“What If?” – The Yella Fella’s Answer

The Latest Word from John Ed Mathison

In many small towns across America, young people go off to school, then they find more lucrative places of employment in urban areas rather than returning to their hometowns.  Here is an exception to that trend.

Jimmy Rane grew up in Abbeville, Alabama.  When he was in his third year of law school, an unexpected death in the family brought him back to Abbeville.  These unforeseen circumstances eventually turned him into the owner of a small wood treating business.

That’s how the enterprising law student met a wonderful gentleman named Lawson Curry.  Lawson couldn’t read or write, and he lived in a house with no electricity or running water.  But one day Lawson and Jimmy were talking about ways in which wood treatment and processing could be improved.  He had some good ideas, and Jimmy relied on him as he launched this business.

The company had two employees – Jimmy Rane and Lawson.  The first year they worked really hard, and their sales were $22,000.  After expenses, they had little to show for their efforts.

Jimmy Rane had a dream.  He developed a plan to bring that dream to reality.  A dream without a plan can often become a nightmare.  But a dream with a plan can lead to huge success.  Jimmy worked his plan, and the business grew to be one of the largest wood treatment businesses in the world!  Last year their company’s sales were over $1 Billion!  From $22,000 to $1 Billion!!  And it happened in a small town where folks said you couldn’t do it.

Jimmy Rane doesn’t listen well!  When people tell him something can’t be done, he practices “selective deafness.”  He doesn’t take the opinions of people who don’t understand what it means to achieve a purpose in life.  He is still operating his business on those same principles.

He believes in praying with his employees.  There is a well-used Bible on his desk.  He has a devotional for his employees.  My great friend John Riley is his ICO – Inspirational Communications Officer. 

Jimmy Rane

Jimmy Rane’s office is very unassuming.  His desk is round because he said he never liked to sit across the desk from anyone.  That’s just his value.  There’s an American flag, family photos, autographed pictures of some of the great sports figures, devotional literature, beautiful artwork and a modest sitting section.  My wife could help the looks of that sitting area a lot!!!!

With all his success, Jimmy Rane hasn’t forgotten where he came from.  He has shared generously his success.  The first thing he did was to build a very nice new house for Lawson and his wife Alice.  Lawson couldn’t believe he could live in a house with running water, electricity, kitchen appliances, etc.  Jimmy Ranes appreciated his “partner in business.”  And Jimmy never charged him rent for the house.  Lawson passed away a few years ago, but before he did, he and Jimmy made an agreement that is still being honored to this day – that Lawson’s wife, Alice, could continue to live there rent-free as long as she wanted. 

Jimmy Rane is very active in the United Methodist Church.  He, John Riley, pastor Randy Greene and some leaders were talking about an emphasis the church needed to do in the community in terms of a revival or renewal.  They invited me to come down and preach.  It was a great experience.  On a Wednesday night, the church was filled with people.  There was enthusiastic singing and genuine worship. 

Abbeville is different because of the dream, commitment, creative thinking, and hard work, of Jimmy Rane.  The Methodist church is different because of John Riley and Jimmy Rane and many, many others.

What if more young people went to small towns to start a career?  What if more of us would prayerfully consider initiating something that other folks said would be impossible?  What if more of us were willing to take the risk of following God’s lead to “Walk on the water?”  What if more of us incorporated basic Christian concepts everyday when conducting our business?  What if we chose to share with those in need?  What if – what if?

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