are being taken care of. They have earned the trust of congregations everywhere they have traveled, including Native American reservations in Arizona and South Dakota.
“It’s a completely different culture. We’ve been to the Hopi Reservation (in Arizona) a lot taking care of their church. We also take care of a church in Pine Ridge right there at Wounded Knee (in South Dakota). It’s moving,” Jonathan said. “It’s desolate. the Bible tells us that your eye will affect your heart, and it does. We’ve been going to that church for four years. It took three years for the people to accept us. Over the years, so many families would come and start a church for a few months and it becomes too hard and they leave. But when someone comes in and does what they say they’re going to do, and they’re faithful to the people, then they become accepting. And once they accept you as family, you’re family.”
At the moment, the Faucettes, both 59-years-old, have no plans to retire. “We’re going to go as long as we can,” Jonathan said. “One of my nephews said it best when he said, ‘I guess you’ll just keep going until people quit calling.’ We’ll go as long as we can. My pastor says to me, ‘I want you to wear out, I don’t want you to rust out.’
“We have been blessed with good health,” he said. “When we were here and when I was pastoring the church, we would have some kind of something all the time. You would think it would be worse now, being in all different parts of the country. I think one year we saw Spring four times.
“Our normal schedule is to leave the day after Christmas, come back in February or March for one or two days to get our taxes done. Then we go again and don’t get back in until about Thanksgiving week or the second week in December.”
“When we answered the call in that motel room, we knew it was going to be a lot of work,” Jonathan said. “There’s nothing like being in the will of God, and I know this is the will of God. What next week, what next month is, I don’t know. We’re where we’re supposed to be.”
And where they were at that moment was waiting for a call. From their daughter getting ready to give them their 10th grandchild.