News from the Tennessee Valley Religion

Archie Hampton

God's presence felt while facing a rifle on missions

In the last two verses of Matthew's Gospel, Jesus gave his followers a commission and a promise. Let me tell you about the day I experienced both.

In my freshman year of college, I joined a mission group that sponsored Sunday services in one-room schoolhouses in North-central Kentucky. I chose to serve with a friend from high school, Charles. He was the preacher and I the song leader. The settings were crude, for we had no songbooks, pianos or pulpits.

While driving the 120 miles from the campus, we would plan our services. We taught Sunday school and led worship. Only a few adults came, so we had mostly children.

After arriving about 8:30 a.m., we would ring the school bell to let people know services would soon begin.

People came out of the hollows. Afterward, someone would invite us home for Sunday dinner. In the afternoon we would walk up into the hollows and invite people to attend the next Sunday.

One afternoon Charles and I walked up a path we'd not tried before and met four new families who said they might attend. Further up the mountain, we came to a clump of trees and bushes that narrowed the path.

Suddenly, a giant of a man stepped out and filled the path. He was over 6 feet tall and appeared to weigh 350 pounds, but what really caught our attention was the long-barreled squirrel rifle he cradled in his arms.

We stood looking at each other. He could tell from our dress that we did not live nearby. With a deep voice, he asked, "Where are you fellows going?"

Not wanting to act scared, Charles told him that we were visiting ministerial students. I stood a little behind Charles, guarding his back.

The man informed us he would tell the two families living on the ridge about the services and we could visit elsewhere.

Well, the way down seemed a lot shorter than the way up.

When we arrived at the schoolhouse, one of the children told us that there was a still running where we had been. We then knew the big man was guarding the operation.

That Sunday, Charles and I tried to obey our Lord's command to serve him and learned about his presence with us. Read Matthew 28:19-20, and you will understand.

Archie Hampton, a retired minister who formerly served on the staff of Central Baptist Church, is one of several local ministers writing religion columns for The Daily. For more information, call Melanie Smith at 340-2468.

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