Thursday, July 19, 2007

It’s Campmeeting Time!

Carol and I will load our loaner beautiful motor home this morning (thanks to Mark and Carlene Hixon of Southaven RV Super Center) to head south for our home county of Choctaw in central Mississippi to participate in the 136th Campmeeting at South Union United Methodist Campground. The annual campmeeting begins this evening and concludes with the evening service on Wednesday, July 25th. Our four-year-old grandson, Casey Joe, is going with us and our two-year-old grandson, Weston, and daughter, Stacey, will hopefully come down for a visit. Read more about South Union's rich spiritual heritage. (The above picture is me along with our daughter, Stacey and a friend, blowing the cow horn signaling the beginning of a worship service under the arbor in the early 80's)

Campmeeting takes us back to a simpler time; just good old-fashioned worship of God under the open arbor with hymns like, “I’m Dwelling in Beulah Land,” “Revive Us Again” and “Love Lifted Me.” Campmeeting affords us the opportunity to worship and to teach our children to worship in the same place our ancestors did, in the same way. We can go back to a single, uncomplicated time and place and always know that God is with us and He loves us. There are 4 worship services each day - 8:30 & 11 am and 3 & 7:30 pm.

The Camp Meeting preacher this year is Rev. Rex Wilburn of Bruce United Methodist Church. Carol and I will serve as the song leaders. I have been the main preacher for two campmeetings at South Union and song leader at least a dozen times over the years.

Carol and I will forever be grateful to my late grandparents - Arnold & Jennie Lee Bruce and Casey & Grace Smith - for introducing us to the life-giving Spirit of South Union United Methodist Campmeeting. (The above picture is of Carol and and our grandson, Weston, under the arbor in 2006)

What is a Campmeeting? Campmeeting is a uniquely American institution, and from the earliest days of our nation it has been a vital tool for the propagation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

During the first half of the 1800's, the population of the United States grew from five to thirty million, and the boundary of the nation moved ever westward. Revivals became the primary means of Christianizing the growing and expanding population. These revivals at the beginning of the nineteenth century became known as the Second Great Awakening. (the photo to the left my great grandmother Beulah at South Union in 1950 second from left on front row. She is buried in South Union Cemetery)

Campmeeting movement is cited at Rehoboth, North Carolina in 1794. The campmeeting revival movement the moved west to thOn the American frontier, Campmeetings came to characterize revivals. The beginning of thee Cane Ridge, Kentucky. At a meeting in June, 1800, Presbyterian James McGready and two other pastors preached for 3 days; on the fourth day, two traveling Methodist ministers officiated and concluded with an emotional exhortation. Many physically collapsed at what they called conviction of sin. People were convinced they were experiencing a visitation of the Holy Spirit such as the early church had known at Pentecost. By the early part of the 19th Century, Campmeetings had become a fixture of Rural America in the Northeast, Midwest and on the American Frontier. (the photo to the left is of my Mom and Dad in front of his Model T taken at South Union last year)

As the summer harvest was completed and the crops "laid by," families would get together and build "brush arbors," where they would hold Christian meetings, sing and catch up on the latest news with each other's families. This is the tradition from which the modern campmeeting has come.

Shingleroof Campmeeting, located in the heart of Henry County, Georgia, is a truly remarkable institution. The story of Shingleroof Campmeeting is a tale of religious devotion, love of heritage and cultural preservation. Read the online book about Shingleroof Campmeeting.

Far from being a dried relic of the past, Campmeetings still provide the opportunity for many people to hear the message of Salvation and Scriptural Holiness.

The best way to experience campmeeting is to stay on the grounds the whole time. I stayed in a (wooden) tent with my grandparents during my childhood but now enjoy a camper with some of the more modern conveniences like air conditioning and running water. There is a special kind of fellowship that takes place around the Arbor and the tents after the worship services and during the activities of the day. (The photo at left is of our children, Stacey and Casey, taken at South Union in 1986. My Dad "tented" with them that year and helped them to cave their names in the tree at the spring)

Today many people believe the usefulness of the campmeeting has passed. They consider it an old mode of operation that needs to be put to sleep. I strongly disagree. Instead of allowing the campmeeting to die I believe we should renew our efforts to bring it to new life.

Campmeetings drawing thousands of people are going on almost constantly all over the nation. At these campmeetings people spend thousands of dollars on admission, food, lodging, and the materials offered by the promoters. Oh, they’re not called campmeetings, they’re called conferences. At these "campmeetings" people sit all day long listening to speaker after speaker, several days at a time. (The photo at right is my grandfather Casey Smith at South Union School in 1913 back row with X above him)

At the church campmeeting you won’t pay a steep admission charge, and no one will ask you to buy hundreds of dollars worth of materials, No, you won’t be staying at the Ritz-Carlton twenty floors above the city streets, but then you won’t have to pay their price. The food won’t be steak or lobster. But your experience at campmeeting can definitely change your life.

I am old enough to remember campmeeting days at South Union when we had to haul the water from the spring and the floors under the Arbor and in the tents were sawdust. I also remember is the sight of altars covered with people seeking God and lives being changed. No, God does not need tents, sawdust, benches, or campgrounds to meet with us. But when we choose to set aside a special time to get away from the normal routine to seek God and to hear from Him, He will meet with us like at no other time. Our faith will be met with God’s faithfulness to minister to us, drawing us ever closer to Him. (The photo at right is Carol's first Campmeeting in 1953 when she was 2 months old)

We would love to have you visit us at South Union Campmeeting. Click here for directions.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Welcome Home, Rick Ochoa!

