Saturday, June 28, 2014

Roosters and Bulls

  Somewhere around 1947 or so, an enterprising businessman from Plainview, ten miles from Wing, came up with a good idea. Build a chicken hatchery at Plainview. He was a good salesman, and he sold a passel of farmers in Wing and the surrounding area on the idea of producing the eggs. Always searching for ways to bring in a little bit more money, Dad went into the egg business. This was along about the time cotton was on its way out in the valley as a money crop. That overworked land was playing out.

     Dad built a long chicken house. It was up on the hill, just to the right of our house. Down under the hill, a couple of hundred yards away, was the huge barn that was built to house the Gillum/Compton/Turner super mule breeding project of the nineteen teens or so. The barn, by the way, was so large, it cost twice as much to build as the house we lived in, $1000. That business did well before the Depression, but that business played out also, when tractors came into common use, also along about the time I was born. Old Murt, the only super mule alive when my memories began, successfully sidestepped the glue factory until the late forties. I rode him bareback a lot, and an old, skinny mule without a saddle can be a hard ride. Ida' bout' as soon walk.

     My brother took a picture of our our house, at the end of the lane by the barn in 1949 or so, after the chicken house was stocked and producing. I was just getting old enough to work the chickens. I was in that picture, close to the camera, with hundreds of chickens spread out between me and the house. Looking at that picture, one fails to see a trusting, relaxed, laid back, self confident soul in that face. I'll come back to that later.

     That year, Dad needed a second generation of chickens coming on, to replace the six hundred some odd laying hens, along with a cranky, mean bunch of roosters. The hens in the house were playing out, and getting just too tired to produce an egg a day reliably. And the roosters, each with a very large flock of ladies to attend to, ensuring those eggs were fertile, were playing out too. So the next generation was housed in the barn. These young chickens were producing some eggs, but the eggs were too small for market value. Thus we ate a lot of eggs. During the day, they were turned loose to forage for themselves, cut down on the feed bill. I can count about two hundred in the picture, but there were six hundred or so out there somewhere.

     I would like to tell you it was my job, every afternoon before dark, herding each of those six hundred chicken back into the barn to lock them up and protect them from the coyotes, coons, mink, foxes, etc. at night. Or, it might be an even better story if I told you I just started playing my little flute made out of a piece of fishing cane, marched down the lane to the barn, and they all just lined up and followed me in, a little trick I learned from the pied piper story. I just love to impress people. Actually, though, I can't say either of those things, because this is a true story. And, it's awfully hard for a Gillum to just outright tell a bald face lie, because of the Gillum Do Right Mechanism we're all infected with. So the actual truth is, we kept them shut up in the barn awhile until it became home to them. They came back in on their own at night.

      My main job in the chicken house was gathering those eggs in a big, wire basket. Now, those chickens had big plans for those eggs. They planned to lay up about all the eggs they could sit on and keep warm, and eventually hatch out their own batch of baby chicks. Once they began to get the mindset to become a “settin' hen,” they became protective of their eggs. I had to steal many of those eggs out from under that mad hen. She would flog, squawk, and peck me. Then I went on down the line to the next nest. Those cranky roosters didn't like me one bit, either. I was invading their territory, and messin' with their women folk. I never knew when one of those cranky old roosters would be on my back, scratching, biting, and floggin'. And, it was not unheard of for me to approach a nest, only to find it occupied by a really big black snake, containing several egg-sized lumps in his belly.

Carrying that heavy basket full of eggs to the house, I had to walk through the territory already staked out by Old Jersey, our mean natured old milk cow. Every day, it seemed, she saw me going into the hen house with my empty basket, and when I came out, she was waiting. You ever tried to outrun a cranky ole’ milk cow while carrying a basket full of eggs? Every day, again and again? But still yet, she never caught me, though my load of eggs sometimes were the worse for wear. Is it any wonder I developed that angry but timid, distrustful look reflected in that face at a very early age? Do you understand why I much preferred wandering the bottoms and the mountains alone?

