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Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Fred Brannen Christmas - 2008

Hailey listening as her Mom (Kimberly Lawrence) was doing the devotions. Don't you think she's cute?

Colby, our Ruthie's grandson, was dressed in a suit and tie because he was going to a church program after the party.

Great-grand-son Julian Atticus Cartwright was being fed by his Dad and Mom, David and Lydia.

Mom was here and held the kids spell-bound with her recitation of a lengthy poem that she has quoted each year for Christmas. It is called "Little Annie and Willie's Prayer." I video taped it and as soon as I can learn how I'll download it for all of you to see.

Kimberly, our grand-daughter who did devotions for us this year, used her "Ge-paw's" Bible. For those who don't know Ge-Paw was my Dad.

"Frankie" and Rick Durham our #1 daughter and her husband came early to help with preparations for the annual Fred Brannen Christmas Party.

Tabitha (our "baby"), her husband Rev. Phil Jaycox, their daughters, Rebecca, Hannah, and Gracie. Rebecca's friend is at the left. This daughter gave her Dad 10 pounds of butter as a Christmas gift. It was so fun - because since she was very little the girls have all noticed that their Dad eats too much butter on his bread, or potato, or pancake, or pop-corn, or whatever. Frances, my faithful wife, was/is so watchful of my health that she would/will caution me about using too much butter. Tabi, being the sensitive child, constantly tried to find a way to make people feel better in such circumstances. So her come-back was, "Dad, I'll buy you ten pounds of butter for Christmas - then you can eat all you want."

I would title this picture "Anticipation"!

This is middle daughter "Ruthie" and her husband Curtis with some of their family. Left to right, Chelsea, Crystal, Chloe (In Daddy's arms), Caitlin (in her Mom's arms), and Colin in his Dad's arms); Back row (l to r) Colby, Ruthie (who identifies herself as the "fayvrite one"), Curtis, Amy, and Terry.

All the kids and grands and great-grands got a hug from their "Memaw" when they came in the door. It was fun - but Memaw was worn out after it was all over.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Why Missions?


Why should anyone sell out everything, leave family and friends and things behind, travel to a foreign country, establish residence in a totally different culture in order to tell others the story of Jesus? We go - for Jesus has said, "Go Ye into all the world". We go because we believe that Jesus is the only means of salvation. We go because we believe that hell is real and those who are not trusting in Jesus for their salvation will die and go there. We go because we believe that heaven is real and those who embrace the message of salvation will live eternally with Him in Heaven.

The Hardshell Baptists are on record that they do not believe in foreign missions. Their theology does not permit them to interfere in what may be the punishment of God on a nation because of the sins of the fathers of that people group. Also, their view of pre-destination is so extreme that they feel that those in foreign countries who are predestined to be lost will be lost whether they hear the gospel or not. They also feel that those who are pre-destined to be saved will be saved whether we help or not. Check them out on Wiki-pedia by "googling" for "hardshell baptist".

Some are motivated by a mis-understanding of Matthew 24:14 which says, "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." This verse does not mean the gospel has to be preached unto all the world in order to hasten the coming rapture of the church. In fact we are going to rule and reign with Christ for a thousand years on this earth before "the end" comes. (Revelation 20:6) After the thousand years Satan will be loosed for a short season and will go out to deceive the nations. (Revelation 20:3;8) Another reason I do not believe that we become missionaries in order to hasten the return of Christ is that the day of his return has already been decided by the Father in Heaven. Jesus said, "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." (Matthew 24:36) Again, Jesus said, "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh." (Matthew 25:13) I believe that this and other eschatological passages means that the date is already forever settled in heaven and nothing that you nor I do will change that date. The Bible says, in Mark 13:32, "But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father." The Father knows what day He will return. He will return on that day regardless of what you or I do - or do not do - about world missions. We cannot slow the day of His return; neither can we hasten it.

This is all the more reason that we must be diligent in telling the story to those who have not heard. Jesus could come today. We must go and tell the story before the end of the day.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Where Do We Go?

Where Do We Go?

Anywhere - Matthew 28:19 Our field is “the world”. One may go anywhere there are lost people and “do” missionary work. 2 Tim. 4:5 “But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry." Because of these considerations I have often stated that one does not need a "call" or does not have to "feel led" to go to the field. Jesus has called us all to go into all the world.

Where do you feel led to go?
My call is first “Into All The World”. While I believe that it is legitimate for any saved, born-again, Holy Ghost filled individual to say at any time that he is going to the missions field to do something for the Lord, I also believe that God does call certain individuals for certain tasks at certain times to certain places. Indeed, "God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform". So how do we receive our call?

Dreams and Visions
I'm somewhat skeptical of dreamers because I've seen dreamers attempt to manipulate others through their dreams. I've also seen visionaries put people under financial bondage. However, despite my not wanting to accept every dream or vision as from the Lord, Holy Scripture teaches us that God does reveal things to his servants through dreams. God showed my wife, Frances, a picture of a map of Kenya in a dream. God allowed my mother, Bonnie Jones Brannen, to see herself in an airplane, flying over the Ngong Hills into the Airport in Kenya before she was certain that there was a place called Kenya. She said that in her dream she spelled it, K-E-N-Y-A. When she had awakened she asked my Ordained Bishop father whether there was a country anywhere in the world called Kenya. When he said, “Yes. It’s in Africa.” She said, “Well, I’m going there someday.” All of this happened at least two years before I ever considered going to Kenya with my wife to live and work as a missionary for almost ten full years.
Another way that God speaks to people is by showing them a need.
I really feel that this is how my calling came. Through circumstances that made me feel I needed to go as chaperone for my wife and mother, I visited Kenya for 3 weeks in 1987 and saw several needs there in our churches where I felt if I were there I could make a positive difference. Out of that (and the request from the people on the ground there) I did pray for God to meet that need and to show me if he wanted me to go to Kenya in person. I sought the Lord's guidance. In two weeks time the leadership in World Missions called me and asked me if I would pray about going to Kenya and becoming the overseer of our churches in that country.
God also speaks to us through our leaders.

We must also deal here with the issue of submission. Submission is to God first. Like the disciples, we will “obey God rather than men”. However, we are also told that we are to submit to those who are over us in the Lord. More strongly – we are told to “obey” spiritual leaders in the church. Hebrews 13:17 “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” Compare also, 1 Peter 5:5 “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.”
My experience has been that when a man or woman gets to the point that they will not submit to the church leadership they are soon destined for personal failure. As Gene Rice often said, “Your attitude determines your altitude.” James said, “He that humbleth himself shall be exalted – but he that exalteth himself shall be abased.” So when the leadership of your church sees a need and invites you to help in an area because they know some of your skills you can go with confidence.

This idea of discipleship and obedience can be deceptive. The whole shepherding movement fed of the idea that there was a person who had extra special insight and the disciples must get advice from that leader before doing anything. They would seek his input on the car they would buy, the home they would live in, the person they would marry, and many other items of personal choice. For me that is extreme. But let us look at it with great care. Jesus told his disciples to go into all the world and make disciples, and to teach those disciples whatever Jesus had taught them. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I am not a disciple of other men – although at least one wanted me to be his personal “disciple”. That particular individual came to Kenya (and the rest of Africa) saying that “from today, we no longer have “members” of the church. We are now all “disciples”. Now – please understand that men can teach me, and have taught me many things about the work of God, but when I reach a certain point in my relationship with my fellow minister he has to know he is not my final authority. Jesus is my Master!

I’ve had missionaries under my supervision who refused to do what I asked them to do. It is o.k. with me - as long as they are sure of themselves and conduct themselves with honor and in a respectful manner when they disagree with me. It is my sincere desire for them to follow Jesus. I will never knowingly ask another person to do anything contrary to His will. However leaders do have the right and responsibility to give direction to missionaries. Maybe this point will be better understood through one example. A young missionary couple had learned Spanish and wanted ernestly to be assigned to a Spanish speaking country in Latin America. The director of missions saw a need in Africa that he wanted them to meet. That missionary told me she did not want to go to Africa, but went out of obedience. As a result one of the greatest ministries to orphans and street kids in Africa was birthed in Zambia by Rodger and Saundra Wikelund. It is called Emma's Kids.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

When Do We Go To The Field

A number of issues will determine when we go.

1) Issues of Age

God calls very young children to be missionaries. Others hear the call to go as missionary much later in life. Just remember that God is always on time. Do we send children who are 7 or 17 years of age? Yes, at times (If accompanied by parents, then small children do become missionaries. i.e., Laura Bloodworth, Matt Womble, Lauren Davis, etc.) In my own case, I felt the burden for Africa at the age of 16. However, I did not even entertain the idea of going to another continent at that time. In fact, I did not arrive in Africa until much later at the age of 50! Be patient. You need time to be prepared for the ministry God calls you to. Be patient.

2) Issues of Qualifications

Requirements of the Church would include being a High School graduate; and hopefully some College. However, there are times when a person who does not have an academic background may have other experience that make them good candidates for service in some fields. Foreign Governments also have their own requirements which must be met before one can obtain a working visa which is required to live there. One government officer told me, "You must have skills not found in our own people. Why should we allow you to do what our own people can do?” These days, most governments prefer candidates with Doctoral degrees but will accept Master’s degrees if the person has the right skills and/or experiences.

3) Issues of support

One must not go to the field if he has to beg while on the field. He/She must not become an embarrassment to the Lord and the church. Going on faith alone is wonderful if God supplies. But saying "I have faith" is just not enough. There must be results that prove our faith. This is why in our system (Church of God, Cleveland, TN) that when a person cannot raise their initial support within six months they will be called into a meeting with the administration to discuss their case. One "faith-based" mission I know about had cards printed that advertised they were on the field strictly on faith. Their card said, “Mountain-Moving-Faith Missions”. But after six months these missionaries had to return to their home country because they could not pay their bills. Please understand that it does take faith to go to the field. There are historical examples of those who have gone with very little visible support (such as George Mueller) but most people do not have that kind of faith.

So, when you are old enough, qualified academically, and have the necessary financial support you will much more quickly receive the blessing and backing of your local church.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What is Missions

What is Missions?

The mission, the task, the job, the purpose for which Christ came into the world is a good place to start in our understanding of missions. It means that because Christ came on a mission into the world to save sinners, we go into the world to see sinners saved. Luke 19:10 "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." He came to heal and to bind up wounds. He came to set at liberty them that are bruised. He performed miracles and instructed his disciples to heal the sick and cast out devils as they preached the gospel. John 3:17 "For God sent not His son into the world to condemn the world but that the world, through Him, might be saved." Like Jesus, we are not to bring condemnation into the world (Lord knows we have enough of that already) but we are to "... Preach the gospel to the poor; ... heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised." Luke 4:18

I submit to you that Men and women can and do go into foreign countries and do good works and call themselves missionaries -- yet miss the real purpose of being a missionary. Missions is not taking a trip to a foreign land, seeing the exotic sights and observing the strange attire and behavior of the "natives". I do not mean to sound negative here about all the good things that people do in the name of missions, but missions is not the thrills that we feel when we are doing good works. Missions is not the noble acts of feeding the hungry, caring for orphans, giving to the poor. Missions is the mandate given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ: John 20:21 "Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you."

Please understand: I believe that ministry can be and is performed by teams of builders who go to foreign lands to help those who either do not have the funds or the skills to build a building. Yet, if they are not witnesses to the power of Jesus to save the lost then they are really only doing social work. Doctors and Nurses may be moved by the great need for medical attention that is so direly needed in foreign lands and out of humanitarian concerns may move to a foreign country to live and work in their profession. However, if they have no involvement in telling the story of Jesus and leading men and women to Christ, they are not missionaries. They are merely doing social/humanitarian work. What I am saying should in no way negate the importance of their great hearts as they give their energies to helping the less fortunate. They are moved with compassion and a desire to help with the physical needs they see. That is good – but that alone is not being a missionary.

The main thing is to win the confidence of a lost world so that one becomes a credible witness to the saving power of Jesus!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of Missions

Frances Brannen, Missionary in Kenya ca 1990
Frances organized all the children in her neigh-

borhood and had them play out the Christmas
In response to my last blog one of my daughters asked what happened with the sessions I did for the Lighthouse Church in Madisonville, Tennessee. Here I am going to share with you the notes I had made for teaching purposes - but will post it in segments in order to keep these thoughts brief.
1. Who is a Missionary?
2. What is Missions?
3. When does Missions begin?
4. Where does Missions take place?
5. Why does Missions take place?
6. How is Missions work done?
7. Who is a Missionary?

Lesson # 1

Pre-liminary Definition: A Missionary is one who moves from his home country to live and work in another country. His/Her primary purpose is to witness to and win others to the truth of the Gospel that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only way to be saved and have eternal life.
His/her Work may be the same as any Christian worker here at home.

A missionary is defined as a person who moves from his own country of residence to another country for the purpose of proclaiming the gospel. He is recognized by the Church and is supported by the church in his missionary endeavors. We limit the term missionary in the same way that we limit the use of other evangelical terms. For example: We call a man a “Pastor” if he leads a church. If he is a preacher but has no church for which he is responsible we call him an “Evangelist”. Now, a Pastor can and should do the work of an Evangelist. An Evangelist may act in the role of a Pastor or shepherd. He may find a bruised and battered sheep in his path, and pick up that weary soul, binding up wounds and lovingly holding and asking God for the healing of this sheep until the sheep is better and ready to walk again on his own.

Does a person have to be “called” to be a missionary? In light of Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19, every believer has “a call” to be a missionary. Yes, I believe that God does call certain individuals to certain places for certain tasks in these un-certain times. I’m fully aware that God gives individuals a “burden” or “desire” to be an Evangelist. To others he gives the desire to be a Pastor. To still another they feel complete and fulfilled with the joy of the Lord in serving the church by singing in the choir or teaching a Sunday School class. In other words, God gives them a “want to” to do what they do for His glory. They are happy in that role. I believe we all can function in other roles but we are more content when doing what we “want to” for the Lord.

Let me illustrate. While pastoring in Waynesboro, TN one of the older men whose wife and family had been members of the church for a long time came to the altar to ask the Lord to save him. He wept a puddle of tears on the altar. He was so intense in his prayer, so broken up inside his spirit for about thirty minutes that I just knew he was saved. However, when I asked him if he felt that he was now saved, he said, “No. I can’t get saved. I know that the Bible says that no man can be saved except the spirit of the Lord draws him.” Finally, I asked him, “Don’t you want to be saved?” His response was immediate and animated. “Of course, I do! I want to get saved more than anything else in the world, but I have to wait until the Spirit draws me.” I then asked, “What do you think makes you “want to”? Who do you think gave you that desire to be saved?”

Sadly – that night Quinton did not accept salvation because I was un-able to help him to understand that him wanting to be saved was the sign that God, the Holy Spirit, was “drawing” him. He did get saved much later. But at that moment he had trouble un-raveling the meaning of the Scriptures.

What I’m saying here is that if you develop an intense desire to go to a foreign field and do work for God that it is God who has given you the “want to”. The devil will certainly not call you or give you a desire to do anything for God. Also I’m saying that if you have the “want-to” you can go based on the call of Jesus to every disciple to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. He that believeth not shall be damned.” Compare Matthew 28:19 and Mark 16:15.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Since the death of Ruth Hildreth we have been going to Lenoir City as often as we reasonably could. So far, Frank and his sons are holding up -- although it has been visibly difficult for Frank to process his grief. I cannot imagine what this would be like after living with someone for 57 years. Do continue to pray for the family.

On Wednesday, October 22, 2008 I began a series of teachings for a local church in Madisonville, Tennessee on the subject of missions. Pastor Jim Tallent and his wife Sandra invited me to come and help them as they have about 14 persons who feel they may be called to be missionaries. There was good participation and excitement last Wednesday so now I am concerned that this week I need a little extra something to give them. Started out by asking questions: "What is missions?; Who is a missionary?; and When does the missionary go to the field?" Tonight I will take up these questions by asking, "Why should you be a missionary? Where do you go? And finally, How is missionary work done?"

Today at 12:00 I'm going to a luncheon for retired missionaries. Maybe I'll pick up a pointer or two there if I listen carefully???

Speaking of listening -- I took Mom to her hearing specialist last week and also set up an appointment with her Doctor to see if I can have my hearing aids adjusted. They have been safely tucked away in a drawer for over a year now because I could not hear with them. They are really quite a nuisance, so young folks, protect your ears. If you are wondering why I went to Mom's Doctor -- it's because my own hearing Doctor died just over a year ago. Dr. Don Polen had a good testimony of faith in Jesus Christ and I feel confident he is in the presence of God.

