I hope you have had someone like Grandpa in your life. Stay with me through the setup. This may be worth your while.
Grandpa’s been gone for over 20 years. Still, there are days I miss my church planting, bi-vocational pastor – Grandpa. My brother, Rodney, said a while back, “Grandpa, affected my life more than anyone I ever knew.”
Getting Acquainted with Grandpa
Let me introduce Grandpa. In varied situations, he was:
- Herbert Ben Frazier
- Daddy – to Hartwell, Curtis, and my mom Faye
- Mr. Ben
- Ben – to Lona (Granny)
- Brother Ben
- Brother Frazier
- For me, Rodney and our five lucky cousins, he was, “Grandpa.”
When I was a tyke, Grandpa sent me in Bentley’s Country Store/General Delivery post office for his mail. The woman attendant peered over and asked what I needed. My reply, “I’m here for Grandpa’s mail.” Though I had been in the post office with him several times, she didn’t know who “Grandpa” was. Surely everybody knew who Grandpa was!
I took several stubborn runs at getting “Grandpa’s mail.” It did not work. Finally, I had to go back outside to Grandpa’s old Rambler to ask him what his “name” was. For my readers who preach. How about a doctrinal sermon thought. “Grandpa” is an important relationship and title, but it was not his name! To do business at the post office, I needed to have Grandpa’s name, not his title. Is there a message about baptism in the name of Jesus there?
Grandparent’s Hall of Fame
If such a thing existed, Granny and Grandpa would be in the “Grandparent’s Hall of Fame.” I’d spend several weeks at their home in Bentley each summer and to this day have never got my visit finished. Norma and I now have our own “holy children.” It is my term for Kaden, Wyatt and Elsie Adara. These three are holy or “set apart” as far as I’m concerned.
With these three added to Norma and me, Grandpa’s joy in me, Terry, Rodney, Susy, Kathy, Ben, and Diane is better understood. I don’t know if our three “grands” will have it as good as I and my cousins did. It won’t be for lack of enjoying them. Granny and Grandpa were exceptional grandparents. Actually, they were exceptional people. The memories make me misty-eyed. Lord, I miss them.
Bi-vocational Church Planting
Grandpa was a church planter. The defunct church at Hudson Creek, Louisiana was built by Grandpa. He used timber from his land to build the church building. The building still stands. Later, he started and grew a church in Tioga, Louisiana. Mom has told me of some of the struggles. Grandpa stayed with it. The church grew. During Grandpa’s years, he led several building projects. Auditorium and educational space built in those years is still in use.
Like 2/3 of all pastors – Grandpa was bi-vocational. When I came along, Grandpa was driving a school bus for the Grant Parish School Board. For almost 30 years, he and Granny pastored in Tioga. At least three times each week they would drive the 12
miles from Bentley to Tioga. Back then a twelve-mile trip could be a 25-minute drive.
Grandpa’s attentive care for those he led was much better than mine has ever been. The man worked at taking care of people. In this, Grandpa was an unforgettable force. I learned meaningful things from him.
Have you noticed how many of life’s lessons are short sentences that become big pieces of life? This describes the things I gained from “Grandpa.”
Five things I learned. I’ve not alway done well in applying them.
1. Invest in care on the front and things go better longer.
One day, I sat in a rocking chair on Grandpa’s screened porch. He was in the matching rocker shining his dress shoes. To my consternation, Grandpa took a new pair of shoes out of a box and began to shine them. The shoes had that new shine! When I asked why he was shining new shoes, Grandpa responded, “I’ll tell you son, the life of a shoe is in the shine.”
I don’t do as well as Grandpa in taking care of my shoes (or much else). My shoes don’t last as long or look as good. It was only one of the ways he applied the principle. The lesson: take care of little things on the front end and those same things will be with you later. “The life of a shoe is in its shine!”
2. Your church is the main thing.
Like Grandpa, I’ve spent a bit of my life as a bi-vocational pastor. In my first season of bi-vocational pastoring, I had a corporate management job. I was successful and effective. Moreover, I was making an excellent salary. It was challenging work and I enjoyed the complexities of a corporate setting. The job positioned me for election as president of Vidalia’s Chamber of Commerce and involvement with an academic accrediting agency.
I was also enjoying the success of it. My ministry life was at risk of being subjugated to other things. One day, as we sat on the same back porch, Grandpa said, “Son, you know what God called you to do. Don’t forget that the church in Vidalia is your main thing.”
3. A good pastor doesn’t tell the things he knows!
My stays with Granny and Grandpa included the 12-mile drive to church. Part of Grandpa’s prayer time was in the car. Much of his prayer was silent. On occasion, Grandpa’s prayer would spill out. He would say something like, “God Bless poor old Sister Love.” Or it might be, “God help Brother Bynog with . . ..”
He never ended those prayerful sentences. I’m a curious sort. I’d ask, “Grandpa what is the matter with Sister Love?” He would never answer. I would ask again. It was always to no avail. In years of my listening, Grandpa never divulged anyone’s problem. Nor did Grandpa ever mention a disappointment he had with people or a neighboring pastor. I’ve followed his practice by keeping information I’m privy to locked within.
4. “Face to Face” works!
Jesus taught, “If you have a problem with someone, go to that person.” A friend told me of a time when a fellow minister was speaking negatively about Grandpa. Grandpa could have retaliated. He could have aimed innuendo or gossip at the other fellow. Grandpa could have tried to defend himself by telling his side of the story.
Instead, Grandpa went to see the man. He told the fellow he was there to work out the problem. When the fellow said, “There is no problem,” Grandpa told him the things being said. Grandpa –told the gentleman he was prepared to involve two or three others to resolve the matter. Grandpa was going to do it just as Jesus taught. In a matter of time, the fellow apologized for his misstatements. Proper Bible-based confrontation works!
5. Faithfulness is seldom easy. Be faithful anyway.
The most important life lesson is about faithfulness. Shortly after their retirement from pastoring, Granny was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. In the 1970s, there was little help for Parkinson’s. Granny’s battle was protracted. Her mind was sharp even as her body wasted from rotund “granny-ness” to almost nothing. By contrast, Grandpa was healthy as could be. He lived to be 90.
Eventually Granny needed a nursing home. This is where “faithful” shows up. Grandpa didn’t need a nursing home, but he went in as a resident for Granny’s sake. The life he lived for the next years was not easy. Grandpa was doggedly faithful to care for “Lona.”
While in the nursing home, Grandpa kept his blue Ford. He came and went from the nursing home as he pleased. With rare exception, Grandpa spent every night and ate meals at the nursing home in Pollock, Louisiana. He was not far from Granny for long.
Days after we buried Granny, Grandpa reclaimed independence. He moved back to his home. In caring for Granny as he did, Grandpa set a remarkable high watermark of faithfulness. He sacrificed his own ease. Choosing instead to live in a somewhat uncomfortable environment to care for Granny.