Monday, July 26, 2010

The Family of God

"Wayne, just read your report on the camp-meeting on Warner's World. Camp-meeting days are great times” (emphasis added). Howard makes a point that is being discussed around the Church of God. Not only does he make the point, but he offers personal insight into camp meeting in his family.

I have never been a big camper, as such, but my family supported Camp Meeting throughout my forty-five years of pastoral work. We we found it invaluable. Without it, we (family and church) would have needed something else to fill the vacuum. My home state of Michigan has been a strong supporter of our church camps, judging by the following statistics, which I know to be reasonably accurate:

Bangor, MI 1st CM 1883, launched a national assembly that eventually relocated to Anderson, IN.
Grand Junction, MI began 1892, just concluded the 118th gathering.
St. Louis, MI began 1893, still operating.
Charlevoix, MI began 1906, still operating.
Burlington, MI began 1915 (predominantly black) no longer meeting.

So much for Michigan.
When I tell people my strong affinity with the Church of God has a strong element of family to it, I am not exaggerating. Across the years, my family has “felt” that strong sense of family that Bill Gaither only wrote about in more recent years, yet his message is true: “I’m so glad I’m a part of the Family of God . . .” We have exercised that privilege over the years and I could illustrate it with hundreds of people, Caucasian, African-American, Hispanic, North American and internationals.

At our recent North American Convention, I relished a few moments of quiet intimacy with Dr. James Earl Massey, my Black brother. On another occasion, I met a new friend whom I hope to meet again; I know only his first name (Andrei)--a young staff member at our church in Chelyabinsk, Siberia (a Russian, no less).

One of the delights of our recent event at Warner Camp Meeting was our time with “Dot Jean” (her license plate says). Dorothy is a rich, full black color, but she is full family to this Aryan German, married to an Irish Cherokee. I was her pastor for years, but in our retirement she has ministered to me in particular during hospitalizations of my spouse (she will drive the miles to sit with me in such times). All those years I sat with parishioners have been amply rewarded as Dorothy sat through our times of confinement--even the “family” conferences with the doctor!! She was family!

That brings me to another part of family. Howard and I were two green freshman at Anderson College in June 1945; we became bunk mates at Patterson House! I was 5’ 9” in those days, Howard, 6’ 4”. We became lifelong friends, including Howard’s Mississippi family. No finer people ever walked on God’s earth than the L.V. Benson family of Jackson, MS.

At one stage of ministry, I followed Oral Withrow in Yazoo City, MS; Mrs. Oral Withrow is Laura Benson Withrow of guess where--Ole Miss. So when Howard gave me his little Face Book response to my blog, I read it with “family” interest. I’ve been to Camp Meeting at Dixon, MS as have my kids. I met many of the Benson clan during those years and loved them dearly.

Howard shared this additional bit with me from his home over in Springfield, Ohio where he serves as a Chaplain to Seniors:

“We just had our 100th Centennial Reunion of the Benson family on the Miss. Camprounds, July 3-4th. It was 100 years ago in the spring that my grand-parents moved to the farm, just one mile from what is now Camp Dixon. The farm is now owned by 2 of my children, and 2 cousins live in adjoining houses (they are Joe Benson's sons). The entire farm is still in the hands of Benson descendants. We had a great time, about 90 attending. Had a Benson worship service on Sunday A.M. in the tabernacle, singing the old heritage songs of the Reformation Movement, with our young ministers in the family leading. I was privileged to bring the message. It was a wonderful experience. Good to know you're carrying on, Wayne. Our best wishes to you and Tommie. Howard"

It isn’t every Church of God family that has a centennial history in the Church of God, but the Bensons’ have a great family, a great history, and they have contributed immensely to the work of the Church of God.

Howard left some gaps I’ll have to ask about, but when I tell people the church is my family, I hope you will understand I’m a meaningful part of a rather sizable family. :-)

From Warner’s World, I am

No comments: