© 2016 Norris Ward
This edition was transcribed by Paul Ward and made into digital format by Michael Taylor from handwritten journals authored by Norris Ward .
Details including punctuation and emphasis were typeset, whenever possible, to reflect the handwritten entries.
This booklet is dedicated to Ann Dixon Ward;
My wife since June 2, 1963.
It has been my privilege to have known Brother Norris Ward for the past 36 years. I find him to be a man of wisdom, knowledge, and compassion. I’ve watched him set aside his plans to do for others when it would’ve been more convenient for him not to do so. I know of no other person that has a greater concern for the Lord’s work than Brother Ward. I count it a privilege to call him my brother and my friend.
Pastor Joseph Brown: II Corinthians 3:5
To leave some words with my offspring and friends who might be interested, hoping to encourage others in their walk of faith.
Psalms 90: 6,10 are verses that are so vividly clear to me now that my “long home” comes into view.
Evening is near.
Thank you for caring enough to read and reflect on these words:
“In the morning it flourishes, and groweth up; in the evening it is cutdown, and withereth.”
“The days of our years are threescore and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”
I had the mumps when I was less than three years old. I was not allowed to go outside during this time. I remember watching Daddy, Uncle Barney, and Uncle Albert using a small tractor-drawn scoop to dig a stock pond for watering our small herd of cattle. Years later, I related this to my mother who exclaimed, “You cannot possibly remember that – you were just a baby.” But I did as she soon admitted that I could not have known otherwise.
I remember also that at some early age, my mother had the kids to go out to the chicken house, and let the chickens fly over our heads so we would not catch the chicken pox that was going around the neighborhood.
My parents also knew about “bad luck”, “good luck” and several other superstitions. I am happy to say today at the age of 71, “Don’t call me – call me !” Words like , , lucky stars, are not biblical. I’ll stay with grace, mercy, truth etc. instead.
I also remember no indoor plumbing, a hand-operated water pump on the back porch, the front porch swing, Rock and Roady our two mules, shelling black walnuts, picking out hickory nuts, rat killings, a hired farm hand named Mr. T, a one row mule-drawn cultivator, hoeing cotton, picking cotton and going to the gin. We ate wild muscadines, possum grapes and summer grapes and watermelons (not always legally obtained).
One of my earliest memories is of daydreaming that one day I would grow up and live in a place beside the railroad track, drink cold drinks (kept in a #3 tub of ice), have a big, tall mountain nearby and watch trains go by all day. I also envied people like store-keepers and mail-carriers that didn’t have to work for a living. I guess I tolerated teachers for the most part. I wish now I had spent more time on the “wise-side” instead of wasting much of my time on the “wild-side.”
I turned five on July 11, 1949 and started first grade in August, 1949. Our country school burned that same year and we were bussed to a larger county school at Brighton, Tennessee. With 30 or more kids in the class, I don’t know how Mrs. Steele taught us much. I passed on condition to the second grade. I remember one red-headed boy (Danny Wallace) who got a whipping almost every day. It didn’t seem to bother him but I cried when he got one. I was scared to death of that oak paddle. Teachers and principals didn’t get sued or fired in those days. In fact, if I got in trouble at school I hoped real seriously that my parents didn’t hear about it. By today’s lack of standards, my parents would be hauled in for child abuse. Looking back though – I realize I should have been “ABUSED” more.
“…upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life” – Gen 3:14b
Dr. Lee Roberson said, “The only thing I will back up for is to run over a snake.” I have a dislike for kinds of snakes: poisonous snakes, non-poisonous snakes, long snakes, short snakes, rattlesnakes, snakes without rattles, fat snakes, skinny snakes, live snakes, dead snakes, and rubber snakes.
Our pond ran over the levy after a heavy rain. There were little fish on the grass below the spillway. We got buckets and started saving as many little fish as we could. I saw a pretty good sized “bream” flopping about. I grabbed him thinking he might be a . He turned out to be a snake-in-the-grass, but in my hand. I flung him down and ran for my life. My whole evil life of seven years flashed before me. I had heard how some snakes will chase you until the sun goes down. Others can whip you to death. Still others can wrap themselves around you and squeeze you to death. Some have charming abilities.
My survival instincts kicked in and I ran for my life. Luckily for me, it worked.
It happened several times in a similar way: in the cotton patch hoeing cotton, at the barn looking for rats, in the boy’s bedroom in the top drawer of the chifforobe and various other places and events.
It was the grace of God that sustained all five of us. All snakes may not have the ability to kill me by biting me, but they all possess the power to kill me by fright.
One thing is worth mentioning: they say if you kill a snake during a dry spell, hang his dead carcass on a barbed-wire fence. It will rain within 3 days. Guaranteed!
It came to me through my older brother that some in the community had conducted a rat-killing with very great success.
Any country boy knows that where there is a barn – there is grain. Where there is grain, there are mice and rats. (Where there are mice and rats – there will be snakes – dealt with in Chapter TWO.)
Recipe for successful rat killing:
1. Fill buckets of water (and tubs, too) with pond water.
2. Carry said containers to the barn.
3. Locate rat holes in and about stables, hallways, and the general area surrounding the barn.
4. Have strong hickory sticks about the size of baseball bats. These are your weapons.
5. Pour water into all visible rat holes until the holes run over. Then patiently wait with your weapon in hand.
6. As the rats leave their underground rat-homes, they are exhausted from their near-drowning experience. In their droggy condition, they are very disoriented. That’s when you whap them with all your might.
7. Count your trophies. On a good day, you can kill up to 50 rats!
If you are reading this chapter, please don’t tell PETA on me. There is probably no statue-of-limitations for rat killing.
Around the barn there were always an ample amount of corn cobs, leftovers from the cattle, hogs, and chickens. In the “good-old-days”, boys had to figure out a way to have their own brand of fun. We pre-dated television, electricity in every house, and many other gadgets the world could not live without in these modern times.
We divided into two teams: those who would occupy the hayloft and those on the ground and lower level stables.
After gathering our ammunition, the war was on. We played fair for a while but the older ones usually found a way to win (often by cheating). The best way to cheat was to soak the corncobs in a bucket of water. This gave them the exact weight to fling faster and sting worser. Tempers flared and the war often had to be ended by Mother calling us to dinner. Dinner to us was near or at noon. Supper was near or at six in the evening. Most meals consisted of peas and taters. For variety, though, we often had taters and peas. Sunday meals always had a variety of different meats; mostly raised on the farm or killed in hunting.
This question often is asked by those of us raised in the country. That the case at all. We did work hard but so did of all the rest of the country. You didn’t get paid by the government to be poor back then. Hoeing cotton and corn, keeping up the garden chores, plowing and finally the Fall harvesting was just the way things were. No one complained and if they had, no one would have listened. You learned to tote your own load. My Daddy loved to fish and hunt but never at the expense of letting down work responsibilities and paying off the annual bank loan on time. Our crops were among the first harvested in our community. Daddy and Mother both saw that each of us learned to do our share. No complaints from anyone that I can recall.
Daddy (and I mean tried to include his four sons on his hunting and fishing trips. I am sure his adult buddies were more fun to be with – but we were invited too! He patiently taught us what skills he had acquired. I always felt safe with Daddy nearby. I thought he was wiser than any man on earth.
My Daddy was told by his Daddy to leave home and be on his own at fifteen. He complied. He told us about the harvesting of strawberries from Louisiana to Minnesota. They rode the trains without having to pay the fare because the railroad wanted the strawberries and vegetables to serve on their dining cars. He never made big wages but he “got by.”
My Daddy was and my mother was when they married. After years, she died with cancer in . Daddy passed on in , short of his birthday. They both loved their family – each of us. I wish that I had honored them better . Hindsight is 20/20.
Whether it was pitching horseshoes and washers, playing softball, catching fish, killing rabbits, squirrel hunting or playing , it always felt good if my parents were there. I have been blessed indeed. And, it has been fun!
Norris Ward, Senior, Brighton High School, Brighton, Tennessee, 1961
Two particular years seem to pass the slowest: one is when you are going-on-thirteen; the other is when you are going-on-sixteen.
I turned sixteen in July 1960 and graduated from high school in May 1961. Still only sixteen. Adding twelve months to the age of someone who is twelve makes him no wiser. I still messed up as much as ever – even worse than all my clumsy friends in the same fix. Promises to God were quickly made but broken even more quickly. I wasn’t much at managing my life.
But, turning would change all that. I turned sixteen on Monday, July 11, 1960, got my driver’s license on Friday, the and flipped my Daddy’s truck on Tuesday, the . I, a friend named Jimmy, and my little brother, Donald, could all have been killed. God graciously spared us. Donald spent several days in the hospital but recovered completely from his injuries. I promised God if my brother lived that I would be a preacher. I wasn’t even saved. I couldn’t even quit cussing and smoking on my own and here I was making a bargain with the one and only True God.
After my brother healed, I kinda said, “that’s all right God – he got better anyway.” Deals off!
After high school graduation I needed a job. I went to work at a cotton mill for $1.00 per hour after lying about my age. That lasted about one year and the cotton mill closed.
Our well-meaning Sunday school superintendent at our church wrote a nice neat typewritten letter. I could use this as an introductory letter to try to land a good job. He stated in the letter, “Norris Ward is a fine Christian young man. Any employer will benefit to have him as an employee.” I read his statement about being a fine Christian and I doubted every word of it. I knew in my heart I was not a true Christian even though I did not know then how to become one. So I went on with my life – a lost church member.
My one and only true love is Ann Dixon whom I met in my senior year of high school. She had transferred to our school that year. She had a great personality and became popular very quickly. By December 1960, I got up enough nerve to ask her for a date. On December 23rd, we had our first date. The only scary thing was having to meet her mother. She looked anything but happy to meet this pale face. I felt I was with Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn. I obeyed and got her daughter back in due time. This was on a Friday. I visited again on Sunday and brought her a Christmas present, a pair of gloves Miss Vivian Kelly had given me for Christmas. They looked more like “girl gloves” anyway. I was broke from Friday night and so the second meeting was short. School was out for Christmas so life went on. (By the way, Ann’s Mom turned out to be a fine woman and friend. She even sided with me when Ann and I disagreed – A Very Wise Woman.)
We dated for 2 ½ years and married June 2, 1963 just a few days after her high school graduation.
I thought marriage would bring total happiness and tranquility. I did not know how awful my sin nature was, or anyone else’s. I only learned after salvation that God has a sacred place inside all of us that only He can fill. I think many young people at that time in America were in “LOVE WITH MARRIAGE” instead of understanding God’s plan and place in all of life. Many of those I grew up with were soon married and soon divorced.
My problem in life was the fellow I shaved and looked at in the mirror each morning. I was a sinner not because of the things I did. I was doing the things I did because I was (and am) the sinner. We lost God’s nature and approval in the Garden of Eden (a perfect pair in a perfect home). God had prepared a sacrificial “LAMB before the foundation of the world” just for the human race. In due time Jesus Christ was born, grew to manhood, gave His life on the Cross to redeem any of Adam’s race who would come to Him in repentance and faith.