Hey! Everybody break out your sweaters and coats. I can hear the chilling winds o' winter a-blowing around my head!!! And don't forget ... time change this Saturday night!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Ruth Woody Hildreth

Yesterday, Monday, October 6, 2008, Ruth Woody Hildreth was laid to rest in the cemetery at Lenoir City. This has been an extremely stressful time for her husband (Frank) and two sons (Greg and Tim) and their families. Frances is exhausted - and I am sure that could be said of all the family members, especially Greg's wife, Maria, who went "all out" as she and Greg turned their home into the hospitality station where we all met to grieve together. Thanks to all of you who prayed, visited, called, sent cards and or flowers.

Please continue to pray for Frank to be able to adjust and go on with life. They had been married for 56 years.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Life Is Short; Life is Fragile

Hey Everyone! I'm back...thanks to our youngest daughter, Tabitha Jaycox who drove all the way from Talbott to Cleveland just to help her Mom and me get new phones and new internet connections. I had no idea what a great negotiator we had raised. THANK YOU TABI!.

The Assembly concluded and I returned home to find that Frances is not much better physically. She really needs your prayers because she is apprehensive about having the procedures done to find out what has caused her problem. Yesterday, for the second time since the meeting in San Antonio she has postphoned her procedure. The first time because of a mix-up in our insurance which got canceled without our knowledge. (It is re-instated.) This time she post-phoned because of the critical condition of her sister-in-law (Ruth Hildreth). Ruth tripped over a suitcase and hit her head on the tile floor in her bathroom as they were preparing to go to the quartet convention in Louisville, KY. She and Frank went to the convention but Ruth was embarrassed to go the third day because of the discoloration of her face and eyes. Then Frank decided to bring her home. When they went to the doctor he did immediate surgery to stop bleeding which was occurring on the brain. This was not successful, so more serious surgery was done. Ruth has been in a coma for almost two weeks now and was taken off the respirator yesterday. This is a critical time. Please pray for Frank and the two sons (Tim and Greg) and their families. Life is so fragile.

O.K. -- what am I doing since retirement? I really don't have anything to do, but at the end of each day I am not finished. I've been as busy as a one-armed paper hanger in a honey bucket. I've visited and preached and sung in churches in Tennessee and North Carolina...have plans to do a series of missions classes in an independent Pentecostal church in Madisonville beginning five weeks before in process of building a 5' by 12' bathroom onto the cabin...bought and installed a new gas fridge for the cabin...bought and installed new batteries for the solar powered electrical system...bought and delivered two new plastic barrells which will serve as my septic system...went fishing a couple of times...stopped and picked a gallon of wild grapes (musky-dines) on the bank of the Hiwassee more of "The Shack"...and, in general, staying pretty busy. I think I need another job so I can get some rest!

After some urging from my dear Mother I went to my first "Seniors Retreat" a few weeks ago. Lowell went with me. So there we were - Mom - and Lowell and me acting like her kids again! What fun we had as we worshipped, sung, played pool, fished in the camp pond, participated in a "Silent Aution", and met some friend, new and old.

Oh - Remember the fellow I told y'all about who was so hurt and critical of the church and some of it's leaders? I have since met one of the men he was criticizing and found out that the man had died. I'm so glad God allowed me to meet the man and to have that frank conversation and prayer with him before he died. Again, Life is short and so fragile. Like James says, "It is even a vapor that appeareth for a little while and soon vanisheth away."

Whoa! It is already 9:27 and past my bed-time.


Saturday, August 9, 2008

It's Over!

This is Saturday, August 9, 2008 and the General Assembly of our Church has just concluded. I'm still in the hotel, waiting for flight time tomorrow. I have my bags packed and am ready to go...and I'm experiencing mixed emotions. I can literally feel little shots of adrenalin when I think about the fact that I don't go back to the office in Cleveland. This feeling is similar to "butterflies" in the stomach. On the other hand there is a tinge of sadness that I won't go back to the offices. Now, don't get me wrong, but I am not quitting. I cannot imagine me sitting down and doing nothing. Maybe you (mostly my children) will pray for me to know exactly how I can be most useful to God for the remaining years of my ministry. I only have to live 30 more years to keep the promise I made to you (my daughters) that I would live to be 100 and would be here for you. Yes, I do mean it when I ask for your prayers --- but I am not worried nor afraid of the future. The same God who took care of us when we first started out in missions will also take care of us now as we begin this new chapter. I'm excited about it!!!

OK - I think I've already reported to you the major elected persons to fill offices of leadership in our church...from the General Overseer down to the Council of Eighteen. I've also reported to you that Peter Thomas, the man who had been serving with me in Africa as the Continental CE Director, has been appointed to replace me. Stepping up to replace Peter as CE Director is Jurgen Rudolph. Here are some other appointments you might want to know: Dennis McGuire, Director of Multi-Cultural Ministries; J. David Stephens, Overseer of Tennessee. Thomas Madden, Int. Youth and CE Director; Gary Lewis, Assistant Youth and CE Director; Paul L. Walker, Director of Local Church Development; Paul Conn, Lee University; Don Aultman, School of Ministry; Gary Moncher, Patten University; Steven Land, Theological Seminary; Robert White, T.L. Lowery, & Bill Claypoole, International Evangelists;

Well - there's a few more coming later. If you have a question later I'll try to answer it.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Council Elected & Business Underway

The Council of Eighteen is the most prestigious council of the entire Church of God which has delegates here from 164 nations of the world. 3000 plus men have a hand in selecting these leaders by through the power of private ballots. The following men were selected:

1. Bryan Cutshall
2. Loran Livingstone
3. Bill Isaacs
4. Tony Scott
5. David Cooper
6. Don Walker
7. Grant McClung
8. Lamar Vest
9. Jentzen Franklin
10. Oliver McMahan
11. Fedlyn Beason
12. David Ramirez
13. Gary Sears
14. Nick Park
15. David Munguia Z
16. Mike Chapman
17. Mark Walker
18. Thomas Propes

I personally feel good about these nominations which took place yesterday and today. It is my hope and expectation that all of them will be confirmed by the General Assembly. Actually, the by-laws state that these men are elected by the General Council and not by the General Assembly. I'm very pleased with the entire list of those selected to serve on the Council of Eighteen.

