Posted: 1/12/18 at 8:00am. Column by Ed Jordan.
After Christmas, many pastors take some time off to renew themselves after the onslaught of the work schedule of Advent and Christmas. I did this myself this year. The frigid temperatures and icy roads provided a good excuse to stay home.
Around that time, a friend gave me a book titled: “The Man Who Moved a Mountain,” written by Richard C. Davids.
It is the story of a man named Robert W. Childress, who grew up as a mountain man in a very rough, isolated area of the Blue Ridge mountains. It is the story of what God can do through one person committed to God and committed to loving the people God sent him–or her—to impact.
I cannot tell you how strongly this book touched me, as someone who has given much of his ministry to ministering to those who often aren’t even visible on other peoples’ radar.
Bob Childress grew up in a little cabin with eight other kids on the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge in Virginia, just north of the North Carolina border in an area called The Hollow. The mountain people were the descendants of Scotch and Irish immigrants, and with each generation they went higher up the mountain.
They raised their own food, cut timber to build cabins and heat them, ate a lot of chestnuts and apples, and made and drank a lot of moonshine. Every person had a gun and knew how to use it. Since roads were few and rough, these people lived in isolated groups. Few people could read, education was discouraged by the culture, and medical care was some distance away.
Bob grew up like everyone else in that culture, drinking moonshine, fighting, and packing guns and knives. Bob had the chance to attend a part-time school operated by Missionary Baptists, which he did. He learned to read, and he began reading the Bible. He would ask questions of the preacher.
One day he knew that he needed God in his life. He attended a week of Methodist revival meetings and experienced peace for the first time in his life. He was baptized and helped out with Sunday Schools in various locations. Later Bob felt called to become a Presbyterian minister and to learn as much as the pastor who was mentoring him. He finished 8th grade, then as an adult went to high school, then was fast-tracked to college, and went to seminary in his thirties.
Bob was a gifted speaker due to his academics, speaking ability, humor, and stories. He was being sought as a potential pastor by an impressive, wealthy church upon graduation from seminary. But Bob wanted to go back and bring God to the people of the mountains. God worked it out. God moved Bob and his wife to one of the roughest, most lawless parts of the mountains, a place called Buffalo Mountain. Numerous times men with guns threatened his very life.
Over the years of hardship and love, God used Bob to move the mountain, as he showed them God’s love. Bob loved them and treated them as people of worth when most of the world disdained them. He built a school so that the children would have a future.
He brought in varies means of employment so there would be jobs and income other than selling moonshine. He brought in livestock to provide milk for newborns. He bought a quality timber saw so the people could harvest and sell lumber, and then he coordinated the mountain men to volunteer their time and labor to build roads and bridges to allow their products to get to market. He helped people buy farms, homes, and get into colleges.
God used Bob to change the whole culture and mood of the people. He taught them to laugh and to invest in others.
In Isaiah 64:3-4 (NLT) we read: God, “When You came down long ago, You did awesome deeds beyond our highest expectations. And oh, how the mountains quaked! For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like You, who works for those who wait for Him!”
God came down to the mountain people through one man who was willing to go to the hard places, do the hard work, and love difficult people into the kingdom of God.
What group of people does God want to reach through you? What could God do through you?