Monday, April 7, 2014

Memories of Mose

I grew up in a small town, the only boy in a family of three children, a family blessed with two girls—my younger sisters. When I married, I was absorbed into a large family of eight siblings, one deceased child, and six step-children. I married into the younger half of the family, which meant I related most easily to the two youngest boys who became like brothers to me. I became better acquainted with the older children and their families at a slower pace.

I never ventured more than sixty miles from home until I was sixteen years old and rode the bus to Anderson, IN., 180 miles south. My in-laws lived in the country, fourteen miles out of town, near a Pecan bottom adjacent to the Deep Fork. I had never seen such red-clay mud-holes as I drove through the first time I visited Welty, OK. It still had a Post Office and a General Store along with a few houses. Yet, I joined a post-WWII global family that was already spread into trendy places like San Antonio, TX, and as far away as Stockholm, Sweden.

The one time I ever hunted squirrels was a late forties trip into Oklahoma. My two younger brothers (in law), probably two and four years younger than me, took their Yankee inheritance over into the Bottom on Deep Fork for that hunt. As luck would have it, we turned up one squirrel that day. They, being polite southern gentlemen, let me take the first shot--something I'd never done. I carefully followed their instructions, aimed the shotgun straight up through the bottom of the nest, and slowly pulled the trigger.

The net result of our hunt was one squirrel, which they faithfully cleaned and then generously insisted that I eat my kill, which Mother Stiles tastily prepared. My only memory of that meal is sorting out the buckshot as I ate that poor innocent squirrel. That was probably sixty-seven years ago and in the early hours of this morning the younger of those two boys took his celestial journey into the Everlasting, following his older brother Ben who passed several years ago after a massive coronary.

If our faith is anywhere near right, I can assume Mose was graciously welcomed by the mother who prayed for her children every day of their lives into her eighty-ninth year. In the early hours of this morning, retired pastor Maurice Warren Stiles bid adieu to a world he no longer enjoyed, following the loss of his beloved “Erm.”

Finding that his six-foot  five and a half inch frame was driven by a none-too-dependable motor,  “Mose” gave himself to libertine living until the prayers of his mother, his sister, and “Erm” resulted in his coming to Christ. His conversion was an instantaneous transformation and before long his heart turned toward ministry. It was not long before he started preaching at the country church where he had grown up with his family, before his military fling.

We drove in frequently from Mississippi and Texas in those years, taking care of Granny, and we finally buried Doc. We were pastoring in Fort Worth, Texas when called  to Paul’s Valley, OK and my wife spent the better part of a week assisting the hospital staff with her stubborn brother who insisted on wise-cracking with the doctor, sending him word that he was sitting on the side of his  bed eating “parched peanuts.”

He survived that initial crisis, and ignoring his vulnerability, Mose continued to serve in Paul’s Valley several more years before accepting a demanding call to Moore, OK, on the fringes of the city. There, he eventually became the anonymous prayer partner of MACU President John Conley, after John relocated that Bible College to OK City.

In Moore, Mose led the charge for a fast-growing congregation while leading a intensive building program. By the time he retired from that pulpit, the Moore church was one of our larger churches in OK, until internal stresses developed with a later successor.

Giving unstintingly, Mose gave many additional years to Oklahoma Church of God Ministries, as well as being a popular Chaplain for the OK State Hiway Patrol, and a member of the Moore Police Department.  His police work deeply involved him in the OK City bombing and gave him some unique experiences mostly unknown outside of family members, and remain without being repeated. When he could no longer serve, he quietly occupied a pew at Shartel Church of God in OK City, where he and mutual friend Jim Curtis became the life of their Sunday school class.

That was how it was when last I visited with him at Shartel in December 2005, when a business trip required my presence. He lost “Erm”  after that, which proved to be the extinguishing of that spark by which everyone remembered him. He spent his remaining years quietly awaiting his reunion with his beloved “Erm.”

Mose was a common man’s man although he grew up the son of a Medical Doctor. He made thoughtful sense with the brightest minds in church and out of church. He feared no man, made friends with anyone appreciating a little humor. He read people like I read books and it was a gift that served him well throughout his decades of ministry.People found him someone they could trust with the innermost secrets of their souls.

Mose is the second brother in law I have lost this year and I thank God for their Godly influences, hopeful that I can leave a light as bright as theirs. “Brother Mo” as some called him, left in his wake a life of service that needs no apology. He touched people transformationally,  leaving people better and richer for crossing paths with him. His departure leaves a multitude of church friends and none-churched friends, former parishioners, older sisters Awana--who will soon follow, and my bride of sixty-seven years. Others include his two children, with the Lee/Stiles grandsons who will carry in their hearts a picture of the man they knew as a man of The Book

Warner’s World at walkingwithwarner.blogspot,com 

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