When I was 19 and a young man, I knew not the Lord though I believed about him. One Sunday about 8 months into our marriage we got dressed for church and went looking for a neighborhood church. We were about 30 miles or so from the church and community where we were married. It was too much trouble to go that far to church. We found a church located on a hill just a few blocks from where I worked at Pic Pac Food Store. We parked and went inside. It was about time to start the Sunday school. We went into the auditorium and took a seat. The people greeted us with friendly faces and genuine concern for this “new couple.” We were both impressed and felt somewhat at ease.
After a “happy birthday” time and announcement, we attended an adult class that met in the auditorium. They called it . Guess I belonged there – I sure was a mixed-up messed-up young man with a wife just as mixed-up. That empty place in her heart that only God can fill needed Christ not me, not marriage, not a career, not even a family. How blind we were. (II Cor4:3-4) “If our Gospel be hid …it is hid to them that are lost…Satan hath blinded their minds…”
The Sunday school teacher was Alfred Edmiston. He started the class that day and several Sundays afterward with the plan of salvation. He gave us verses from and ended with . Two verses really began speaking to me: “The wages of sin is death, but the of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the of God.” This was news to me.
The pastor was Dr. Claude Hall and was a good Bible teacher. We began attending on Sunday mornings. Never on Sunday evening or Wednesdays. I had enough “God-time” just on Sunday mornings when something more important didn’t come up. But the Word had begun to bring conviction to my soul. By spring of 1964, I was under conviction especially in the Mixed-Adults class. His lessons were clear, plain and on a level even I could grasp. We even had purchased our own Bibles.
One Sunday afternoon, coming back from our parents, Ann asked: “What are we gonna do tonight?” The answer would usually be: 1. Go to the drive-in movie with my free pass from work, 2. Go to kinfolks to watch TV, 3. Play ROOK with Uncle Johnny and Aunt Jean who lived near us. That afternoon I said, “I don’t know what you’re going to do, but I’m going to church and get saved.” That Sunday evening we both went forward during the altar call. Two men took us to an inquiry room and went over our scriptures with us about salvation. We both prayed and confessed Christ publicly that evening. We were baptized about one month later by immersion by our pastor.
Some say they never once doubted their initial salvation experience. Such was not our case. I later made it public and got it nailed down securely under Dr. Lee Roberson in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Ann was saved in after our first child, Darla had died just before her seventh birthday. I baptized Ann in a creek near Grafton, West Virginia. Thank God for His grace that brought the right people into our lives to teach us about God.
Ann Dixon, my only true love. Photo taken 1961
We were married on June 2, 1963
Graduating from Tennessee Temple Bible College in 1967.
In late May and early June of 1964, our church joined with several other churches for a tent revival. was to be the evangelist. began the first three nights of the two-week revival. I had never heard someone preach with such fervor and urgency combined with Bible knowledge and compassion. They preached like they really believed it.
I learned later that Christ Himself was not just a teacher but a preacher too. Teaching gives information much needed. Preaching demands a decision.
I was appointed to usher during the tent revival. We went every night. I had never been under this kind of right influence. I had to do something the second week of the meeting. I went forward at the old fashioned altar call and told God I would preach. I felt His will for my life was made known to me. I sought advice from pastors and the evangelist. They said you need to go somewhere to Bible College.
So, in August 1964, we moved to Chattanooga and enrolled in Bible College. The next five years were very good years. God gave us our first two children, Darla and Todd. I graduated on . I was ready to either take a church or let a church take me.
Photo taken in 1970 after graduating from Tennessee Temple Bible College and starting in the ministry.
Mr. J.H. Bennett was our high school principal. He was a man among men. High principles, patriotic, hard-working, and someone who had little faith in Norris Edmond Ward – and rightly so.
After God called me to preach, I felt I needed to talk with him. Summer (1964), I went to his farm. He was at the barn. I asked for a minute or two of his time. He listened as I told him that I was sorry for being a sorry student and for being a trouble-maker. I gave him my testimony of salvation and told him God had called me to preach. He exclaimed, “God may have saved you. I’ll grant you that, but God did not call you to preach. He doesn’t need preachers that bad.”
I left feeling I did what I could in spite of his reaction.
Nearly three years later, my uncle’s church at Beaver Crossroads asked me to preach their spring revival. It began on Sunday and went through the next Sunday, ending on Easter. Pastor Ford arranged for their evangelist to speak in chapel at Brighton High School. Mr. Bennett agreed to let the evangelist come and speak and then asked who it was. When he found out it was he said, “Oh no!” But he kept his word and let me speak. The whole student body, all the teachers, and even the lunch room ladies came to chapel that morning. I cut-to-the-chase and gave the Gospel as best as I could. I gave an open invitation with about two dozen making professions that day. I did my best.
As I left the assembly, Mr. Bennett put his hand on my shoulder and said, “What you said today is exactly what these kids need. Thank you for coming. Come back again.” (He resigned before that could happen.)
My effort to make restitution did not add to my salvation but I am glad I swallowed my pride and tried to be right with those I had so badly wronged. I no longer wanted to “not care what others thought.”
Mrs. Bennett told me that Mr. Bennett died a peaceful death. I look forward to seeing him in Heaven.
[_ “For now thou numberest my steps.” -Job 14:16 _]
We are taught to number our days in . He even numbers our steps.
Before 1964, I didn’t even wish to think about leaving the area where we grew up. To go somewhere for a visit and come back home – that was good and probably enjoyable. But to leave this place in West Tennessee – unthinkable.