BUSINESS IS NOW UNDERWAY in the General Council. Today we had a very emotional beginning of discussion on a most important issue...the issue of reducing the amount of money that pastors are asked to send to the General Offices with their monthly reports. I came away with a feeling of confidence that the Church of God is well set to step into the future because I heard some young men with intelligent proposals and polite manner offer their alternative ideas. They refused to be intimidated and, in my judgment, were brilliant in following Robert's Rules of Order - the rules which govern our discussion. God is with us! I'm willing to privately share more details with any of you who read this blog. It was a truly remarkable day.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Newly Elected COG Leadership

This morning we started electing new leaders of the General Executive Committee who will lead us for the next two years. Here are the names so far:

Raymond Culpepper - General Overseer (Moved up from First Assistant)
Tim Hill - First Assistant General Overseer (Moved up)
Mark Williams - Second Assistant General Overseer (Former Overseer of California)
David Griffis - Third ASsistant General Overseer (Former Overseer of Tennessee)
Wallace Sibley - Secretary General (Former Director of Evangelism & Home Missions)

Thomas Madden - General Director of Youth & CE (Moved up from Assistant)
Gary Lewis - Assistant General Director of Y & CE (Former Youth Director/S Carolina

Jimmy D. Smith - General Director of Evangelism & Home Missions (Moved Up)
Larry Timmerman - Assistant Director of Evang (Former Overseer/Alabama)

Douglas LeRoy - General Director of World Missions (Moved up)
Victor Pagan - Assistant General Director (Former Field Director of South America)

When we concluded the afternoon session today we had cast ballots for the Council of Eighteen. Results were to be announced at 7:00 this evening. Since I have walked back and forth to the Building twice today I decided not to go again tonight - but rather to get some rest. I'll try to post again tomorrow and let you know.

New Sheriff Appointed

This morning at 7:00a.m. we had our Africa Breakfast in the Hard Rock Cafe. Dr. Roland Vaughan, our out-going General Director of World Missions made the announcement to all of our group that Peter and Deborah Thomas are the new Field Directors for West, Central, and Eastern Africa. At that time I presented a very dressy looking ten gallon hat to Peter and also pinned a gold colored "tin star" on his coat which had his name on it. This was intended to show all the leaders in our area that the power has transferred. He is NOW officially carrying the load, so I don't have to wait until high noon on Saturday. In fact I have already begun to send those with questions about the work in Africa to him for their answers. Of course I will miss the interaction and the opportunity to give my input to the work there - but we could have no one more familiar with the COG in Africa than Peter. Jurgen Rudolph, who has been serving as E.A. Regional Supt has moved into the Continental CE Director's slot to follow up on the Educational programs which Peter has initiated in our 33 countries.

West Africa Superintendent David Le Page also is retiring at this Assembly will be succeeded by Ephraim Shawa, who has just completed his Master's Degree at the COG Seminary in Cleveland. Eastern Africa's new Superintendent is to be Bishop Joseph Kagarama, who has been serving til now as the Overseer of Uganda. He is a very loyal and kind person who has always treated me exceptionally well whenever I've visited in his country. Please pray urgently for Bishop Jack Nkandu, the person appointed to serve as Central Africa Regional Superintendent.

Bishop Nkandu, who has been serving as the Central Region's C.E. Director, was on his way to the General Assembly and had stopped to visit a friend in Germany when he started vomiting and spitting up blood in the middle of the night. Had a doctor not been his host it is un-likely he would be alive now. The doctor did a tracheotomy that night to help him breathe. When he was taken to hospital next day for complete tests it was discovered that he has a huge cancerous tumor growing behind his nasal passages and invading the area of his brain and down into his throat. Doctors have induced a coma and also inserted a feeding tube into his stomach so that he can survive while a decision is made as to whether even radical surgery can save him. While doctors do their best, I am asking all of you who may read this to pray fervently for Brother Jack and also pray for his wife, whose name is Peace, to have the strength needed during this ordeal. GOD STILL DOES MIRACLES. We NEED one!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Would You Believe It?

I arrived in San Antonio last night without Frances, who decided at the last minute that she was too sick to make it. Being here without her is very difficult for me, especially in light of the fact that this is my last General Assembly to attend as the Field Director. However ... Her blood pressure is too high and her heart rate is too low and the stress of the flight alone might have triggerred an "incident" for her health. Neither of us want that to happen. So I have to make the best of it. I won't have any pictures of this event for I decided that with all the security regulations and luggage carrying restrictions I did not want to keep up with it.
On the trip out there was considerable turbulence between Chattanooga and Memphis. At one point the plane suddenly dropped and then stopped as if it had run into a brick wall. We continued on without further major incident. Fortunately the plane out of Memphis was late, so all luggage was safely transferred and I was able to make the connection from Memphis to San Antonio.
After a good hot shower I found nothing on TV worth watching, so spent an hour channel surfing, picking up tidbits about Senator McCain and Senator Obama trading political barbs and lashing out at one another's ineptitudes with meaning meandering. God help America! Give us someone as President who loves God and is not ashamed to say it publicly; someone who supports our constitution and our bill of rights; someone who will lead with moral courage and not let the UN (nor anyone/anything else) influence us to leave behind the convictions of our founding fathers.
I have been out of the hotel twice this morning to walk around and orient myself to the area. Breakfast in the hotel is $18.00. Would you believe water in the room is $5.00 for a 24 oz bottle? It is sitting on a divice that is designed to add the price to your bill when you pick up the water???

