Girl Meets God
by Melissa Mathews
Some stories of faith are flash-in-the-pan, over-night wonders. Most of them are not.
My Papaw Bell’s story of faith is one that took years and years of plowing fields and walking levees for its full measure of fruit to be borne.
Roger Bell, my grandfather (or “papaw” as we Southerners say) had a life that was sometimes unpleasant, and often unfair. He’s was the first son of his father, Oscar Bell. Back in the day of shot-gun weddings, my papaw’s conception was the cause of one. Oscar got Mae pregnant and was forced to marry her. The final result: my papaw, and four other brothers who would follow.
The ongoing result: Papaw always felt like his father resented his birth and treated him accordingly. When Oscar Bell and his five sons began farming together, Papaw ended up with the lion’s share of the work and absorbed all the blame for anything that went wrong.
But this didn’t keep Roger from marrying the beautiful Kathryn and starting a family. They had five children and were committed to raising them in the church, something no one else in Papaw’s family had ever done. Mamaw was a gifted organist, and Papaw was a strong, quiet leader who really loved and shepherded the people at the First Christian Church of Dewitt, Arkansas. They never missed services come rain or shine, planting season or harvest, visiting grandkids or out-of-town guests.
That might not sound like a big deal to anyone who hasn’t known the stress of getting a field planted before a certain day in the growing season or felt the pressure of getting the rice harvested before it gets flattened by rain. Your whole year’s income can be made or destroyed in a 48 hour period. It takes quite a bit of faith to stand in the face of your critical father and brothers during harvest season and say “My faith is in the Lord of the harvest not in my ability to get the crop in on time; my family is going to church.”
Some growing seasons are long and slow, with hard soil to plow and many seeds to plant, but those are often the most productive. My Papaw Bell’s story of faith is one that took years and years of plowing fields and walking levees for its full measure of fruit to be borne.
Last fall, when Papaw had passed 92 years on earth, his son Charlie was planning to take him to a farm show. But instead, Papaw and his body decided it was time for him to go visit the Lord instead. He went into the hospital on Friday, and by Wednesday of the next week, there were clear signs, according to the hospital staff, that Papaw’s spirit was beginning to separate from his body. That afternoon, he asked to see his granddaughter Love because he had a question for her.
When Love came into the room, I’m sure she sat on the bed next to Papaw and held his hand or rubbed his head. From what I’ve heard, the conversation went something like this:
“So Love, what’s the count?”
“Of what, Papaw?”
“The count of preachers, Love. How many preachers do we have in the family?”
“Five, Papaw. There are five.”
“That’s what I wanted to hear.”
And because Papaw valued the harvest of souls more than the harvest of grain, his faith is still bearing fruit.
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Scott and I have been married 22 years and currently live in Northern California where we are beginning year five as church planters. I also teach 12th grade English and love it.
I would love to hear from you. Email me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org
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