Here is a good word from my friend, Sergeant First Class Rick Ochoa, who just returned home after fifteen months of active duty.

Welcome home, Rick. Thank you for your service to our country!


Greetings from Sunny California!

Yesterday marked the end of my active duty service for this current mobilization! It has been a long time, nearly fifteen months of active duty, including twelve in Iraq.

Throughout this time I experienced many hardships and dangers. Our team participated in over 220 combat missions, fighting both the extreme weather conditions and the insurgents. We traveled over ten thousand miles in and around Baqubah, the most dangerous city in Iraq. Out of all the teams that deployed with us, I believe that Team Alamo returned as the most highly decorated. Several team members earned Purple Hearts and almost everyone was decorated for valor under fire at one time or another.

God certainly was watching over me, I am happy to say! During my tour in Iraq, I was promoted to Sergeant First Class, I received the Bronze Star Medal and I was decorated two other times with an Army Commendation Medal (with V device) for valor under fire. Beyond that though, I came home in one piece and that’s the most important thing! It struck me that God allowed me to come home not just with Honor but with Glory besides! Yet, I know we could not have made it without your prayers and support. To each and every one of you a warm and hearty thank you!

I am enjoying a little peace and quiet with my family now! My kids are with me so we are going to Disneyland and all the other attractions in Southern California. Above all I am grateful to God for having had the opportunity to serve our nation and now I look forward to enjoying some of that freedom for myself! In case you are ever in doubt this is the greatest country on earth!

God Bless
Rick Ochoa

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Senate prayer: Starting countdown to judgment?

Ed Thomas
July 11, 2007

Tomorrow's planned Senate opening invocation by a Hindu chaplain is being called a "watershed" moment in the history of the United States -- but not for good reasons. A spokesman for the American Family Association says it represents an official stamp by the government on paganism, a move which may draw God's anger according to biblical example.

Rajan Zed will deliver the prayer and reportedly has said he will include references from at least three Hindu scriptures, marking the first time such a prayer and texts have been used at the Senate since its formation in 1789. Despite that, Zed has stated the prayer will be "universal in approach." (See earlier story)

Buddy Smith is a spokesman for American Family Association, which opposes the non-Christian prayer and urges citizens to call their Washington legislators to take action.

"It is a watershed day in that it brings to mind some of these precedent-setting events like the day that we took prayer and Bible-reading out of school in our country [and] the day that we legalized abortion," Smith offers. "I fear that while God has been so merciful with our country in the past, events such as are about to happen, like this in the U.S. Senate, is angering a just God. I fear that we bring judgment upon our country with such acts."

Smith says he hopes that for conscience sake -- and avoiding what he terms "endorsing a pagan ritual" -- senators will choose to wait for the Hindu chaplain to finish his prayer before coming to the Senate for the day's business. He also recommends Christians pray for the chaplain's salvation, intercede for the nation and ask forgiveness for tomorrow's session, and hold legislators accountable by contacting them in Washington to express disapproval.

UPDATE: Click here for a video of the Hindu prayer being interrupted today in the U.S. Senate. Click here to read the AP story.

Click here for a follow-up to this story on

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Family Vacation 2007

The Marion & Joan Smith family spent the first week of July together in Destin, Florida for a great family vacation. Those participating were; Marion, Joan, Buddy, Carol, Casey, Mandy, Chip, Stacey, Casey Joe and Weston. All of us (minus Mandy and the Grandboy’s) were last together in Destin for a vacation in 1997.

Dad and Mom's friends, Tom and Dean Sides, invited us to stay for a week in their wonderful Condo - Sides Moreno Point West. This exclusive 7 story luxury waterfront community features unlimited views of Choctawhatchee Bay, The Gulf of Mexico, East Pass & Crab Island and is a boater's paradise.

We began our trip south with a stop by Vincent, Alabama to visit Casey and Mandy in their beautiful new house. We all agreed on their good choice of house and neighborhood.

Our favorite seafood eating establishments were Dewey Destin Seafood located next to our Condo and Staff’s Restaurant of Ft. Walton Beach.

Our vacation week included the date of July 4 and we were blessed with our seventh-floor spectacular view of Destin’s fireworks display at the foot of their West Bridge. We estimate at least one thousand boats were gathered below us on Crab Island to experience the event.

The icing on the cake was our last day when our good friend Steve Ensley, President of American Family Online, picked us up at our Condo in his deck boat where we spent several hours of touring Destin’s Harbor, venturing out into the Gulf of Mexico along with swimming and relaxation on Crab Island.

Warning: There are more photos here that you can endure unless you are a family member.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

T-ball 07

Casey Joe Fowler, our four-year-old grandson, has just completed his second season of T-ball. The photos in the slide show were taken last Thursday at his last game of the season. We are amazed at how far he has come with his game over these two short seasons. For example, he took off to third base after his first hit of last season and returned to the dugout from the outfield half way through the first inning to declare that he was hot and needed water and rest.

His Grammy and I have played a lot of yard ball since that first game. He and his brother, Weston, live next door so this means lots of ball practice. I've enjoyed challenging him with the little phrase "knock the cover off the ball, buddy" when he bats at yard ball. During his final T-ball game of the season, he walked passed me standing by the fence on his way to bat and asked, "you want me to knock the cover off of it, Grandy?" I said, "you bet, buddy" and he quickly responded with a thumbs up, stepped up to the plate and hit a triple.

Way to go, Casey Joe! Grammy and Grandy are very proud of you!

His Mom and Dad along with his best friends, Josh and Caitlyn, are also in the slide show.