From March’s last weekend until June’s last weekend, I drove from my Arkansas State employment in Mississippi County to my family, pets and home – west on Fridays after work, and east on Sundays after church. Our ‘home’ for the past 7 years was cut into a rocky, Oklahoma hillside 50 years ago. It’s at the edge of an Indian Territory hill the Choctaws deeded to the town before statehood. Scorpions, hawks, box turtles, and red foxes still thrive there. The views across the Delta rival Oklahoma’s, though the terrain is altogether different. My wife, Jane, and I agree this Buffalo Island area is a great place to be, especially because of its people.
Few people know that Oklahoma hill’s secret: Steinbeck started site research for the Grapes of Wrath in an old boardinghouse that used to stand atop that knoll. But, the rugged writer supposedly found that locale’s folks so inhospitable towards “strangers” bearing pads and pencils (even on the porch) that surly Steinbeck’s stay became intolerable. Thus, he soon hied himself on over to more civilized Sallisaw, 15 miles away, and started his famous novel’s journey westward from there instead. Ah, Park Hill’s almost claim to fame slipped away. Town Crier readers know though!
And Jane and I think people around this area know a lot about some of life’s most important things: family, farming to feed billions of people, business, hard work and honest labor, love, grace, mercy, Truth, and being kind and hospitable, even to “strangers” from afar. We are already being made to feel like family and at home here, especially at the two area churches we are now privileged to be serving: Community United Methodist Church and Manila First United Methodist Church. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church and its family has adopted us, too, allowing use of their parsonage, while repairs and renovations are ongoing at the Methodist one.
Now, that embodies unity among God’s family and children. Surely He is pleased and we are blessed when we dwell together in unity. Psalm 133 teaches that clearly. Jesus’ prayer for the Manila area’s believers in John 17 similarly seeks unity. God is answering Jesus’ prayer for us, and for you as an individual in relation with others. Unity is key to REVIVAL – personal, corporate, community REVIVAL – something we need in Truth. Truth is defined in John, Chapter 17, verse 17, as “God’s Word.” That is the truth we all need to learn more about, understand, and apply. It changes everything….for the better! That is why we should gather as believers as often as possible and proclaim the Living Word, Jesus, through God’s Scriptures, songs, and prayers. And we should privately study and let this most excellent Seed be planted in our hearts, souls, and lives through God’s grace.
When we do these things Jesus taught and prayed, His Holy Spirit will help us accept the invitation to be God’s child, adopted into his holy family, by following The Way, The Truth, and The Life – Jesus, as Savior. Then we get to know the Word even more, understanding and growing in this ever-new family relationship. Jane and I feel this vitality in Manila. God’s Kingdom is manifesting in this community’s kindness and caring. Hospitality is a reflection of God’s personality and invitation to us all to “Come.” So, let your response to that invitation be positive and come to know the LORD better by coming to church and consuming His Word.
Steinbeck was a famous writer, perhaps wealthy in the world but poor in spirit. A Grapes of Wrath character once opined, “There ain't no sin and there ain't no virtue. There's just stuff people do,” but the writer was wrong about that. Wise persons from around Buffalo Island care enough to find out and know the difference. Come find out.