     The egg business played out in a few years. The scuttlebutt going around was, the main business was really selling a lot of chicken feed to the farmers. Lots and lots of chicken feed. The hatchery sorta took second fiddle. A plus was, all that chicken feed came in pretty cloth sacks, all decorated up to make shirts and dresses from. Mom and my sisters spent a lot of time on the old singer sewing machine. It was not uncommon for Mom to give Dad a few scrap pieces of feed sack material for him to try and match when he headed to Plainview for yet another load of chicken feed. And, during that time, we ate lots and lots of eggs and chickens, enabling us to ease up on the salt pork awhile.  Also, later in high school, I taught myself to pole vault with a well seasoned pine pole I stole from the chicken roost. In addition, I learned to run fast at an early age. So, it would seem all's well that ends well.

     Dad dispensed with the chickens. It seemed some of that chicken feed had gone bad, and we sometimes had to haul a tractor and wagon load of dead chickens off into the woods to feed all the hungry coyotes around. And that, along with the fact that the money making aspect of that enterprise was not too great to begin with for the farmer, did the chicken business in for Dad.

     Uncle Franz, who was richer than us because he was a school teacher, once bought up a bunch of registered and double registered Polled Hereford cattle, and brought them up to us for Dad to raise and sell on the halves. That business enterprise did better, and Dad stuck with that business the rest of his life. He was growing up a pretty good herd of registered Polled Hereford cattle, concentrating on high quality young herd bulls for sale. And me, I began my stage in life as a cowboy without a horse. But I didn't fare a lot better than I did with the chickens. We had some mean ole' cows there, too. And those big bulls just dared me to step into THEIR pasture. Once, one of those big bulls fell in love with one of Aunt Lula’s cows, even though they were separated by a barbed wire fence, and lost all his value as a herd bull. Another time, two of those big bulls got together and were fighting all over the pasture. Dad had gone to town, so I ran down and shot our double barrel shotgun, both barrels at once, over their heads, to try to scare them apart. It didn’t impress them much, but it knocked me flat down. When Dad got home, one had a broken leg.
     Dad once got very tired of one old bull that would just not stay in his pasture. The next time he caught him in the wrong place, Dad pulled in right behind that old bull with our 1947 cattle truck, and started laying on that horn. The bull headed for home at a fast run, but Dad stayed right on  his tail, laying on that horn. The Bull zigged and zagged, but so did that truck. When rhe bull finally reached the gate to his pasture, he cleared that four foot gate by a good foot, taking all sixteen hundred pounds of his weight with him. I never could figure out just how he could do that. Most of that sixteen hundred pounds must have been muscle. But he did stay home for a long time after that.
     I had to herd all those cattle into the corral pretty often to spray them for ticks in the summer. I got to know those cows so well, that I discovered they each had different facial characteristics, and after a while, I could recognize every one of those fifty or so cows, just by looking them in the face. Of course all those ticks and chiggers climbed back down off those sprayed cattle, which was now an inhospitable home, and I was their logical second choice. I finally accepted them as a fact of life, and the upside was, scratching all those bites proved to be very entertaining in the long run. To this day, I can get chiggers all over me, and never notice them at all. I think I'm immune.

 Those young bulls coming on were just beginning to strut their stuff, and they badly needed someone small enough to intimidate. I was the natural choice. A really good counselor could have had a field day, helping me get past all my hang ups and strange quirks I developed before I got big enough to look out for myself. But then, Wing didn't have any of those kind of people. I don't doubt that maybe a few of those strange quirks are still hanging around in my psyche today. Or maybe you have already noticed.

