Happy Father’s Day to my father, the Reverend Dr. Wilson Felix Haynes, Jr., who shares a special memory of his own father today on my blog. I, too, have fond memories of my grandfather Haynes and his deep love of people – and animals (especially cats). Here is Dad’s story:
My dad, W. F. Haynes Sr., was a bi-vocational preacher, a railroad man pastor, a man of God in a blue-collar world. He was enamored that God called him to preach. He would often say, “I would rather be a preacher than the President.”
He felt genuine humility in his calling. Once I became a pastor, I would often go to my hometown of Waycross, where he would take me to lunch. Invariably, someone would come by the table and speak to me about the incredible impact of his life upon them and their family. I heard that repeatedly in South Georgia. Dad had a down-to-earth, casual way of connecting people to Jesus.
He was a prolific reader, even with limited vision in one eye. He read hundreds of books and sermons, especially those of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. He would read one early in the morning and reflect on it all day as he worked at his railroad job. Dad allowed his life to be steeped in God’s word; he had a knack for taking great truths and applying them to life situations. He was unique and authentic.
One particular episode defines my dad. After many years of preaching in the South Georgia area, he retired. A few years later, he was asked to preach the community Thanksgiving service on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving Day in Mershon, a rural village in Pierce County. He had served that vital congregation for ten years before retirement. All the nearby churches joined together on that occasion and there was a “crowd.” He was in his mid-eighties and well-loved among those people.
He called me and asked for an idea. I suggested that he might use the story of the early pilgrims as an illustration message. During that first winter, Gov. Bradford issued a meager 5 grains of corn to each person for a part of their daily meal. The Pilgrim band managed to survive that harsh winter. They learned more about agriculture in the ensuing year, and things improved significantly. Food became more plentiful. Thereafter, Bradford suggested that on the next Thanksgiving (Harvest Thanksgiving after the English tradition) that each family lay aside on the table 5 grains of corn as symbols of things for which they were grateful. So, I suggested that Dad relate that story and share 5 things for which he would like to express his gratitude. I also suggested that he use no more that 3 minutes on each point. My mother was famous for telling both of us to “preach about God and about 20 minutes.” Great advice! Dad gave great thought to this subject. He would preach parts of it to me via phone. I could feel the spirit at work in his preparation.
Since I was also preaching a community Thanksgiving service in another location, I could not go to Waycross to drive him the 22 miles to Mershon. Thankfully, my cousin, Porky Haynes, agreed to take Dad to Mershon for the service. He called me the next day to tell me about the experience, sharing the event with detail. Dad’s points were these: I am grateful for 1. Freedom 2. Family. 3. Church family 4. The Bible. And 5. MySalvation.
Porky went on to say: “Felix, I will tell you this: we worshipped God that night. When W. F. shared that last point, he said, ‘I am going to do something I have always wanted to do to conclude this sermon. He paused and started to sing, (preface)-I want you all to know this (lifted his voice in song), I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus, though none go with me, I still will follow. At that point, the whole congregation rose to their feet and joined in singing all the verses of the hymn (soft and a cappella).’”
Porky added, “I saw tears shed in that place and felt goosebumps. It was a powerful moment!” He shared this with me in such a way that I felt the power of authentic worship in hearing the story.
This was my dad’s final sermon.
Could there be a better memory on Father’s Day?