At twenty-five, Dick Shearer seemed to have found his happily ever after. In 1944 he had married his petite childhood sweetheart, Ruth, from Connellsville, Pennsylvania, and settled into the busy but financially secure position of senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in urban New Brunswick, New Jersey. Three babies arrived in rapid succession, and by 1948 Shearer’s voice could be heard chiming in on various Baptist leadership committees and on local radio station wCTC, where he hosted a daily inspirational music program for shut-ins called, “Just What the Doctor Ordered.”
As blessed as his life in New Brunswick was, Shearer, a tall, prematurely bald but handsome young man, felt in his heart that the Lord had an even higher calling for him. He shared his musings with Ruth, whom he considered both his wife and professional partner, and they agreed that Team Shearer should begin preparations to commit their lives to advancing Christian higher education.
With the approval of his congregation, Shearer continued as senior pastor at First Baptist but began studying for his doctorate in college administration at Columbia University. Soon thereafter, Shearer formally applied to the Foreign Mission Board of the American Baptist Church for a posting overseas. From all indications, the Shearers were destined to lead a struggling Baptist college in the Philippines. But their future in Asia was not to be. The mandatory medical examinations revealed Ruth and two of their children were anemic, and church administrators wouldn’t risk sending the family overseas. Shearer continued to pursue his doctorate but figured the Lord wanted his family to remain in New Brunswick and lead the good fight there.
Then one morning in the spring of 1950, the now thirty-year-old Shearer received an unexpected telephone call. In this age of poor long-distance connections, the caller shouted over the crackles and pops that they had a mutual Baptist acquaintance and asked to meet with Shearer. Anxious to get off the phone, Shearer agreed to have the caller visit his office the following Friday, hung up the receiver, and moved on to more pressing matters.