October 2006 — Sara Faye and I returned safely on Monday evening from a whirlwind driving trip of about 1,350 miles through parts of Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Along the way we visited a favorite uncle, aunt and cousin of Sara Faye’s in Memphis, checked on Sara Faye’s old home-place in Franklin, Tenn. and visited my mother in Tupelo, Miss., where we also saw my aunt Beth Ewing and my cousin Dr. Pat Ewing and his family. The whole trip was lovely, we enjoyed the opportunity to just be together, and the colorful Autumn leaves in Middle Tennessee made us think we had somehow bypassed death and come to the new heavens and new earth already! We were also blessed by the inner beauty we found at each stop in the company of good and godly people.
In Memphis, Uncle Bob has retired from a long career as professor and orthodontist, and now cares for Aunt Georgia in their independent living apartment with their loving daughter Cathy nearby. Bob and Georgia have been special encouragers to us ever since we married in 1967 and their Presbyterian practical piety has nourished our own legacy of faith. In Franklin, we were similarly inspired by Steve and Cristi Berning, a couple younger than we are, who decided a few years ago to give up comfortable incomes to serve others. They moved to Middle Tennessee as volunteers with the Hallel singers and now help needy elderly people through a ministry called GraceWorks. Steve and Cristi agreed to rent Sara Faye’s childhood home which was sitting empty, which they have lovingly repaired and maintained as a fountainhead for God’s love and grace that they share with everyone they meet.
My mother, Sybil Fudge Dewhirst, twice widowed and now 83 years old, has recovered from two hip replacements and a shoulder surgery, She keeps busy making counted cross-stitch and needlepoint presents, assisting elderly ladies in her church and writing a Bible study workbook on the book of Jeremiah. She also taught the ladies’ class on Sunday morning — a class normally taught by her slightly-younger sister, my aunt, Beth Ewing. Mom and Aunt Beth both grew up in Africa as children of 60-year-tenure missionaries Will and Delia Short. Beth and her late husband Henry Ewing served there while raising their family and, after Henry died of cancer, Beth returned to serve several more years until prevented by failing eyesight. One cannot be long in the presence of these two ladies without being holier if only by osmosis.
On Sunday morning, Sara Faye and I went with Mother and Aunt Beth to Lee Acres Church of Christ in Tupelo, which my cousin Pat Ewing, who serves humankind as a dedicated heart surgeon, also serves as an elder. GracEmail subscriber Brad Carman is the preacher at Lee Acres, which represents the face of renewal Churches of Christ in the USA’s Deep South. Such churches, including this one, are noticeably Christ-centered, grace-filled, worship-oriented, service-minded and racially inclusive. They have tasted the goodness of the Lord and have been changed. I am happy to recommend the Lee Acres Church of Christ to gracEmail readers who find themselves in the area of Tupelo, Miss. As I write this on Monday night, I thank God for the blessings of this trip and prepare my mind to return to work at the law office tomorrow.