Sunday morning I made a familiar drive from Kosciusko, Mississippi to the Oak Ridge Church of Christ. Oak Ridge is north of Kosciusko a little less than twenty miles. When I was a Sophomore and Junior at Magnolia Bible College, I drove out every Sunday and Wednesday to ‘preach’ for this small family of believers. That was 25 years ago.
A few months ago Brad Adcock, the current preacher at Oak Ridge, called to ask me to come and speak at their annual gospel meeting. I am glad I was able to do so. They have graciously provided us with a wonderful place to stay during our time here.
Sunday morning after we drove up to that familiar meeting house, Floyd Hopkins walked out on the front porch. Floyd’s father, Clay Hopkins, was one of the patriarchs of Oak Ridge for many years. He went to his reward about 18 years ago. It appears that Floyd has taken his place. Thirty-seven people gathered for morning worship, almost double what they had last Sunday. I wasn’t the reason. In these rural areas of Mississippi (and elsewhere I’m sure) many churches have a planned revival for a specific week of the year. Family members and friends gather on that Sunday to worship and enjoy a fellowship meal. So there were brothers and sisters and cousins … and a delightful couple from Shady Grove Methodist, which meets around the bend a mile or so away.
Thirty seven people may not sound like many to you, but it pretty much fills up the Oak Ridge meeting house. The singing was filled with beautiful harmonies. I enjoyed hugging and talking to the people I knew so long ago. But when I stood behind the pulpit there was a rush of memories. A bittersweet feeling swept over me as I looked at the places where brothers and sisters long gone used to sit. Floyd was sitting in his dad’s place… but I almost expected Clay to be sitting there, singing a bass line as loud as his breath would let him. Roy and Mildred should have been sitting to my left, but he’s now gone. Mildred was sitting with her sisters in another place now. Sister Avis, short and always smiling, is smiling down from heaven. Her daughter, Dean, now by her side. Dean’s husband Marvin was with his new wife at another church. Harvey and Jo Davis are with the Lord too. I spent many an hour at their home when I was young because they had a beautiful daughter named Vickie … and we played lots of card games on Sunday afternoons. Vickie married one of the preacher boys that came out to the Ridge. Sometimes they ‘let’ me pick butter beans or other vegetables in the garden. There were no Burchfields or Pees present yesterday.
I’ll post some more reflections on the Oak Ridge church tomorrow. Thanks for reading.