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Cleaning Day

I'm packing boxes here in the office at General Headquarters today. It's hard for me to comprehend that ten years ago at the General Assembly of 1998 I was appointed to the post of Field Director. I need a rest, so here I am on the blog page.

It's also incomprehensible and wild that a young thing like me just recently celebrated my 70th Birthday. Say, "It Ain't True" please - someone - anyone ? My daughters cooked and baked and served the food in grand fashion. They are wonderful girls. The said we had to have two cakes because one cake did not have enough room for all the candles. Observing the smoke when I blew out the candles someone (probably one of the grand-children) wanted to call the firetruck. It was a wonderful time during which they made me feel special and much loved. I'm so proud of all of my children and their families too. I want to upload a couple of pictures and then must get back to work - so this is short. Plus -- it is almost time to go to lunch!!!

Oh well...something is not working right here. Pictures don't want to upload. Maybe later.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Missionary Orientation

Guess what? I sung for the Missionary Orientation meeting on Tuesday morning, July 15, and they loved it! I had several sincere compliments throughout the remainder of the orientation sessions which ended at noon yesterday. The Assistant Director said, "Fred, I had no idea what a good singer you are." My reply was, "Well sure. I'm a professional. I once sung at a little Baptist Church and they gave me $200. Do you know the difference between an amateur and a professional? A professional gets paid. An amateur does it just because he loves it." Also I had several compliments on the 15 minute devotional I shared. Would you like to hear a synopsis? LoL. O.K. Glad you asked me to share it. Here goes.

Three "C's" For Successful Missionaries"
1. C - Call
My thoughts about call are probably different than what you've heard. I've heard it said a number of times, "You know Fred, I admire you for what you do...but you know people have to have a "call" before they can do anything like that. I often say, "No! I don't believe you have to have a "call" to go to Africa...or Asia...or anywhere else in the world. All you need is a "want to". I've seen young people go to Africa - and stay - just because they wanted to. Some went for Anheiser (or is that Anhauser?)-Busch; others went for the spirit of adventure; some went for the United States Government. So why not us?"
I told them of Quinton Griggs, an older man who had been raised in the Church of God but who had never been saved. I think he was about 60 - 65 at the time this incident took place. He came to the altar to pray for salvation. He prayed. He cried. He begged God, "Oh Lord, Please Save Me!" He prayed for a long time. But when he had finished praying he said, "No, I'm not saved. The Spirit has to draw me. I can't get saved until that happens." When I began to quiz him as to what it meant to him to be saved, he quoted John 6:44 where Jesus says, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day." Also he quoted John 6:65 which says, "And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father." I asked, "Do you wnnt to be saved?" "YES!" He answered with emphasis. "More than anything in the world!" "Well, what do you think it is that makes you want to get saved if not the Spirit of God! It's the Holy Spirit's job to make you want to get saved. That's what made you come to this altar tonight."
So if we have a directive from our commander-in-chief (and we do in Matthew 28:19) then why can't we go if we have the "want to". Besides - who do you think it is that puts the "want to" in you? God is the one who causes us to will and to do of His good pleasure. (Cf Phillipians 2:13) Yes, it helps to understand that God is who made us want to; especially when we get into sticky situations and frustrations and tough times come; AND THEY WILL COME.

2. Culture
Two things about culture. Your culture and Their culture. Of course you know what culture is: The definition which I really like is: "Culture is Learned ways of doing and being."
Let me be right up front with you. You are who you are and you will never be one of them. Accept the fact that you are different from the people where you are going and respect those differences. Besides, Jesus taught that we are to be like "a city on a hill" or like "a candle on the mantle." (O.K., Candle on the candlestick.)
Don't allow "culture" to become an excuse for sin. If it violates the teachings of the Bible but it's culturally acceptable, culture does not make it o.k. to be polygamous, or to lie, etc., and etc. We are not exporting American Culture, although it is found in the Bible! Don't believe me? Read Romans 1. It is the kind of culture Jesus came to change. Got the picture?

3. Creator
God created you. You are unique. He knew all about you - your warts and freckles - the good parts and the bad parts of you when He called you. Or should I say when He put the desire to go to the place of service you are going. He knew you -yet he loved you. Awesome.
So when the frustrations begin of going through customs and immigration, and they will; when the frustrations with headquarters come, and they will; when the disagreements with fellow missionaries come, and they will; when it dawns on you and you realize that you are imperfect, and you will ... Just remember your CREATOR is who designed you and know that He is still on His Throne in Heaven. And I concluded with these verses:
Romans 8:26-31 "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. [27] And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. [28] And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. [29] For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. [30] Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. [31] What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?"
Then I sung the song for them titled "I Need Not Leave With The Burden". and concluded by asking them to sing with me the chorus of, "I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go" Many had tears in their eyes as we concluded with prayer. Can you say from your heart, "I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go, Dear Lord; O'er Mountain or Plain or Sea; I'll say what you want me to say, Dear Lord; I'll be what you want me to be!" ???

