This is my grandfather, W.T. Johnson

My dad is on the right in the blue shirt

My dad is on the right in the blue shirt

I travel a lot on behalf of Trevecca Nazarene University and see a lot of people who have known me, or someone in my family, for many years.

Recently, I saw a man named Preston Brown and he reminded me that his family and mine had connections all the way back to the 1950s in Oklahoma.  He said he had some old home movies that my dad might want to see sometime.

“Sometime” arrived today in the form of an email with a link to a little over nine minutes of footage from almost 60 years ago.  I found a way to download it and then burn it to a DVD and I can’t wait to share it with my dad!

In the process of watching the grainy, silent moving pictures that included my father and his father in several scenes, I was reminded of my roots in the Church of the Nazarene.  I saw lots of happy people going and coming from their church in Duncan, Oklahoma and on the Nazarene campground in Anadarko.  It was moving to see those frames of reference that helped shape generations of faithful, generous people.

My friend Terry Toler is a songwriter.  We worked together for a few years, in Oklahoma, while our boys were still in elementary and middle school.  Terry has a line in a song that talks about the “cinema of remembrance.”  I guess you could say I’ve spent much of my day at the cinema.

In between various work responsibilities, I’ve been thinking about how much my family has been invested in the life of our church by investing in the lives of others.  I saw my Granddad Johnson as a much younger man than I ever knew him.  I watched him and my dad (in his late teens) interacting with friends and acquaintances on a plot of ground that was just a red-dirt hillside until 1953.  That’s when Granddad felt led to purchase several acres and build a tabernacle and some dorms and a dining hall and invite people to come build it with him.

I was born in 1960 in Duncan, Oklahoma and I kind of grew up with the more modern, if you could call it such, expansion of those grounds.  I have relived many of those memories today in my own mind.  And it has been good.

Sometimes our memory is faulty – grainy, if you will.  Sort of like that grainy home movie reel Preston Brown sent me.  But, most of what I remember about my upbringing and that campground in southwestern Oklahoma was clearly affirmed today.

That is, I’m remembering how sincere people with a heart for God and others gave of themselves in tangible ways.  There were people back then who cared for my family before I was ever born, but I benefitted from that care.  Generational blessing should not be forgotten.  Thanks to Preston Brown’s home movies, I’m remembering better today!