But after our initial move in August 1964, we have made our in many places: Tennessee, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, Alaska and Idaho and now back to Tennessee (2016). We lived in different houses, apartments, trailers etc. during our years of marriage. I bought the “last car I’ll ever have to buy” at least fifty times.
My preaching has taken us to forty-nine states and foreign countries. I’ve preached in five Canadian provinces, Iceland, and Israel. My schedule fills up every year by God’s goodness and grace.
I Chronicles 4:10 tells us of Jabez. God granted his request to “enlarge my coast.” God has given us much more than we deserve or even imagined.
Simon Peter wanted to know after giving his life to Christ (Matthew 19:27; Mark 10:28, 29). Jesus answers in “But he shall receive a now in ..houses, brethren, sisters, mothers, children, and lands…”
Brother J.C. Keller said someone said to him, “Keller – You’re bragging!” He replied, “”
To God be the glory.
This next chapter will not necessarily be in any chronological order (maybe not even any kind of logical order).
Let it be said to those with a superior grasp of the English language that some of this chapter is just for your benefit. You will be able to spot those “hanging gerunds”, “dangling participles” and “split infinitives.” Let it be long remembered I can , and with the best of them.
A Verse or a Vision?
I tried to witness to a man named Workman in Chickamauga, Georgia. He was a deacon at the First Baptist Church. He was my boss and the manager where I was the meat-cutter. I asked him to tell me how he knew he was going to heaven. He gave me an answer that he had had a dream and saw his mother rocking his baby brother in a golden rocking chair in heaven. He said after that vision he never had another doubt about salvation. I tried to persuade him that . I hope he got more than that before he left this life.
Money Won’t Buy Heaven
I asked a customer at the Home Store on East Brainerd Road, “Do you know for sure you’re going to heaven when you die?” His reply was, “I’ve put enough money into that church across the street yonder in the last 35 years to go to heaven.” He was sincere but sincerely lost. states clearly “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and ; come ye, buy and eat; yea come, buy wine and milk and ”.
A Drunk That Was Under Conviction
On a Sunday afternoon in Dalton, Georgia, Jimmy Wilgus and I went door-to-door soul-winning. We felt led to that particular street. We started up the drive toward the house. It was a poor rental home in a poor section of town. A man was standing in the open doorway. Before we could start up the steps he exclaimed, “I know who you are. You’re here to tell me how to get saved. Come in – please come in. We went inside and gave him God’s simple plan of salvation through Christ Jesus the Lord. He accepted Christ then and there. He had come home “drunk again” at four in the morning. He told us he asked his wife to pray that God would send someone that day to show him how to be saved. and and thank God, receive Christ. He went to church with us that evening, got baptized by Pastor James Holder shortly thereafter. His name was Richard Head. That happened in 1965 on a muddy street in Dalton, Georgia. “Christ Receiveth Sinful Men.”
Don’t Call Me – I’ll Call You
While living in Alderson, West Virginia 1969-70, I was asked by a lady who attended our church to visit her husband. His name was Edgar. I went to see him on a Sunday afternoon. He was working under a car in his front yard. I asked him politely if I could talk with him about the Lord and salvation. He never came out from under the car. He shouted, “Don’t call on me preacher. When I want you – I’ll call you!” I tried again without success. He repeated, “I said don’t call me – I’ll call you!” He never called me. I found out later he never called anyone to tell him about the Lord. A few months passed. His job was operating a drilling machine on a limestone cliff. That fateful morning something went wrong. He fell off the machine and hit the stones feet below. He died instantly. Those who removed his body said it was like trying to pick up a sack of jello.
“Boast not thyself of tomorrow, for thou knowest not what a day will bring forth” – Proverbs 27:1
He Won’t Get Me – I’ll Outrun Him
Mrs. Martin began attending our new church as soon as it began in November of 1969. She brought all her children but the oldest son who wouldn’t come and even made fun of the new church in an old store building. He was fourteen, street-wise, country boy-wise but did not know the Lord. When his sisters informed him that this new preacher made house calls and was coming “after him”. He said, “I’ll outrun him – he’ll never catch me.” One Sunday afternoon while driving from Ronceverte to Alderson, I spotted Joe King there on Route 3 – hitchhiking, I stopped, invited him to ride with me. When I found out he was Mrs. Martin’s son I offered to take him to his house. By the time he got out of the car he reckoned that I wasn’t so bad after all. I said I would pick up his family as usual about six o’clock, you should come too. Preaching won’t hurt anybody – it might even help. He came. He heard the gospel as plain as I could give it. When the altar-call was given, he came forward and we led him to Christ. He got baptized in the cold of Greenbrier River. Upon leaving Alderson, he moved to Alabama, met a Christian girl named Shirley, got married and raised a family. He is an excellent automobile mechanic. He is 63 years old (2016). God called him to preach and he has done a fine job as church planter, pastoring, preaching when asked, and staying true to Christ His Lord. I am glad “he got caught!” He is too.
An Adam’s apple and a ’55 Pontiac
Once again on a Sunday afternoon in Alderson, WV. There was a small country-type store at the edge of town. A man was sitting at the driver’s wheel. His wife had gone inside to pick up a few groceries. He was about 30 years of age. His name was Lyle Williams. I told him I had started a new church in the Riverside Hardware building. He told me he had seen the sign. I invited them to church stating our next service would be that evening. He stated that he would talk to Gladys (his wife) and they “just liable to come sometime.” When the service started they were seated on the back row with their three sons. They became regular in attendance and I had the pleasure of baptizing two precious converts. After that, anything I asked Lyle to help with at church, he would pitch in and do more than expected. We also became life-long friends. He is with the Lord now.