Thanks for your time, and your attention  

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Early Memories

     I was born in Wing, Arkansas in 1944. All of my best memories as a child took place in Yell County.
In 1947, we bought a brand new, one ton cattle truck. The first automobile we had owned since the Depression. Sometimes we all loaded into the cab and went to Danville, although we were a little crowded. Headed up that first very steep, muddy hill on the Fourche Valley side of the mountain, Dad had that truck in granny low by the time we were half way up, and I always pushed forward on the dash, hoping I could give it a little boost and we could make it to the top. Once, when Dad took a curve a little too fast in Danville, the right side door swung open. Sister Barbara, pressed against it, rode that door all the way out, all the way back in. Coming back home was very scary if the dirt road was wet.  Once, during a very muddy time, Dad had us get out at the foot of the mountain and push. When he got going, he spun up as far up as he could. When it stopped, we ran along and put a chunk behind the back wheel. We pushed again, chunked it again, and repeated this until we got up the mountain. That road is paved now and not nearly as much fun – or as scary!
      A diet of salt pork, corn bread, lima beans, poke salit' and the like all one's life can super-enhance one's appreciation for the finer things in life that we take for granted today. I went with Dad and some of the family to Conway to pick Sis and her things up at the end of the term at ASTC. Being the youngest, I was just naturally the one pushed out of the cab on the way home, with all her stuff, in back. I opened a box, and staring me right in the face was most of a jar of mayonaise. (probably called salad dressing in those days.) Well, we just never bought real groceries at our house. I had never seen anything like this. I opened the lid, tasted it. My taste buds went, absolutely, into shock! I quickly finished that jar off, right there on the spot. By the time we pulled into Wing, I had licked it clean.
     Uncle Arthur, the doctor, lived at Belleville. He was always there when we needed him. On a very cold day, Dad chopped a finger off chopping stove wood. It was barely hanging on by a little skin. Dad jumped in the truck and drove to Uncle Arthur's house, and he sewed it back on. We were all surprised when it grew back.

      We were about to have a big extended family dinner. I knew we would have fried chicken, pies, and all the other goodies Mom could cook at that dinner. Barbara Lou had the measles, and Uncle Arthur came over. The big dinner was only a day or two away, and I didn't want to miss that, so I hid from him. Finally, when I came out, Uncle Arthur was still waiting for me. He took one look in my mouth, and declared that I was coming down with the measles. I was banished to bed with Barbara, and when the big day arrived, I lay there with my mouth watering while everyone else feasted. I never did get the measles. After thinking this over many times, I now believe Uncle Arthur may have fudged on me. Knowing I had been around Barbara, who had the measles, he may have decided to quarantine me, just in case, so that I could not possibly pass measles around the dinner table with the food, and only looked in my mouth to pacify me. Could that be?
     Once a rustler stole some of Uncle Arthur's cattle. The rustlers were arrested, and I went with Dad to the jail at Danville. I remember when one of the rustlers was introduced to Dad, I expected Dad to kill him. Instead, they shook hands. I never did understand the ways of grownups!
     Uncle Arthur's death brought about my first funeral. When we came in, I noticed two signs in the church. One side for "friends," one side said “relatives.” I could not understand why we sat on the "relatives" side. I assumed that “relatives” must mean “enemies.” After the funeral, I followed Dad around for the final viewing. A big red wasp sat on Uncle Arthur's face. Dad brushed it off with his hat.

     When I went to Danville, I always did all I could do to avoid people. I would normally cross the street to avoid meeting someone on the sidewalk. Once, however, I saw a crowd, very large, gathered around a store window. I just had to see what they were looking at. When I finally worked my way up to the front of the group, I saw a box with fuzzy, squiggly lines moving around on it. Every now and then I could see a figure of a person on it! Some of the other people called it a television. My world was changing, and fast.

