Sunday, February 08, 2015

A Heritage To Keep - A Trajectory To Set

If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants." ~Isaac Newton

No one ever gets to where they are by themselves. Someone has helped them there -for good, or ill. Our Sunday School class is getting ready to start a study through Matt Friedeman's book Discipleship in the Home- Teaching Children, Changing lives.   Chapter One focuses on the commands in Matthew 28 and Deuteronomy 6 to make disciples and how the implementation of those principles impacts future generations. He states:

In my private and our family prayers we continually intercede for the fourth generation - that our offspring through our great-great grandchildren will be holy people who have married holy spouses, with no divorce in the family line, and many descendants whose lives will be sacrificially poured out for the Lord in the places and for the people that need Him most." 

Over the last 2-3 years I've been working on writing up a "Christian History" for my boys to read when they're older to understand and appreciate where they've come from. At this point I've only worked on one side of the family - my Mother's (Miller) side since my grandmother is still living and I can get the information I need from her first-hand.

My Grandma Miller (Virginia Clark) and Grandpa Miller (Harry Miller) - pictured above - became Christians early in their marriage and served in various capacities within the church as laymen. Through my late childhood and teen years they would take us to campmeetings with them and to hear music groups like the Lebanon Valley Gospel Band. We'd pack a lunch and eat it in the car between services during those hot summer days at the pole building tabernacles. I don't even remember the names of some of the camps they took us to. But the singing I heard and the testimonies that were given made a lasting impression on me that were part of the steps that led me to where I am. The impact of their prayers on my family will only be known in eternity. 

My Grandpa Miller's parents (Conda and Leta [Stewart] Miller), were also hardworking Christian people although my Grandma Miller didn't get to know Leta because she died at the age of 54 before my grandparents married. I believe they attended the Clear Creek Brethren in Christ Church. 

Mary Shaw Clark - my great-grandmother with my siblings, me, and our cousins - Ryan Miller and Melanie (Miller) Ward
My maternal Great Grandparents - Bernard and Mary (Shaw) Clark have a more documented conversion because of the revival that swept through the mountains of Central Pennsylvania in the fall of 1933. A man by the name of Harry Fink began a revival in the Clark's Grover area of Clear Creek, PA. on August 1st. The leaders of that revival "preached and sang from a raised platform covered by a roof and boarded at the back. The audience sat on rough boards laid across logs." * At first there seemed to be little response by after 10 nights of meetings....something changed. 

"Bernard Clark went to the altar on that night and the next day, on Sunday afternoon, Mary Shaw, his girl friend and later his wife, did the same. This was significant, no only because it was the first move but also because Bernard Clark was a respected young man in the community and a Sunday School teacher and superintendent in one of the local churches. If Bernard Clark went to the altar others were later to acknowledge, then there surely must be something to what these people were saying." **

An observer said that my great-grandfather's conviction was so strong that "he cried aloud and prayed in soul agony for deliverance from sin. The people came out of their cars and from their hiding placed and crowded up front. Some stood on the seats, eager to see what would happen to this young man. Many of them had never seen an altar service, where people meet God."**

There was strong opposition to the meetings with people using dynamite, cutting down trees across the road so people couldn't get to the revival, heckling and throwing of food. But at times there were still crowds of 500 people in that backwoods town who came to hear the gospel. Eventually the revival moved to a nearby church and meetings were so packed they had to wait to have altar service until all the visitors left and then they would pray with seekers into the early morning hours. My Great-Grandfather's cousin, Marshall, and his wife were also converted and after being called to the ministry several years later, conducted services at the Clear Creek Church.***

By November of that year a Sunday School was organized and the newly converted group had their first baptism and received these into membership. My Great-Grandma Clark's baptism is told by Rev. Fink, "For the baptismal service (which was in Nov) we had to break the ice and shove it down the creek. Brother Herman Miller came out from Altoona to baptize and Bro Hann was there. Brother Miller said that Brother Hann was to bring the people in and take them out, because the water was so cold. He told Brother Eyster and I to pray for the people as they came out. We were taking turns praying for them. There was a sister, Mary Shaw, who when Brother Hann brought her out of the creek took a shout and went running off down the meadow. Brother Eyster looked at me and I looked at him and neither one of us knew what to say. I saw tears in his eyes. Finally he just said, 'Let her go. I guess she doesn't need our praying.'" ****

My Great-grandparents couldn't know that they set a trajectory for our family that is now being reaped in my children - their great-great grandchildren. Had my great-grandfather not chosen to follow God, or my grandmother not submitted to the Lord's leadership, or if my mother had not developed a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and if I had not accepted the claims of God for myself.......the life my family now enjoys would be so radically different.

You know what my great-grandparent's account does for me? It pulls me up out of the mundane, daily, grind of life and gives me a view of a much broader picture that I'm a part of. It also shakes me periodically to recognize that I'm setting the trajectory now that will impact far, far beyond the years I'll spend on this earth. I humbles me that though there has been sin in this line I come from - God's grace has so much more abounded!

Not everyone has the story I do - working in ministry the past 13 years had made me so very aware of the havoc sin wreaks in families. But I also know that every generation has a choice - that what has been does not always have to be. And that God's grace at work really does transform lives.

So I have renewed hope this morning - what I'm doing as a mother today is vitally important to where my offspring will be heading for the rest of eternity. I'm humbly asking God for continued grace and courage to be the person who some great-great grandchild will look back on years from now and say, "Great-Great Grandma Brown made a choice, and that choice led me to a life lived sacrificially for God."

Fire in the Mountains E.Morris Sider, 1976 reprinted in 2010
*pg. 85
**pg. 86
*** pg 92
****pg 94


Laura said...

Truly, a beautiful post.

Marianne Brown said...

Thank you Laura. I know this is a more personal post but it's also one of the main reasons that I am where I am right now.