(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Augusta Press.)
Fifty years ago, I was a seminary student at one of our Southern Baptist institutions which prepares people for serving the Lord through the ministry. I had recently resigned a good job I had been given as the Personnel Manager of a large textile firm and we were doing very well financially. To make a long story shorter, the Lord interrupted my life and instructed me to quit that job and serve Him as a Preacher of the Word and Pastor to His people. That resulted in my moving our family to Wake Forest, N.C. to enter the seminary and follow Him.
Not long after arriving at the seminary, I was invited to preach at a small country church about forty-five miles South of the school near a little town named Four Oaks, N.C. The following February they called me as their Pastor and moved us onto the church field. The church had about sixty people in attendance each Sunday. Needless to say, they didn’t pay me enough to properly provide the needs of little family. Carolyn and I had one child at the time, Georgia, who was about eight years old. The little house we lived in was nothing more than a country farm “field house.” That was a house provided by the land owner for the farm help to live in. It wasn’t much but they did a little work on it and it sufficed. We had just left a very nice house in Tifton, GA and moving into this little house was quite a change for us. But, we made the best of it and trusted the Lord for any provisions we needed.
MORE: Column: Notable Augustans share Christmas memories
The first Christmas that I served our church as pastor and lived in our little field house, our daughter was wishing for a new bicycle. She might as well have been asking for a private jet because we had no spare money at all. We didn’t want to disappoint our daughter as she had already given up a lot when she had to leave her nice home, her friends and the ability to have anything she wanted and now, she had so very little. But, she never complained or said anything about the changes in her life. We never let her know what our financial situation was because she didn’t need to worry her little eight-year-old mind about things like that. All that she knew was that she would love to have a new bike for Christmas.
The lady who owned the farm, Mrs. Mabel Johnson, was a wonderful Christian woman. Her son and his wife had actually taught Carolyn and me in High School in Tifton, GA. Small world. She was quite an unusual person who lived like people did back in the twenties and thirties. Old school. One day I was talking with her and the conversation turned to her farm place where she lived. There were about ten or fifteen pecan trees adjacent to her house. She said, “I used to pick up those pecans and sell them but I’m too old to do that now. They just lay out there and rot. You can have them if you want to come and pick them up.” A little light bulb went off in my brain and I told her I would like to get them and sell them. I went home and told my wife, Carolyn, that the Lord had provided a way for us to buy Georgia a new bicycle and all we had to do was pick up those pecans and sell them to get the money for a bike for Georgia for Christmas. So, Carolyn and I started picking up the pecans every afternoon for an hour or two after I would get home from the seminary which was thirty-five miles away. So Carolyn and I picked up the pecans while Georgia was still involved with school each day. We didn’t have any device to help pick them up. Each one was picked up one by one. Our backs were just about broken and our fingers were a little raw but we wanted that bicycle as much as Georgia did. It was a gift of sacrifice but it was worth all the work, aching muscles and sore backs. Those trees were loaded with pecans that year and before we knew it, we had several big burlap bags filled with some really fine pecans. Georgia knew nothing about the pecans. She never knew about all that work or what we planned to do with the money derived from selling those pecans. Mrs. Mable, as I referred to our landlady, knew where to sell the pecans and after selling them we had a little more than was needed to buy the bicycle for Georgia.
Well, Christmas was only a few days away and we were going home for that special Day. It was 550 miles to Tifton. Quite a ride but we were looking forward to it since we had not been home for over a year. Besides our family has always been close and Christmas was a special time for us all to be together. Daddy, who died on Jan. 10, 1970 would have wanted us all together having a great time.
But, what about the bike? How was I going to get it home without Georgia seeing it? Somehow, I was able to fit it into the trunk of our automobile. It was a very close fit but cars in those days had larger trunks than they do today. I even had room for other presents we were taking to our families. The only one I didn’t want seen was that beautiful bike that the pecan money purchased for Georgia.
MORE: Column: What counts as a Christmas tradition?
I will never forget the look on her face that Christmas morning when she first spied that bicycle standing over by the fireplace in mother’s den. It was a very special moment for me and Carolyn. My emotions were stirred and tears filled my eyes when I saw the glow on her face. All that work picking up those pecans faded into obscurity. We were able to provide something that our daughter really wanted even though we really had very little. God provided us with the resources or it could never have happened and I would never have seen that glowing face of our little daughter. It was years later that we told her about the pecans and the hours we spent picking them up and selling them in order to get her a bicycle. “Oh, daddy, that makes me want to cry” she said. Our love for her was on display that Christmas day long ago.
You know, God did something like that for us. He provided the most perfect gift ever given on earth when He sent his Son Jesus to live among us and to die for our sins. His love for us was on display in the most wonderful way on that Christmas Day long ago. And, He gave his son knowing that He would, one day, die for us in order to provide redemption for us and give us the wonderful gift of eternal life with Him. Yes, we gave our daughter a gift she wanted but there is no way to compare any earthly gift with the one God gave to us: His Son Jesus Christ. God was focusing on us who need redemption when He gave us The Christmas Gift, His Son Jesus.
Reverend William (Bill) Harrell has been in ministry 49 years. He served as the pastor of Abilene Baptist Church in Martinez, GA for over 31 of those years. He can be reached at email@example.com. You can also check out his blog at www.williamfharrell.com
Merry Christmas Pastor
Jim and Judy SeChrist
Thank you, Rev. Harrell, you weekly column is just as rewarding as going to our Wesley United Methodist Church, and hearing Rev. Porterfield good sermons.
Thank you for sharing a precious memory. God is so good. All the time. Merry Christmas!
Thanks for the story. Sometimes the Sovereign God who created the universe works in the simplist of ways to demonstrate His great power. Surely eternity will not be long enough to praise Him for His unspeakable gift.
What a beautiful Christmas Story on the Birthday of our Savior Jesus Christ. Thank you for sharing.
That was a very enjoyable read Pastor. Thanks!
A little late reading your column this week. Great story. “Jehovah Jireh” The Lord Will Provide.
You are so right Bro. Bush. Good to see you the other day. Bro. Bill