     I spent a lot of time chasing down grasshoppers for fish bait. I soon learned that if I rode with Dad when he came to Danville for a load of cattle feed, I could sneak into the back door of the chicken processing plant and pick up a batch of rejected chicken livers off the belt bringing the remains into that room before someone found me there and ran me out. They were going to be thrown away anyhow, so I didn't feel bad about that. But I never let Dad know about it. I knew I would have heck to pay if he ever found out. Those livers caught catfish even better than grasshoppers.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Fellowship Church - Part Two

     The Rohwer-BF Goodrich Company closed its doors. Many of our members had to move. John Sowers had a great opportunity to join the Billy Graham Crusade. By this time, many of the members sensed the problems among the leadership. Others left. By 2003, only the Gillum and Holloway families, and four very strong students, remained. Fellowship Northwest recommended we close our doors. I, myself, had doubts about continuing. When Michael and I discussed this, he smiled and replied, “This is not a disaster. It is an opportunity.”Actually, I have to give him and Barbara full credit for us continuing on. Barbara told me, “I have felt God's presence here like I have nowhere else. We can't quit, no matter how small we get.” With a heavy heart, I told Michael, If we can't keep the attendance above 12 this summer, we need to just let it go.” Michael went to work. He talked Scott Jackson, who was now teaching at OBU, and Scott Duvall into filling in on an interim basis that summer, and our attendance stayed above 12 all summer. I still suspect that Michael counted heads in their families when he hired them!:)                                           
     By fall, word began to get around about the great men who were preaching there. Scott Jackson met with Michael and I in late summer, and expressed an interest in becoming the pastor. We were overjoyed. But it was soon cut short. OBU did not wish one of their teachers to pastor a non-Baptist church. Scott suggested, since all in the church now had a Baptist background, that we consider becoming a Baptist church. Scott led us through a comparison between the Baptist and our church's  belief's, and they were the same. Only the way we conducted church, and our leadership, differed. We soon joined the Red River Baptist Association and the Arkansas Baptist State Convention and became Fellowship Church of Arkadelphia, Scott Jackson, Pastor!
     I called my son Corey. “Corey, see if you can guess who we just hired as pastor?”.
     Though many quite naturally consider that our present church started at that point, and that I am one of the founders, Barbara and I both know that we never missed one Sunday's service in the transition,  and the church we know started in 1999. That makes me a follower. I've always been a good follower, anyway!
     Under Scott's leadership, we began to grow quickly. We soon got another major break. Neal Nelson and his family, along with his powerful, unique brand of evangelism, came into our fold. Many HSU students followed. Neal is the director of Baptist Collegiate  Ministries at HSU.
      We were growing fast now. We really had no place for Children's Church, and their numbers were rapidly increasing. God, as he has all along, opened another door, and we moved to the BCM at HSU.
      One day Scott showed up for a leadership meeting with a particularly large smile on his face. “Something really big may be in the works. Scott Duvall is interested in becoming a co-pastor! This would give our church instant credibility statewide, as well as a great pastor! We quickly jumped at this opportunity, and Scott Duvall and his family joined us, followed by hundreds of OBU students.
     Just as things were going so wonderfully, a major tragedy struck. Michael Holloway, the only church member who was involved in the early planning of the church in 1998, and was the finest lay evangelist I have ever known, and my best friend, was killed in a motorcycle accident. One of the hardest times I have ever experienced. His wife Shirlene contributed a large amount of Michael's life insurance to the church, even though she was now left with 3 girls to raise. Shirlene has now remarried, and lives in Tennessee, her home as a young girl. The daughters have all married.
     It seems almost as if God is saying to us, “Alright. I gave you guys the chance to build a great church, and you messed it up. This time around, I'm going to send you the best leadership I can find. Don't mess it up this time!”
     Frank Teed and his family joined us. An extremely skilled businessman, he spends lots of time leading us through the financial end of building our church to the point we are at today.
     We again outgrew our building, and were fortunate enough to use the auditorium in the Garrison
Center at HSU. Our final move, at least so far, to our present location on Pine street followed soon.
     The Mellow Fellows, our over-50 group, has become a very tight knit and fun group. We meet regularly, travel together, and laugh an awful lot!
     Ronnie McMillan recently joined our leadership team. Every time one turns around, Ronnie is using his great servant's heart to do something for the church, and he contributes his wisdom from his many years of church leadership. Me, I occupy a chair at those meetings. I don't say much. With everything going smoothly, why should I?
     Under Scott's leadership, and by God's grace, our current leadership team has remained very healthy. Not to say we never disagree. Sometimes we do, and with conviction. But we always talk through it.
     Rev. Darryl Bridges, Rev. Brad Sickler, Dr. Doug Nykolaishen (who still teaches regularly) and Chris Kear have contributed much to our current leadership team ASA (After Scott's arrival).
     Scott Duvall has been able to tap into an always vast talent reserve, mostly involving our students, to form our always great Worship Team, both vocally and instrumental.
     We have never been inclined to spend vast sums of money on a building, preferring instead to put as much as we can into outreach, contributing to many mission trips both abroad and domestic. We contribute 10% to the Lottie Moon fund, and regularly find other outreach opportunities.
     I don't say “amazing” lightly, as many do today. God has provided us with an AMAZING opportunity to minister to hundreds of wonderful university students, offering us a unique way to  impact God's work through them, worldwide. Our graduating seniors become our missionaries to the world. Although, I must admit, it is hard to say goodbye to so many so often.
     Our “Community Groups” are now called Koinonia or K– groups, to remind us we are meeting as the early Christians did, meeting in homes, breaking bread, have fellowship, studying God's word and praying together.
     One of our major goals, as Scott Duvall stated so well, is to strive to “Look more like heaven looks,” striving to become more and more multicultural. With God's help, we will.
     Linda Holway said it well.”Fellowship Church may not be “traditional,” but it is a wonderful place to worship...a place where we go expecting to commune with our lord...and we have yet to be disappointed.”