Two things intrigued me on the Sunday we met. I noticed that sleek and skinny black and white ’55 Pontiac first off. I liked it and told him so. The next thing was an Adam’s apple bigger than most I’ve seen. I don’t really know that has anything to do with anything of value to anyone. It’s just facts.
Pray That I’ll Die Today!
Evangelist J.C. Keller and I were visiting one of the medical wards at Montgomery General Hospital in West Virginia. There were sixteen beds in the room. The beds could be private only by means of drawn curtains. The sound carried easily. After visiting several male patients we come to a patient in his nineties. Before we could speak, he asked us to pray for him. He had been a faithful Baptist pastor for many decades. His body was just worn out. His pain was evident.
As Dr. Keller took his hand in his own, the old fellow exclaimed, “Pray for me! Pray for me to die ! We could tell he meant it. Dr. Keller and I received his testimony and felt he was ready to go to heaven – even . Dr. Keller said, “We will pray as you asked, but are you willing to trust God’s grace for whatever time you have left – especially if He doesn’t take you home to Heaven?” The old soldier of the cross cried out, “. Whatever God chooses will be OK.”
The next day we went back to see him. He was gone to Heaven. The nurse said that he had gone peacefully in his sleep. Praise God for salvation grace, sustaining grace, serving grace, and dying grace.
To God be the glory!
Photo taken in 1972. No single individual has helped me in a greater way spiritually than Dr. J.C. Keller.
J.C. Keller was from Lumberton, Mississippi. He got hemmed up to God’s salvation at the age of . He was financially successful off and on throughout his adult life. He wanted to get elected to Mayor of Lumberton so he and his financial friends could get a political advantage. His lawyer friend suggested he go to the First Baptist Church. He had never attended church before. The lawyer saw some things about Keller that caused him to fear Keller would commit . He wanted him to get around church people so that risk would lessen. J.C. thought it was a scheme to get votes.
Ruby saw through J.C. and said she would not go along with it. He lied and convinced her he was on-the-level and not politicking for votes. They began attending when a revival was going on. The preacher was an African missionary. God caused Keller’s plans to . He got under deep conviction and got gloriously saved on the eighth day of the revival meeting.
Keller gave up his effort to be elected Mayor. God called him to preach and he entered Tennessee Temple Bible School in August, 1964. I vividly remember seeing that old man of on campus. He drove a ’53 Chrysler after giving his Cadillac away. , it looked ridiculous that someone his age would enter the ministry (I was 20 at the time). God opened doors for J.C. from then on. He stayed so busy preaching, teaching, and going to classes, he had no time for a secular job. God supplied their every need. They rented two side-by-side motel rooms (no longer a motel) that BIMI had purchased. Their offices were across the parking lot.
Near my graduation in August, 1969, Steve and Brenda Jones asked us to attend revival services at Sholar Avenue Baptist Church. I had very little interest when I heard that J.C. Keller was the preaching evangelist. George Fike was the local pastor Ann and I went on the last night of the meeting. I wasn’t expecting much. But, God got a hold of me when J.C. Keller preached, including part of his testimony. I went to the altar. I told God that if I ever pastored a church, that I would want J.C. Keller to preach for us.
He held meetings in all the places I pastored through the years. He was a blessing in all those churches.
No single individual has helped me in a greater way spiritually than Dr. J.C. Keller. No person has preached more in “my” churches than Dr. Keller. He has been with the Lord Jesus for years now. Ruby has also joined him. I miss them and look forward to spending eternity with these and others like them.
Arthur Ingler wrote: “My loved ones are gathering yonder. My friends too are passing away. And soon I shall join their bright number and dwell in eternity’s day; they’re safe now in glory with Jesus, their trials and battles are past; they overcame sin and the tempter, they’ve reached that fair city at last.”
When I became the pastor of Boomer Baptist Church in 1971, I had the joy of becoming acquainted with Joann Bryant. She had become the pastor’s secretary to several pastors prior to my move to Boomer. In fact, was the year she faithfully began this ministry to her Lord, church and pastors. She was loyal in every way. She also became a great blessing to the pastor’s wives and children. She lived with her parents until they both went to glory.
Now Joann is years young. She is still serving as full-time secretary to her church and Pastor Mark Strickland. “Render therefore to all their dues: … honour to whom honour.” She is serving in her 67th year as secretary at Boomer Baptist Church.
My good friend Gail Wayne Cutlip.
Gail Wayne Cutlip and I surveyed Grafton from a high hill in that fair city. This was in 1972. I had been called there to begin an independent Baptist Church. My good friend Gail Cutlip prayed with me about that work. On March 21, 1973 Darla, our oldest child, went to heaven. We moved to Grafton in April and began church services in our home in May, 1973.
Many people have been led to Christ since the Church’s inception. Some are still faithfully serving the Lord here and yonder. The church has seen great blessings with its current pastor, . He moved to Grafton in .
One of the many delights of the Grafton ministry has been the salvation experience of . God’s calling and touch on Stan’s life is very evident even today. Some bear “”; some bear “”; some bear “.” They are in the third group.
Evangelist Don Hodge said of Grafton: “A tornado came through Grafton and did two million dollars in improvements.” But Grafton gave us Anna Jarvis and Mother’s Day; and Grafton gave us . All who know them, know they are the real deal! !
At this writing, fruit is still coming forth from their ministry. , something good has come to us by way of Grafton, West Virginia.
P.S. Their children are all grown now, have families, and are serving the Lord Jesus. “Fruit that remains.”
