I’ve taken a few pictures with my I-Phone that I thought you might find interesting. Even though a picture is worth a thousand words, I added a few extra words as explanation.
I had the privilege of spending four days in Stuttgart, Arkansas. David Bush is the pastor at First United Methodist – Stuttgart. We actually set this date five years ago when he was in another church. We packed a lot into the four days with preaching services morning and evening, a civic club speech, and a special event at the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock to honor retired ministers in Arkansas.
Stuttgart is called the duck hunting capitol of the world and also the rice production capitol of our nation. Below are some pictures of some of the events.
The first picture represents a huge outlet store in Stuttgart. It caters to all kinds of hunting. I was told that the population of Stuttgart is about 10,000, except during duck season when it swells to 30,000. The duck that you see here (it is the one with the wings) brings a lot of people to Stuttgart.
This second picture is the world’s largest collection of duck callers. I was fascinated by this because this picture only shows about one-fourth of the various instruments used to call ducks. They range in every kind of size, material, etc.
This picture shows a number of shotgun shells that are sold in Stuttgart. I was told that Stuttgart sells more Winchester shotgun shells than any place in the world! This is a picture of me standing by long racks of shotgun shells. I was told that some of the most expensive shells are carried in Stuttgart. One of those small boxes of special shotgun shells sells for a little over $300. Duck hunting can be rather expensive. The duck hunting season is 70 days long and many of the people pay up to $750 a day to hunt. This includes a place to stay and a guide.
I immediately asked what happens if a person is paying $750 a day and is not a very good shot? What if they shot several times and don’t get a duck? Somebody responded, “What do you think the guides are doing that are standing behind them – if the hunter is not a very good shot, the guide will fire with him and the hunter thinks he has killed a few ducks.” They seem to have an answer to all of the problems.
One of the unique events at Stuttgart was the vision of the pastor the pastor David Bush. He wanted to honor retired ministers. (This emphasis interests me much more today than it did five years ago when he issued the invitation.) David personally raises the money to fund a first class luncheon to honor retired ministers and their spouses. This year Governor Mike Beebe and his wife Ginger agreed to host the gathering at the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock.
Governor Beebe’s predecessor, Governor Huckabee, had built a marvelous banquet hall at the Mansion in honor of his wife. He stated that no other State in the Union has a banquet hall that will seat 225 people. He further stated that the White House in Washington does not have such a facility.
This is the banquet hall. At the end are some huge steps. It was rather majestic when Governor Beebe and his wife came down the steps to be a part of the function. The names of the recent Governors are embroidered into the carpet on the steps.
This picture shows some of the retired ministers and their spouses gathering. It was a first-class event. I was inspired by this and would like to contemplate doing something on a similar nature for retired clergy and their spouses in our Annual Conference. I am always dubious when I speak to 200 retired ministers – but they were extremely gracious and responsive. I told them a lot about my dad and what he did in his retirement, so I had an immediate connection with them.
The Stuttgart sanctuary is really beautiful. The picture above shows one of the evening worship events. The people really attended. Our worship services have been carried on television in the Stuttgart area for several years. One of the people who worshipped with quite often was a pastor of the First Baptist Church. He called off his worship service on Sunday night so his congregation could attend, and he attended the revival services each night.
In September I preached at the Wilmington District Campmeeting in North Carolina. This District has about 70 churches in it. The District Superintendent was Francis Daniel. The young minister who had the vision for this campmeeting and gave leadership was Tim Reeves.
The campmeeting was held at a large Arabian horse farm. The man who owns the farm actually built a large pavilion which was built primarily for the campmeeting. The picture below shows a portion of that pavilion. They had different choirs from different churches sing each night.
One interesting part of the campmeeting was the beautiful setting where people would bring chairs and sit outside the pavilion. They really crank up the sound system for the outside and the weather was beautiful. They also had a large group of volunteers who came each night and cooked hamburgers and hot dogs so people could come in from the district and have a place to eat.
The picture below is actually the stables or barns where the horses are kept. I wish you could see it. The picture does not do it justice. I don’t think there are any Methodist parsonages in North Carolina that would compare with this horse stable. It will house about 90 horses. I suggested they ought to have the visiting pastor stay there because the horses had about the finest accommodations in town.
The Butler family owns a World Champion Arabian horse. I didn’t get to meet Mr. Butler because he had taken the horse to Chicago because the horse was the guest of honor at a large banquet at the Hilton Hotel. They were experiencing some concern about how the horse would react going up and down the elevator to the top floor where the banquet was held. I am not sure the Hilton Hotel provided as good of quarters for the horse as did his regular house back in North Carolina!
In September I went out to Jackson, Missouri to be with Rev. Luther Rhodes at the First General Baptist Church. One of the interesting parts of that trip was that he carried me to see the oldest Methodist Church west of the Mississippi River. The two pictures below show the church. It was really a moving moment for me to stand in front of such an historic site, the oldest Methodist Church west of the Mississippi. The preacher in the picture is not the founding Pastor!
I learned a very, very important lesson about the local church and ministry. There weren’t many folks left, but those folks committed themselves to work together and be the church. I realize that the situation dictated that they couldn’t make each other mad, but I also know that the Bible teaches about unity and the power of the Holy Spirit to unite people. I experienced that at South Brookley.I stayed at South Brookley for four years. Not only were we able to catch up on all the mortgage payments, but we initiated an outstanding mission program. The pictures below indicate the beauty of that sanctuary and the people there.
I went down to South Brookley on Saturday night and stayed with Hop and Dot Jones. During my four years at South Brookley my family ate with them at least once a week. He enjoyed shrimping – I enjoyed eating shrimp. We made a great team. I have eaten at their house hundreds of times and never failed to have shrimp as the main course. I hope that never changes.
This past summer I spoke at a Senior Adult Celebration then preached at Trinity on the Hill in Augusta, Georgia. I was introduced there to the building expansion plans that they have. It will be a bold expansion, but the people are excited.
They invited me back in October to speak at the Capital Funds kick-off. One of the major parts of the renovation is to double the size of the choir space. In the picture below you see the adult choir and one of several children’s choirs. They are looking forward to more room.
It is always good to be around a pastor who is excited about his ministry. This is the case with Dan Brown. I have known Dan for a lot of years and it was a joy to join him in his ministry at Trinity on the Hill. He has assembled a great staff and is leading the people so well in carrying out their vision.
This picture was taken before that Wednesday night rally began. They have multiple worship services. Part of the renovation will be to add a lot more seats to the sanctuary. Their worship services are televised. They have a bright future in front of them.
In October I spent three days at the Clanton United Methodist Church. Larry Anderson is the pastor. I preached at three morning worship services on Sunday morning. It was exciting on Sunday evening to see the entire church, balcony, choir and downstairs, filled with people who were eager sing and serve. When the youth came in some of them had to stand in the back as all of the seats were taken.
In this picture you see the banner where they had been using Transformed Giving and my book Treasures of the Transformed Life for their stewardship emphasis. All of the people were so complimentary of what that stewardship emphasis was doing in the life of the church.
Clanton United Methodist Church also has a great contemporary worship service. Part of this worship service was the contemporary band. They have extremely gifted musicians. It is one of the best contemporary bands that I have heard. You see them leading in one of our worship services. This band actually performed at the United Methodist General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas, in May 2008.