Monday, July 7, 2008

July 4th @ Pumzika Acres

Early in the morning I awoke with excitement and anticipation inside for I knew this was the day for the family cook-out. I loaded up the pick-up with chopped sirloin, Beef Franks and Turkey Franks (otherwise known as hot-dogs) -- plus a couple of rifles to fight off the bears that might be tempted to taste test the cooking before it was done, then headed for my favorite relaxing spot. It was great having Frances' family together with our children and grand-children...28 of us in all. All seemed to have a great time. Joe waded the creek bare-footed and then started to walk the log which is across the creek, but, oops! The bark was slipping off the log, causing him to fall astraddle the log. Like a rider on a bucking bronc, his legs automatically grabbed hold and locked around that mighty steed while he steadied himself, regained his composure and inched himself along back to the starting point. With no bones broken and no serious injuries he proceeded to enjoy the rest of the day. Chloe Crockett, one of our three year olds, walked out on one of the trees growing out of the bank and leaning out over the creek, then jumped off into the arms of her Dad. She is fearless. Hailey, our two year old wanted so bad to be in the creek with the other little ones but she had recently had tubes inserted into her ears and was under doctor's orders not to be in a pool. It was very difficult, but her mother (Kimberly) held her and restrained her and tried to quiet her tears. Hannah and Gracie played alongside the other little ones in the creek but Rebecca and Jessica were on the porch with the young adults. We had four watermelons in the creek but only cut one. Everyone must have filled up on the hamburgers and hot-dogs.

To my son-in-law, Curtis Crockett, special THANKS for helping with the cooking of the meat. To my girls, special THANKS for helping in the kitchen. To EVERYONE -- A HEARTY THANKS for all you did to make this day a memorable one. I hope you all had as grand and joyful a time as I did.

After everyone had left the site and I had cleaned up and straightened up the out-side I decided to go inside and clean up the pots and pans where we had cooked the baked beans, chili, and coffee. Much to my pleasant joy it turned out that my wonderful daughters (TABITHA and Frankie and Ruthie) had already wasked up everything! They deserve a blue ribbon prize. If I knew how to add one of those smiley emoticons I would put it right there. You know...the one with the biggest grin on it.

Then, surprise, surprise...Frances and I spent the night at the cabin. One of our camping neighbors had come over needing two pickles earlier in the day(which we found after some searching through our stuff). Later he returned with a sack full of blue lake beans and fresh squash and some okra out of his garden. After we had rested an hour or so and as quiet settled over the mountains we sat on the porch and broke beans.

God is Good. Life is good.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Lord's Pocket Knife

I spoke about pocket knives on another blog, with the emphasis on how helpful or how dangerous they can be -- depending on the care with which they are used. Here is a little different thought about my desire to be "The Lord's Pocket Knife".

Around November or December of 1988 Frances and I had made the decision to follow the Lord’s call and move from the Cedar Hill Church where we had served as pastor for 7 years and go to Kenya, East Africa as missionaries. When her brother (Frank) learned of this decision he found it difficult to accept. He came to me and said, “What do you mean taking my sister 10,000 miles from home? Don’t you remember that she got sick on the mission field before? Besides that.....what do you think you can do in Kenya?” I was stunned. I had no answer, except to say something like, “I don’t know Frank. Just teach and preach and love the people there about Jesus in the same way I preach and teach here at home. That's all I can think of.”

Let me explain that later God spoke to Frank to assure him that it was o.k. and he sent us a Bill Gaither Video entitled “Dream On”. But at first, he just could not understand why anyone would make such a radical change in life at our ages.

Several weeks later while Frances and I were itinerating in Texas we passed through the town where her first cousin who was a Baptist preacher lived. During our visit with Quinton and his wife Marie, I told him how upset Frank seemed to be and how I had no answer. He responded, “Fred, you know what it is, don’t you?” “No, I really don’t!” I said. Frank is right. I don’t have any out of the ordinary skills to offer. I really don’t know how to explain why.”

"Why, Fred," he said quietly, "It’s because you are the Lord’s pocket knife." While I was thinking on that, he asked, "Do you have a pocket knife?”

“Well, yes.” I said.

“Let me see it.”

When I pulled it out, he opened the main blade and the point was broken.

"How’d you break the point on this blade?"

"Best I remember - it was when I used it as a pry-bar." I responded.

"Didn’t you have a pry-bar?" Quinton asked.

"Yes." I mused.

"Why didn’t you use it?"

"Well, Because it was locked up in my tool box in the trunk of my car and my pocket knife was in my pocket. It was handy!"

"That’s just it, Fred. You are the Lord’s pocket knife because you were available. You were in His pocket where he could get his hand on you! Yes, there are others who have better gifts and skills than you, but they are over here somewhere locked up in a box." He emphasized, "It may be a pretty box with a steeple on it where all the newer tools are safely locked up. But you are in the Lord’s pocket where he can get his hand on you and use you!"

Since then, I’ve often prayed, “Lord keep me in your pocket! Use me for whatever purpose you desire. Even if I am handicapped somewhat, or am not as polished or refined as I would like to be, just let me be close enough to you that you can always get your hands on me and use me!"

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Whom He Called; Them He Also Justified

This morning, April 8, 2008, I was reading again from the book of Romans and came across Chapter 8 and verse 30. It reminded me of how God so often has intervened in my life and shown me that He was with me in the efforts I have made for His work. I had been going through a particularly difficult time in my relationship with some of my ministry colleagues. They were saying that my proposed M.E.D.I.C. meeting was too much trouble; too expensive; impractical; would not work; etc. and etc. Still I felt driven to try and make this happen. I wanted to bring all the missionaries, overseers and educational directors and their spouses who were working in the 32 countries of Africa which I supervise to Cleveland, Tennessee for this meeting. After all, they were on their way to the General Assembly and this would save money. I knew it would be expensive as I would have to find funds to pay for their trip from Atlanta and back, plus pay for their housing for three nights in a hotel here, plus purchase food for them. My calculations showed that it would cost around $35,000.00 for this meeting. But I felt compelled to have this meeting for them here, to give them a chance to see their General Headquarters and to meet some of our leadership here.