After becoming a genuine bona fide drunk by the age of , Gail Wayne Cutlip heard Bible preaching in a storefront church building in Baltimore, Maryland. He followed the Lord in believer’s baptism and was soon called to preach. God gave him a good Christian wife, Drema. One reason for his solid Christian growth was that he was in church every time the doors were open.
Gail and Drema left Baltimore in 1963 and spent four years at Bible school in Greenville, SC. Dr. Harold Sightler had a great influence on his life. God called him to Pocahontas County where he had grown up. He was to begin a brand new church: one that provided the Gospel and taught folks how to live their lives for God.
After meeting in a small building that had previously been a bar for a couple of years, they were able to rent the American Legion hall for services. It was located in the heart of Marlinton, the county seat.
One day while working at the building to prepare it for Sunday services, he was visited by three Marlinton ministers. They had come to inform him that Marlinton did not need another church. Their churches would supply all the spiritual needs Marlinton had.
Brother Cutlip was kind to them but replied, “Fellows, I know you mean well but you’re talking to the wrong man. It wasn’t my idea to come here and start a church. It is God’s idea. You’ll have to take it up with Him.”
Grace Baptist Church is still going in Marlinton, West Virginia. Praise God for Brother Cutlip’s obedience.
“Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it” – I Thess. 5:24
Pastor Charles Boone and J.C. Keller went door-to-door soul-winning in the neighborhood where the pastor lived. They invited folks to Clearview Baptist Church where Dr. Keller was preaching a revival that week.
Brother Keller informed Brother Boone that they had skipped a house. The pastor told him that was on purpose. An old man lived there who had cussed them out and demanded they never come back. He was only complying with that old sinner’s wishes.
About 3 P.M., after arriving back at the pastor’s home, Pastor and Mrs. Boone had to go shopping for a bit. Brother Keller stayed behind at their home.
He could not get his mind off that house they did not visit. After some wrestlings with God over it, he went back to the house alone. He knocked and a nice looking grey-headed gentleman answered and came out on the porch. Brother Keller had small-talk with him to “break the ice.” The man soon inquired of him, “What is your reason to be here? Why did you come all the way from Chattanooga to Hampton, Virginia?” Dr. Keller informed him that he was an evangelist and preaching nightly at Clearview Baptist Church.
The old man went into a rage. He cursed Brother Keller; he cursed the church. He said, “leave or I’ll call the LAW.”
Brother Keller replied, “Sir, I know this is your house, your porch, your steps, your sidewalk and I am leaving. But, before I leave I’m gonna say one thing.”
“Say it and hit the road!” the man replied.
“Sir, one of these days you’re gonna die. You’re going straight to hell. You’re gonna fry . Good day, sir!”
Keller chided himself over what he said. He told God he was sorry for losing his temper. The wall between that man and the church is bigger than ever now.
He got back to the pastor’s home before they arrived from grocery shopping. He did not mention his visit to Pastor Boone. After church that evening, he went to bed in the guest room at the pastor’s house.
At 2 A.M., Brother Boone was banging loudly on Keller’s bedroom door. As J.C. opened the door, Brother Boone asked (or rather demanded), “Did you go to that old man’s house this afternoon?” Brother Keller sheepishly confessed that he had.
Pastor Boone said, “Get dressed, that old man wants to see us . Not tomorrow! Not next week! !”
As they drove to the old man’s house, Keller was thinking: “Lord I came here a few days ago. I didn’t know I had an enemy on earth. Now there are two men who are mad enough to kill me – that old man, and the pastor.”
On the porch, before they could knock on the door – the door opened. The old man stood there in a long nightgown with a cap on his head. (He looked like Scrooge). He shouted, “Come in gentlemen. Come in. Tell me how to be saved!” They did! He did! And God did!
After coming back to earth, Keller asked as to “? You called me some names my Army sergeant didn’t even call me. What changed your mind?”
He exclaimed, “Every night I go to bed at 8 P.M. Last night I went to bed as normal. Every time I closed my eyes all I could see was .”
Salvation is serious! Salvation is so! Salvation is scriptural! Salvation is by grace through faith!
lived in Vera Cruz, Mexico for his first sixteen years. He slipped across the border into the United States more than 20 years ago.
He avoided being caught by authorities until he was able to find employment. He quickly learned English and adapted to the U.S. culture.
He met and married Debra. They now have a sixteen year old daughter named Ashley.
A friend at Fabian’s work would not cease witnessing to the Catholic Mexican. Finally, Fabian agreed to attend the Baptist church just once “providing that his friend would not try to save him anymore.”
Long story short, Fabian and Debra heard the “good news”, got saved, became members of Calvary Baptist Church.
He answered the call to preach and is now a very capable and fruitful missionary in Vera Cruz, Mexico.
Our pastor, Tony Ayers, and entire congregation, are thankful for the Mexican who went back!
Ann and I are pictured here with Fabian Ruiz, his daughter Ashley and wife Debra. Photo taken May 2012.
was a scientist who knew and made his living in the chemical business. He worked in the Kanawha River region around Charleston, WV.
He was a Baptist and a leader and generous giver in his church in Kanawha City. Brother Bob Kelley was one of his pastors in the 1970’s.
His business interest took him on a trip to Florida. He stayed in a local motel. Because of the preaching he was currently under, he was under conviction but could not quite figure things out. In the motel room, he picked up a Gideon Bible and began reading. When he came to II Cor 5:17, he confessed to God in tears that he had never become a “new creation in Christ.” He had a Christianity, but no real salvation. He asked God to save him then and there. When he returned home, he went forward at the first altar-call given. The whole church was surprised.
