In a small farming community neighbors help neighbors. In fact, most everybody knows everybody. That’s the way it was when I was growing up. We were not divided by politics, nor by race or religion. The weather was no respecter of persons, as the Lord reminds us in Matthew 5:45, “He [God} makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” If there was a drought in the area, we all experienced it. If there was a flood, we experienced that, too. If there was a death in the community, we all mourned and we all pitched in. Irrespective of race, religion, or political persuasion, we were bound together. That’s not to say we didn’t have our differences, but we were civil and caring.
At the center of this farming community was the Wayland Community Church. It was a small church with a big heart. Most of us who attended were related in some way or another. People were treated well throughout the community by the congregants irrespective of whether they attended church there. That church, which still operates today, had its roots as far back as 1835 when Welsh settlers—many of them my relatives—set out from the nearby Palmyra to start another church about five miles away. The early services were actually conducted in Welsh. I have a Welsh to English bible that has been passed down in my family, likely used during that time.
Over the years, the church tried different denominations. It was first a Congregationalist church. Then it was integrated with Baptists. Then it was Methodist. When the Methodists became the United Methodists and started collecting money from these farmers for what they considered nonessential to the community, the church leaders decided to break away and return to its Community Church roots, where everyone was welcome and they could spend the tithes and offerings from the community to meet the needs of the community. They were fiercely independent farmers and not given to a bunch of nonsense. They wanted short sermons, long relationships and the church to be about the business of the Lord.
What brings this all to mind today is that I am visiting my lifelong friend Sonny in Arkansas. He is in hospice care for cancer. We have spent hours going through old pictures and reminiscing about our lives together and apart as we grew older and had our families and careers. Our relationship has stood the test of time. Even when we were apart, we were together. He is a part of my soul and vice versa. That relationship began in the basement of Wayland Community Church in Sunday School, probably paired up for doing some sort of craft. We were about four years old. Relationships are important. Don’t take them for granted. Don’t let the noise get in the way. Cherish them each day. Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Closer than a brother.