Pat Gillum-2012

Friday, June 13, 2014

Fellowship Church History

I've finished the text of my new book, Forever Cry. It's a Historical Fiction inspired by my grandmother who grew up during the end of the Civil War and the Reconstruction. I've got changes to make, editing, etc. so it will not be out for a while. In the meantime, I thought you might find the history of Fellowship Church of Arkadelphia interesting - It's somewhat unique, to say the least. Pat

     In 1999, my wife Barbara and I returned to our home in Arkadelphia after traveling about America
  in an RV  for a year. We were looking for a church. We heard a new church was being organized in town, Fellowship Bible Church, with ties to Fellowship Bible Church Northwest in Springdale. A large industry, Rohwer-BF Goodrich was just getting started up in Arkadelphia. In fact, we had leased our home out to them while we traveled, to use for a hotel for their executives who came into town to train new employees. Some of the employees were transferred in from Fayetteville, and a number of them wound up in the new church. Michael and Shirlene Holloway were a part of that group. They were among the founders of the new church.
     One thing that attracted Barbara and I was the fact that they were pretty well like Baptists in their core beliefs, but they organized differently. The main attraction for us was the fact that the church was led by the “leadership team,” similar to the elder system.
     Lifelong Baptists, we had belonged to a string of three Baptist churches that had split, or become torn apart, by a seemingly insignificant disagreements between a member and the pastor, or between two prominent members, and this grew quickly. People started taking sides, and this eventually came down to a vote among the congregation, resulting with the pastors, whom we believed were good, Godly men, being dismissed. We were discouraged by the fact that many hurtful things were said between members on both sides of the question, and often the deciding margin in the voting came down to which side could bring in the most “members” to vote on the issue who were not really active, but they were there on vote day with bells on.
     There had to be a better way, I reasoned, but we were Baptists, and that's the way most Baptist churches handled these matters.
      Barbara and I attended the first corporate service of the new church. This was at the Wesley Foundation building at HSU, the first of many sites the church rented to hold services. We also met in homes, in small groups, which we then called “Community groups,” usually on Sunday night as we do today. Michael and Shirlene Holloway were our first group leaders, and they were wonderful. We were surprised to find that Michael had lived in our house for several months while we were traveling. Michael was the strongest lay outreach person I have ever been around. He talked to everyone he was around about our church, and many of his co-workers joined us through his efforts.
     One of the three founders was a preacher, but he was soon called to a pastorate in another city, so a guest speaker taught us each Sunday for a long time. On one occasion, a guest pastor was saying at the beginning of his message, “We should never be obsessed with numbers in our services---” and three of us leaders in the back quickly sat down. We were all up, counting heads!
     The congregation was very healthy, as we are now. Many wonderful, Christian people. We were growing quickly. But about the time we started searching for a pastor in earnest, and had enough money to pay one, trouble started cropping up among the leadership team. Pride and ego, once again.