He became an ardent soul-winner and led people to Christ throughout America. Literally thousands came to Christ because of his witnessing.
“O, how well do I remember how I doubted day to day. I did not know for certain that my sins were washed away. When the Spirit tried to tell me, I would not the truth receive, I endeavored to be happy and to make myself believe. … When at last by faith I touched Him, and, like sparks from smitten steel, just so quick salvation reached me; O bless God, I know it’s real.” – H.L. Cox
was living at Sunset Terrace Apartments in Grafton, WV. At home with family one afternoon a knock came at his door. He yelled to whoever it was to “come in.” The man who entered was Jack Lemons. He was doing door-to-door soul-winning for the Lord and Grafton Independent Baptist Church.
After a brief introduction, Brother Lemons began giving the Gospel. After several scriptures, Richard Allen exclaimed, “God would never save me. I’m not at the bottom of the barrel, I am under the barrel – I’m too wicked to be saved.” Brother Lemons continued the conversation giving much scripture as to why God .
, Richard’s 16 year old son, asked if God would save him. Then and , Richard’s daughters got saved. Then a nephew who was present. After leading each of these to Christ, Brother Lemons turned back to his host and asked, “Richard, what about you now?” Richard fell to his knees and begged God to save his wretched soul.
That evening Richard’s entire immediate family was in church at the revival. He was soon baptized and became a fervent soul-winner. He won a nice leather-bound Scofield Bible by bringing 37 new visitors to the next revival meeting.
Richard died in 1986 and was preceded in death by his daughter, Denise a few years earlier. I had the privilege of preaching his funeral service with nearly present.
A man whose name I no longer remember lived near Craigsville, Virginia. Valley Baptist Church, pastored by Claude Williams, had a bus ministry. A few children from the man’s home attended church on the bus. After a few Sundays, the children explained to their Daddy that they needed Bibles. All the other children at church had Bibles. Well, this would not do. That week he went to Staunton and shoplifted Bibles for his children.
The church and pastor had been witnessing to the man right along. Finally, he came to church, listened to the Gospel and got saved. He “confessed” his shoplifting of the Bibles to the church. As soon as he could, he went to Staunton and paid for the Bibles. (II Cor. 5:17)
was raised in West Virginia. After marrying , they moved to Alexandria, Virginia and then became an employee at Blue Plains Sewage Treatment Plant in D.C. In all, God gave them four children.
Joe Brown met a fellow employee at Blue Plains named . John had gotten saved and was exposed to some good teaching and preaching at his local church near Indian Head, Maryland. John began to witness to Joe Brown. Joe told him he was already a Christian, having been baptized as a young man of twelve at Boomer Baptist Church. John kept witnessing to Joe because Joe was not living the Christian life and did not bother with Church at all. One day Joe found John’s pocket-sized spiral notebook. It was his prayer list. He immediately wanted to know why his name was among those on the list who were unsaved. John’s response was again Biblical and truthful, “You need to be saved!”
Conviction had set in. His home was not the Utopia he had planned for. He was miserable and under Holy Ghost conviction. Soon he arranged for him and John to meet on their lunch hour to talk. John led him to Christ in the pick-up truck that very day.
is a dear friend to me and many hundreds of others. At this writing, he is pastoring in West Virginia. He has led hundreds to Christ through the years. Many of them had religion but no redemption. Thank God for all the “Johns” who take Jesus to work with them.
of Waldorf, Maryland was an interesting challenge. His wife worked at the laundry where I did business. Jim had recently retired at years of age. His wife told me that Jim had cancer and was not a Christian. Would I visit him? I assured her I would be glad to.
On my first visit with Jim, circumstances seemed encouraging. He told me about his childhood and briefly summed up his adult life, too. He worked to be able to retire with enough money to live comfortably and see some places he had always wanted to see. He had purchased a brand-new motor home for him and his wife to use as they traveled. It was a beauty.
I gave Jim the plan of salvation using various scriptures. He listened but exclaimed as I sought to lead him to Christ, “I would not have a God like your Jesus!” Of course, I wanted to know why. He said, “All my dreams of a happy retirement – He took away. I’ll be dead in six months or less. I’ll not have a God like that.”
I explained how God in mercy had given him time to get saved and finish his life as a Christian – much better than being taken in death suddenly without time to prepare. Jim would not budge.
Over the next few months, I visited him several times. He always used the same excuse. Finally the day of death came. He was at Southern Maryland Hospital at Clinton. As I explained to him that the doctors said he was going to die that very day, he told me he was glad I came. I felt like he would be like the thief on the cross and get saved just in time.
Jim’s last words to me were, “Tell your Friend to wait on you outside. He is still not welcome here.” Jim was born in a mountainous coal mining area south of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He prepared for earthly things and even earthly retirement but made no preparation for eternity. “What shall it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his soul?”
lived beside the railroad tracks with a wife and three children. He was an excellent carpenter but drank so much he had little to show for it. His wife and children began coming to church. She soon made a profession and followed the Lord in believer’s baptism. She became burdened for her husband to get saved. She asked me to visit him at their home although she knew he would not likely be very receptive. I did have occasions of meeting him about town and witnessed to him inviting him to our Church services. His wife and children were seen at the altar regularly praying for him
One sunny day, I dropped by their home and knocked on the front door. She answered the door and when I asked about Troy, she said to me, “He’s here but he told me to tell you he wasn’t at home.” I understood her plight. I heard a noise coming from the railroad side of the house. I ran quickly around the house. He had climbed out of their bedroom window and was running away from me – down the tracks. I didn’t pursue.
