EVERETT — What else was there to do in Darrington in 1939, when Gladys Waldrop heard a knock on the door?
She had never read the Bible. Never been to church. But she agreed to go to a revival. Then she went again. The third time, she converted to Christianity.
Three years later she founded a mission in downtown Everett. She got an accordion from a music store on Colby Avenue, and practiced in front of a bedroom mirror.
Today, tucked away in a room stuffed with family relics behind the pulpit at Gospel Light Church, sits a faded green accordion with her name on it, written in rhinestones.
The church’s roots are entwined with the Waldrop family tree. This month the church celebrates its 75th anniversary.
Newton “Scooter” Waldrop, 80, was there for the first service. He recalls his mother, Gladys, making music for military men on a street corner that day in October 1942.
A few years later his father bought a plot of dirt for $300, where the current church stands at 2801 Rockefeller Ave. Over the decades the congregation has spread the Gospel around the world. The Waldrops planted churches in the Philippines, and Gladys led secret Bible studies in communist China.
Newton took over as pastor in the late 1950s. He led the Pentecostal church for more than half a century. Over that time the city grew around the church, and the family grew, too.
Newton has children in the ministry. His son, Daniel, a college professor, called from Florida about five years ago, when Newton’s wife, Marilyn Kay Waldrop, was suffering from dementia. Dan told his dad he wanted to move back to Everett to help take care of the church and mom.
Years earlier faith in God had guided Newton and his wife, when they lost a toddler son. And the loss of his wife — a church organist and a mother of four, who loved rain — would have destroyed him when she died two years ago, he said, if it wasn’t for his faith.
“Yet I still have questions I ask the Lord,” Newton said. “We met in high school. Somebody that was such a good Christian, that was godly in every way, and worked with me here in the church — how could this happen? She’s only 76 years old. She was still young. Young-looking. Young-acting. Why? Why? Why? Why? The Lord said, ‘Trust me.’ That’s all I get. He doesn’t tell me why he took Kay home. He just says, ‘Trust me.’ So with my faith, and my experience with God, I leave it at that. I trust him. His ways are not my ways, but his ways are best.”
Those times of pain have taught him how to minister to others who are suffering. The Lord, he said, doesn’t give people more than they can bear. Now his son, Dan, has taken over as pastor, in a gradual passing of the torch.
Newton still delivers a sermon here and there.
“I guess we’d say we’ve grown up,” Newton said. “But you’ve got to be careful that you don’t lose your foundation, and what got you going. You can’t live in the past. You’ve got to live in the now.”
This month he has been wondering what the next 75 years will bring.
He plans to dedicate a great-grandson to God on Sunday. They share the same name.