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Live with a grateful heart

June 30, 2011
By Rev. Alicia Randolph Rapking

The last few weeks have been eventful weeks around the Upshur Cooperative Parish. At the beginning of this month, we came together to celebrate Pentecost with a picnic and sing. We had a delightful evening full off good music and worship and time of prayer. It was the perfect beginning to the summer and I am grateful to all of those who helped to host this event.

Next we hosted the annual salad luncheons for the gathering of United Methodist pastors and lay representatives at Annual Conference. For three days, many of the members of churches, both United Methodist and other denominations, were busy cleaning the Parish House, setting up the space inside and outside of the Parish House, making salads and cookies, serving the food and cleaning up. Because of the new configuration of Annual Conference our numbers were slightly down, but the generosity of the people was not and we raised close to $3,000 for Crosslines Inc. This money will go a long way in providing services for our neighbors throughout Upshur County.

During Annual Conference, the first work team of the summer came to visit and to do some much needed chores around the Parish House. This team from Charleston was a team of middle and high school youth that comes every year. And then this past week, work teams for Summer Youth Celebration participants helped with other projects. Each day a group of 15 youth or so and several of our District Superintendents tackled projects that ranged from painting to cleaning to gardening to home repair. Shelves were built. Earth boxes to give out to our neighbors were planted. Carpets were cleaned. And youth learned about services. Now we anticipate a full summer of work teams coming to help out with home repair for our neighbors. I thank Eric Phillippi for directing this program.

I have been reminded again, as I am often, that so many faithful people reside in our county and do so much to support our ministry. Many churches and individuals are faithful each month to send money to Crosslines Inc. and the Parish House. This keeps us going in so many ways. Donations are dropped off at the Clothes Closet on a daily basis and there is a group of people who work very hard to make the Clothes Closet a wonderful place to shop. Sunday Schools and Vacation Bibles Schools have really helped us out lately. A local youth Sunday School class brought in their change for several weeks to donate to our work. Change adds up and $199 will go a long way to help others. Area Vacation Bible Schools have been spectacular in their gifts of food and service. Another local youth group washed the outside of our windows which makes the Parish House brighter for our neighbors and volunteers.

Area businesses have been generous in donating plants and supplies for our community garden and flowers to spruce up the grounds of the Parish House. A future article will focus on these projects.

Area churches and clubs and individuals are faithful, so faithful about providing our Food for Life meals on Mondays and our Food for Thought meals on Fridays. These are wonderful, tasty and nutritious. Area clubs and organizations make generous monetary donations for our work.

The volunteers that we have are spectacular and I can never thank them enough for all that they do for their neighbors and for God. As I write this I am aware of so many, many people who give so much and I know that there is never enough time or words to express my appreciation for all that so many people do. The Bible tells us to "give thanks with a grateful heart" and today this is what I am doing. I am giving thanks to God with a grateful heart for all that you do for the work of Crosslines Inc. and the Parish House, for the Clothes Closet and the Hall House. The people of Upshur County are a blessing.

My heart is grateful this day for another reason as well and I would like to share that reason with you. If you have read my writings for the past year, you will know that my family heritage is quite important to me. You have read stories about my ancestors and about what I have learned from them.

Recently, I went to North Carolina to visit my mother who is in a nursing home in Charlotte. She is nearing the end of her life, and each moment with her is precious; but she tires easily and I cannot spend the huge blocks of time with her that I long to when I am there. On this last visit I spent some time in the library of Rowan County searching for information about my great-great-grandmother Clementine Brawley Arthurs. She would have been my mother's great-grandmother and my mother and her siblings have had very little to tell me about her. She died when my great-grandmother was only7 and since her husband had died earlier, she left five children as orphans. I knew her name, her birth and death dates, and where she was buried, but beyond that information I knew very little. I didn't even know the names of her parents for certain. That day I entered the library with a prayer in my heart that I might discover something about her and her family.

During that afternoon God connected me with someone who knew something about Clementine. How that came about is a story in itself, so ask me about it sometime. What I discovered that afternoon has become very precious to me. Not only did I discover who Clementine's parents were, but I discovered who her grandparents were and particularly her grandfather, John Barr. John Barr was a staunch Presbyterian who was "awakened" early in his life. It was important to him that his neighbors on the North Carolina frontier had a church so he gave land for the building of a beautiful little church called Back Creek Presbyterian. I grew up roaming the cemetery and grounds of this church and occasionally going to funerals there. It is peaceful and calm and filled with the presence of God.

Better than all of this is that I found that John Barr, who is my fourth great-grandfather, wrote a book called "Early Religious History of John Barr." It is the story of his conversion and his growing in the faith. He wrote it for his grandchildren, one of which was my great-great-grandmother, Clementine. I was delighted to find that has been reprinted and available from Amazon.

He begins the book: "My dear children, my heart's desire and prayer to God for you is, that you may be saved ... Subordinate to this, is a desire to leave a pledge of my respect and affection for you, that when I am silent in the dust, you may have these lines to serve as a memorandum to remind you that you had a grandfather who cared for you while living, and who 'being dead, yet speaketh.'" He ends this with a prayer, a blessing for his grandchildren.

As I have read this book this week I have been reminded how in the Gospel of John, Jesus is recorded as praying for his disciples and those who will follow after. "I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one." (John 17:20) Each time I read that verse I am reminded that Jesus prayed for you and me. We and all of those who have followed Christ throughout the ages are the ones that he meant in the words of that prayer. How powerful to realize that Jesus prayed for us.

It is that same understanding that I have had this week in reading John Barr's book. I claim myself in that company of his descendants, his grandchildren that were so dear to his heart. He prayed for them. He prayed for me 178 years before I would discover him. That has warmed my heart this week. And I am grateful.

Will our descendants 178 years from now know of our faith? Will they know that we are praying for them, even when we do not yet know of them? Can we add to our prayers those who will come after us, that they may share the gospel with boldness of heart? It may be much more difficult in those days to proclaim the gospel. Maybe they will need many prayers. Can we make it a practice now, to pray with grateful hearts for our families, our children and grandchildren and great- grandchildren, those who are like family to us, for all of God's children? May it be so in all of our lives and may we give thanks with grateful hearts.

To God be the Glory!



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