In January, 1976, we were having revival and it was snowing. There was about eight inches on the ground and still coming down. On Wednesday evening, just about time to start services, the kids at church came to me and said that Troy was in the side-ditch coming up the hill to the church – stuck. We gathered enough men to push him out and up the hill to church. He was drunk. I asked him, “Troy, what do you think you’re up to?” He replied that he was ? He came in. His wife and children sat with him. Brother Keller preached and gave the invitation. The first responder was Troy Mauller. Richard Allen took him to a side room to “lead him to Christ.”
After a while, they came back into the service. We had not dismissed so that we could see the outcome. As he made his profession of faith public, I asked him before the whole church if he was gonna run from me anymore? He replied that he would never run – no more. He followed the Lord in baptism and soon was purchasing Bibles and taking them to prisoners at the Taylor County jail. It is far better that a mountain man buy Bibles than liquor. Praise God! Troy was killed five years later in a hunting accident.
meant every word of it from the very start. At fifteen, she asked the Lord Jesus into her heart and life. That was in 1975. In 2011, I preached for her husband in Worland, Wyoming at the local Independent Baptist church. We had not seen one another in over 35 years. I asked her about her life as a Christian and her testimony down through those years. She replied by saying that she became a new creature in Christ as a teen in Grafton and knew that every word of is true. “Therefore, if any man (or woman) be in Christ he is a new creature.” She meant it but more importantly, . They are currently serving the Lord at Fellowship Baptist Church in Mile City, Montana. “Fruit that remains.”
Natalie also has an older sister, Jami, who got saved at Grafton and went on to marry Preacher Ron Peterson. They served the Lord together at several churches beginning in after college graduation. On December 13, 2015, Ann and I drove to their church and heard Ron preach a good sermon. We took them out to eat, fellowshipped a short while and went home that afternoon. On Ron died unexpectedly. The family had a sad Christmas but were able to rejoice that Ron was now in heaven.
Isaiah 57:1 “The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are , none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.” Ron was taken away from the current evil going on in the world and still .
Eddie and Hilda
Eddie and Hilda had a fine best man picked out for the wedding day in the summer of 1972. Eddie had become a close friend to , a student at Tennessee Temple College and a Tennessee mountain man. I met Richard first at the wedding rehearsal. He was tall, slender and had a pleasant personality. I especially related to his “Southern Accent.”
A year later Richard came to help us in our church planting effort in Grafton. It was sort of a ministerial internship. Our friendship became firm between us that summer.
Richard helped us set up the tent for our summer revival with J Bennett Collins. We worked hard and got the word out to the whole area. The tent meeting began on a Sunday evening. Great singing, solid Bible preaching with several visitors in attendance. The second Monday night of the meeting a young 18 year old, , was saved. Richard helped us follow up on her conversion and witnessed her baptism.
From until 1975 they carried on a relationship as often as their being separated by distance would allow. On I had the joy of officiating at their wedding,
All who know the Tapps would agree with this statement: “They both are the ideal example of to our Lord and loyalty to those with whom they serve.” I would never have thought that “” meeting in 1972 would lead to so many joys. Hallelujah!
“My Father’s way may twist and turn. My heart may throb and ache; But in my soul I’m glad to know, He maketh no mistake.” – A.M. Overton
was a deputy with the Charles County Sheriff’s office in Maryland. In 1983, he had to kill a man in the line of duty. The man was drug-crazed and would have killed Dewayne’s partner. Though it was an unavoidable situation, Dewayne felt terribly guilty over the man’s death.
Dewayne had a friend in Jack Clipper who sold cars in Waldorf. Jack witnessed to him and gave him a glimmer of hope. Jack led him as far as he could in accepting the Gospel. Jack called me for help. He sent Dewayne to my office at Faith Baptist Church.
After our greeting, I asked Dewayne to tell me his problem. He said very seriously, “I am going to hell! Can you help me?” My reply was that I could not keep him from going to hell but to tell me he thought he was going there. He explained the shooting. He stood up to leave. At that point, I said, “It is true that I cannot help you, but I know who can.” He listened as I told him the old story that never grows old.
After sharing several scriptures with him I had the joy of seeing and hearing Dewayne cry out to God for salvation. We had a good time of rejoicing.
Then, I noticed the “gloom” come back to his countenance. I said, “The devil got your goody awful quickly. What are you thinking?” he explained “” to me – his common law wife of nearly 2 decades. We arranged to go to their home that evening to talk with . Ann and I had the joy of seeing her saved. They followed our Lord in baptism, got married, and became faithful church members. Hallelujah!
Dewayne went home to be with Jesus in 2005. We’re looking forward to seeing him in glory.
“That I might by all means ” I Cor 9:22
While living in Waldorf, Ann, our four sons, and I went to the grocery store one Wednesday after church. During our visit an older gentleman approached me and asked, “Are those your sons?” I replied that they were. He said, “I feel sorry for you!” (They were being very well behaved.)
I asked the gentleman, “Do you have any children?” He replied quickly, “NO – I do not!” I then said, “Sir, I feel sorry for you!”
I am thankful and proud of our four sons: , , , and . (four sons and each of them have a sister – Darla, who awaits us in heaven.)
To Annie: Thank You.
The purpose of these writings is to leave some words with my offspring and friends who might be interested, hoping to encourage others in their walk of faith. Psalms 90: 6,10 are verses that are so vividly clear to me now that my “long home” comes into view. Evening is near. Thank you for caring enough to read and reflect on these words: Verse 6: “In the morning it flourishes, and groweth up; in the evening it is cutdown, and withereth.” Verse 10: “The days of our years are threescore and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” *** This is the life story of an amazing man of God.