Memories of Merigold

While Pastor Ryan is on vacation this summer, he has turned his blog over to four CrossPointers. This week, Chris Howell takes over.  Chris and his wife, Carrie, have been married for 19 years.  They have two wonderful sons, Daniel and Jordan, who are both very active in CrossPoint’s student ministry.   Chris serves on CrossPoint’s staff as Minister of Adults.

The first week of July I travelled with my wife, Carrie, and son, Jordan, to the Mississippi Delta to visit family for the Fourth of July.  Daniel was not with us because he was in Colorado on the Senior High Missions Trip.  Carrie’s father lives in Leland, Mississippi (birthplace of Kermit the Frog… that’s another story), and my parents live in Merigold, Mississippi, a very small, quiet little town surrounded by soybean, rice, cotton, and corn fields.  Merigold is a bedroom community just outside of Cleveland, Mississippi, which is a county-seat university town about the size of Trussville where our pastor served as pastor of First Baptist Church from 1992 to 1996.

I had an amazingly wonderful, stable childhood.  My parents loved my sister and me very much.  They spent a lot of time with us, teaching us so much about life, about God, and about ourselves.  While I was growing up, my family was very active in our church.  My parents set a strong example for my sister and me through their commitment to our church.  They often served others cheerfully and lovingly.

While in Merigold earlier this month, I had the opportunity to walk through the building of the church where my family was active until I was 11 years old.  It is a brick, two-storey building that was probably built in the 1920’s.  Very little had changed in the last 30 years.  I meandered through the two small children’s classrooms where I attended Sunday school and discipleship training as a grade-schooler, reminiscing to Jordan about the other children who were in the class with me, our teachers, and what we were taught.  While in the nursery, I told Jordan about the large cardboard blocks that were painted to look like bricks and how I played with them almost 40 years ago.  In the preschool room (yes, just one small room), I was surprised to find children’s books that I remember my mother reading to me.

Seeing the pictures in the books brought back a flood of memories about the stories and what I thought about them as a child:  the boy with five loaves and two fish, Jesus calming the storm at sea, the man who built his house on the sand, and Daniel in the lion’s den.  When Jordan and I went to the sanctuary, I showed Jordan the baptistery where I was baptized as a 9-year-old.  We looked at the stained glass windows with their large colorful symbols representing a biblical event or concept.  I can remember sitting in worship trying to figure out what each symbol meant.  I’m sure Jordan was a bit bored, but I was deeply moved as God reminded me how he began shaping me and discipling me even as a very small child.

While I remember many of the people who took part in caring for me in the nursery, teaching me during Sunday school or Discipleship Training, or Vacation Bible School, I don’t remember everyone.  But one thing is sure: God worked through each of these Christ-followers to mold me into who he wanted me to become.  Because God’s word was being taught, my heart, my mind, and my life were changed.  I am grateful for how the people of Merigold, Mississippi, ministered to me during my first 11 years.  They were serving God by serving children.  God blessed their ministry.

Sometimes I look around CrossPoint and wonder: In 35 or 40 years, how many of our former preschoolers and young children will remember CrossPoint like I remember Merigold Baptist Church?  Who will look back and remember how they were shaped by God through their experiences at CrossPoint?  How are we preparing each other for what God wants to do in our lives and through us (not just children, but people of all ages)?  How well are we participating with God in making disciples?

I pray that God is working through you to impact the life of another person through ministry and missions at CrossPoint.


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