28 October 2008

Re-Living the Past

On Saturday, October 18, 2008, my wife and I attended the annual picnic of my 1953 high school senior class, which was held at the foot of beautiful Taylor Ridge just east of Summerville which is located in the northwest corner of the state of Georgia . In 2003 we had our 50th class reunion and decided at that time that we would not wait until another 50 years before we got together. Since 2003 we have met five times for a picnic in the month of October each year to visit and talk of the past and of what is happening in our lives presently. It was a most enjoyable occasion.
It is remarkable how my classmates have aged over the years. I did feel uncomfortable with these old people but I treated them with dignity and respect. If they needed my help in getting around I tried to accommodate them. Many of them have gray hair or no hair; they have added weight to their bodies and wrinkles to their faces inasmuch that they hardly recognized me (Smile). Seriously we often spoke of the years together at Summerville High School and of the precious memories that were made when we were young and life was not so complicated. I reminisced with Bobby G. when we worked together at the Summerville News and fed the folding machine most of the nights on Wednesdays. I refreshed the memory of Elliott C. about the time we went up the side of a ridge in his father’s army jeep and the incline being so steep that I sat on the hood of the jeep so it would not flip over. I believe that it is unusual for a senior high school class to still be meeting annually after so many years have passed.
We have lost several members over the years but the ones remaining continue to enjoy one another’s company. There is nothing like having old friends and enjoying one another’s company even if it is but once a year. We made plans to meet again in 2009 at the same place between the two lakes at the foot of beautiful Taylor Ridge , the Lord willing (James 4:15).

After spending Saturday night with a loved one on Sand Mountain in the community of Henagar, Alabama and worshiping with the Ider church on Sunday morning we drove over to the city of Arab where I was scheduled to speak in their ‘Super Sundays’ series that evening. Ken Tyler has been preaching for this good congregation for thirty years. That says a great deal about the character of him, his family and the brothers and sisters who make up the local church. This was my first visit to Arab and the congregation.

Prior to the worship hour, a gentleman and his wife walked up to me in the foyer and he looked me in the eyes and asked, “Do you remember where you were in September of 1964?” My mind really went into high gear and I was trying to figure out what he had in mind and so I answered, “Maybe performing a ceremony?” I was thinking of a wedding because I cannot recall all the names and faces of those couples that I have married the past 50+ years. He replied, “Well, sort of” and then he said, “You were in my home 44 years ago in Albany , Georgia .” It was then I remembered working in a campaign in that city when Harvey Starling was preaching nightly under his big tent. My family and I were living in Elba , Alabama at that time. Charlie Boddy was preaching for the College Avenue congregation in Enterprise and he and I were personal workers during the city-wide campaign in Albany . We had home Bible studies with various ones during that week and we taught and baptized three persons. One was a gentleman whose wife was a member of the church. Standing right in front of me was that individual. He was stationed in the Air Force and he and his family were living in Albany. This brother also informed me that he had been preaching since 1971. His name is James Mansil Norris.

I was moved emotionally when he related how Charlie and I had taught him the gospel and how he had been immersed into Jesus Christ for the remission of his sins. This is what I had written in my record book of September 21-26, 1964: “This week, Monday to Saturday, brother Charlie Boddy of Enterprise and I worked as personal workers in the “Savior’s Way Campaign” conducted in Albany , Georgia . We taught three persons enough to lead them to Christ. They were: Mr. James M. Norris (Tues. night); Mrs. Shipman (Thurs. afternoon); and Mrs. Susan Moore (Thursday night). This was a wonderful experience to work in such a great and wonderful effort.” Brother Norris now preaches for the Blessing congregation on Sand Mountain . I had to relate this story to the congregation before I began my lesson that night. It humbles me that I had a part in leading this person to Jesus and it is to God that I give the glory for He is the one who gives the increase (I Corinthians 3:5-8).

We spent Sunday night with Ray and Jo Ann Humphries, a couple we have known since our days at Alabama Christian College on Ann Street in Montgomery during the mid 1950s. We also followed them where Ray had preached in the cities of Ozark and Opp , Alabama . They live in the beautiful country near Joppa. We enjoyed our visit with them so much. We talked about the old days at ACC when life was tough, economically speaking and the people who had influenced our lives for good. We spoke of the various members of the congregations where we both had served as preachers. It was a good visit and they were such great hosts. Ray and Jo Ann have influenced many souls for Jesus Christ during their life time. Such friends have enriched our lives.

One of life’s greatest blessings is that of Christian friendship. When the apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:13 that he forgot “those things which are behind” he did not mean that there was a complete failure to remember all things because he recalled that prior to his conversion he fought against the church of our Lord (I Timothy 1:13) but such memories did not prevent him from looking ahead in his Christian journey and work. Often our memories of years past help us to have stability and cause us to appreciate from whence we have come. Glancing back over the years can actually encourage us to look ahead of the challenges that will confront us. With the exception of one phrase the following poem expresses some of my innermost thoughts.

Won’t you reminisce with me
From days so long ago?
Please come and look back with me
At the things we used to know.
Won’t you reminisce with me
The things we used to do?
The things we said, the ways we danced,
Memories dear and true.
Won’t you reminisce with me?
It’s sure to wet your eye.
Remembering all the happy times
That now have said goodbye.
And if you’ll stroll down Memory lane
Then I can guarantee,
You’ll have a blast back in the past…
If you reminisce with me.
~ Alyssa Marie Bentham

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