Teresa D. Goins
It sits on a hill, a modest structure surrounded only by God’s green earth, but the legacy it bears has carried me through countless years of my life. This small building is my home church, nestled in the hills of Orville, Kentucky (in Henry County), where I first met Jesus and began my walk with the Lord. My family gathered there with others, every Wednesday evening, and on Sundays, both morning and evening. It is a place that holds a lot of memories for me.
My home church was a place to connect, not only with each other, but with the rest of God’s creation. When I was young, we hosted a special missionary night every few years, at which time we were blessed with slides and fascinating presentations from around the globe. One particular pastor whose family became missionaries in West Africa remains in contact with my family after more than 40 years of service. Another pastor from Japan (who taught me as a child how to say, “Good day,” in his native language: “Kon'nichiwa”) stayed with my family for an entire week during an extended revival.
Though small in membership, our church was blessed with a lot of young people. We held Vacation Bible Schools annually, small youth revivals (one, with two young pastors from Arkansas, who became my parents’ “adopted” kids), and an elaborate children’s Christmas musical, which was attended yearly by people from all around the district.
My home church was a place of joy. We held Easter egg hunts in the church yard, weddings in the sanctuary, and baby showers in our small fellowship hall. For the kids (and yes, the adults), we served donuts before Sunday School, and watermelon on hot summer days. We had hotdog and marshmallow roasts, which allowed the older members to minister one-on-one with the youth. Our women prepared potlucks on reunion days and full meals for bereaved families following the funerals of loved ones. It is hard to imagine how much food was served within the walls of our church and more importantly, how much love and encouragement was given by the membership to all of those who were in need.
My home church was a place of service. Considering the fact that, when I was young, there were probably only about 50 people enrolled (and less that attended regularly), our church accomplished quite a lot. In 1991, during Operation Desert Storm, we held a small parade to honor two of our church members who had been deployed. Our youth group participated every summer in the Cedarmore Youth Camp. When I was older, I taught piano lessons to countless kids on the church piano. Eventually, our fellowship hall served as a surrogate voting poll where, every four years, the people of our community performed their civic duty, at the church. Our small membership supported foreign missionaries, participated in the annual Southern Baptist Convention, and hired Southern Baptist Theological Seminary students as our pastors who, through the years, were faithfully loved and nurtured until they graduated and matured into their own individual ministries.
I remember our homemade ice cream socials; our youth group hayrides on long wooden wagons; our Christmas caroling on snowy doorsteps; and our Easter services, just as the sun was coming up, on the church lawn. Every single Sunday, one family was designated to “feed the preacher” his Sunday meal. I can still remember the naps so many young pastors took in our home on Sunday afternoons before preparing again for evening service. I am blessed to have grown up in a place (and in a family) where church meant everything! Church was “home,” a safe and comfortable place to be a child of God.
Today, I am a member of a larger church in the “big city” of Louisville, Kentucky, where I serve as pianist, youth choir director, and youth Sunday School teacher (just as I did as a young adult in Henry County). At my current church, the songs sound a little different, but they have the same “heart”; the building is bigger, but the spirit is kindred; and the food is still delicious! No matter where we go, our worship of the Father is the same; but I cannot deny the sweet legacy of a small country church. After all, it molded and made me into the person I am today, and I am forever grateful.