We needed a wise pastor to lead us. I often confided in my son, Corey, about our problems and our pastor search. Years before, while he still lived here, he was a deacon at Richwoods Baptist Church and was on the search team that hired a great young pastor, Scott Jackson, to lead them. When I talked of our situation, he invariably said, “You need to hire someone like Scott Jackson. He is the very best at handling a growing church and conflict matters.”. I too, knew Scott, and I agreed. But he was now a seasoned, experienced pastor in Texas. We were still a small church with little to offer a pastor of Scott's caliber. But I also knew God could make it happen, if it was his will. I  called him a time or twobut his work there was not finished. I kept his number handy.
     The church soon outgrew Wesley Foundation, and we rented a larger space at what is now Turtle Point Golf Course.
     We eventually hired a great young man, John Sowers, who had never been a pastor before, but he had a huge heart for disadvantaged youth, and was known for his work at Hot Springs in that area. I knew in my heart that it was an extremely difficult position to put an inexperienced young man in, and we prayed he could help us overcome the problems that festered on the leadership team, Yet the problems  persisted. He was a great young preacher, though, and his services were wonderful.
     One of our leaders, Lynn Kershner, was deeply involved in the Kyros Prison Ministry. He and other Kyros team members would go into the prison periodically to train a selected group of prisoners in Christianity. Before each trip, he asked the church members to bake 100 dozen cookies for him to take.  He bagged these up, and personally delivered a package to each prisoner. He recruited several of us to go to the prison and conduct church services. John did a great job at this. He always prayed for hours prior to these services. Any prisoner who wished to could come to these services. I noticed no guards were ever present, and I found out that the Chapel Director, a prisoner, was the “baddest dude” in the prison, and other prisoners had no wish to make him angry.
     Two inmates who were in my small group one night got into a little game of trying to stump each other. One named a verse in the Bible, the other then must quote it. They always could do it. I asked how they could do that, and they told me, “The Bible is the only book we are allowed to take with us when we are put in the “Hole,” and we have lots of time.”
     We were told many times by the prisoners, “You could be anywhere in the world right now. Thank you for choosing to come here.”
      At the end of each three day training period, a “graduation” service was held. They sang many hymns, but the one they really showered down on was “I'll Fly Away.” Gave a fellow chill bumps. As they started filing out one night, I hugged each of the ones I knew as they passed by. Suddenly, I remembered. The prison speaker had said right before that, “If any of you touch a free-world person on the way out, I'll put you in the hole.” I sure hope I didn't cause that!
     Gobinathan, “Gobi,” was the first person baptized by the church. He attended HSU. Two months before graduating with a Masters Degree, he was diagnosed with cancer. Members of the church took turns taking him to Hot Springs for chemotherapy. When many weeks of treatment proved insufficient, Barbara stood up in our tiny church one Sunday and said, “Gobi needs to go to Houston for radiation treatment. I need $2000 by Friday.” She got it, along with an airplane ticket, and paid motel reservations.
      Gobi is now a healthy professor in his home country. He has become a strong Christian voice in a land of few Christians. He has a wife and daughter. A few days ago, our daughter wrote a sweet note on facebook about her parent's love. Immediately, a comment popped up from a world away. “I know all about your parent's love. It saved my life.” Barbara and I cried.