In the spring of that year, (2006) Frances and I had driven to Indianapolis, Indiana for a missions service on Friday night. We then drove to Mishawaka on Saturday night for another missions service where we were supposed to meet the pastors of two other churches which we were to speak for on Sunday morning and Sunday night. This was a common method of operation for those of us involved in raising funds for World Missions.

When we met the Pastor on Saturday night, his gushing greeting went something like this: "Oh Brother and Sister Brannen! We're SO glad to have you coming to our church in the morning. We SO look forward to ministering to you both and having you with us in our service. -- But, I'll be doing the preaching." Now it seemed awful to me that after having driven over 500 miles one way to represent the World Missions department and speak to the people about missions, that the pastor thought he should do the preaching. My thoughts raced, "Just tell him not to worry...that you and Frances can get a motel on your way home and it will be o.k." However, I swallowed real hard (pride is very difficult to swallow) and said, "O-O-O-O K!" with emphasis on the long, drawn out, “O”.

Needless to say, I was disappointed -- but next morning, before the regular service we met with the "elders" in the pastor’s office to pray. During that prayer the pastor said, “I feel that we need to pray for Sister Brannen. Sister Brannen, is there something special you need from God?” “Yes, I'm diabetic and my sugar is extremely out of balance.” They prayed for Frances and God gave her a healing which brought her sugar down to normal levels for the next several weeks. Then in the service I was given 3 minutes to greet the congregation. I paid close attention to my watch while saying, "Thank You for supporting World Missions and for supporting Frances and me." As the second hand of my watch swept across twelve I was on my way to my assigned seat on the front row.

Then the pastor took the pulpit to preach. However, before the Pastor preached he said he felt led to ask his congregation to come and lay hands on these dear missionaries and pray for them. He asked his "armor-bearers" to bring two chairs and place them in front of the pulpit and asked Frances and me to sit in them and let the people pray for us. As they came to pray they would shake our hands, lay hands on our heads and/or shoulders while some put offerings into our hands. (Just over $1200 in cash was given! Reflecting on this later I thought that was a much better offering than I would have gotten had I preached!)

Of more value than any amount of money was the following incident during the prayer. One of his older men (I assumed to be in his early 50's) stopped everything and said, "Brother Brannen, God has told me to tell you that those whom He has called, these he has also justified. And those whom he justified, them he also sanctified. Now what that means to you is that God is in charge; God is the one who called you, it is He who has put these thoughts and ideas into your mind. You don't need anyone else to approve it."

Others prayed a few minutes and the same man came back and basically stated the same thing again. He said something like, "Brother Brannen, I don't know what it is that God has put in your heart to do -- but God says again that you are to ignore the "nay-sayers" and do what He said to do. Some are saying it is too expensive, too much trouble, it's impractical and you shouldn't try it. But God says to tell you that He is the one who has called you, he is the one who justified you, he sanctified you, he put the ideas into your head and you don't need any committee nor any other person to approve it. Just DO it!!!"

As you might imagine – by that time my chest felt like it was about to explode with joy and confidence and the presence of God! By the way, it is in this context that a favorite verse of mine and of many others is found: “If God be for us, who can be against us.”
A study of Romans 11:29 reveals, "For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance." I like part of Dake's comments on this verse: "This not only applies to the gifts and callings of Israel, but to any individual whom God calls or gives a gift. God does not change His mind as if He made a mistake. People may fail Him so that He cannot fulfill such callings with them, but when, if ever, they come back to repentance God holds them to the original obligation to obey Him." (Emphasis added) So -- whoever you are, when the enemy of your soul tells you that you are a failure, that you have messed up to0 bad to ever make it again, remember that God knew all about you. He understood your psyche and knew your strengths and all of your weaknesses when He called you to serve Him. He chose you anyway. He does not apologize for it.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Real Fred Brannen

Will the real Fred Brannen please step up?

Over the Palm Sunday week-end, while we were celebrating Mom's 87th birthday we stayed at Fred Brannen's home. You see, Fred Hance Brannen, Junior is my first cousin, the son of my father’s brother, the original Fred Brannen (deceased) and ... Fred Hance Brannen, II (the one we’ve always called Fred Junior) lives in Inverness, Florida where he works for the Brannen Banks of Florida. Confused yet? Well there is more. Let me see if I can clarify this.

As my father (Louis Alton Brannen) explained to me, he felt extremely close to his brother, Fred Brannen and would do most anything possible to make him know that. When his brother (Fred Brannen) knew that Dad was expecting his wife to give birth to me, he asked Daddy to name me Fred. Daddy said that he (Dad) protested this request because he figured that when my Uncle Fred had his own son he would name him Fred and there would be confusion. Uncle Fred vowed emphatically that he would NEVER name a son of his, Fred. Never-the-less, because of the very special relationship they had and in honor of his brother Dad and Mom named me Fred Brannen but with Alton, my Dad's middle name, as my middle name. Always, from the beginning, I was called Alton. So when Uncle Fred’s firstborn came along he was true to his word and named his son – guess what? No. Not Fred. William. So, see? No confusion exists yet.

However – by the time Uncle Fred’s second son was born my Uncle’s spirit had mellowed a bit and he named his second son – Yes, Fred. Still no confusion in the family because whenever we got together, which was twice a year (at Christmas and the week school was out in the spring) we called Uncle Fred’s son Fred Junior and I was always known as Alton. So how did I become Fred Brannen? It occurred in 1953 when we moved from the little 5-roomed school house in Campaign, Tennessee to New Orleans, Louisiana (via a three-week tour of Daddy serving as Pastor of the Tullahoma, Tennessee Church of God). At the Campaign school while I was in the 7th and 8th grades the same teacher taught both grades simultaneously. The town of Campaign had about 300 population. Our school teacher not only taught 7th and 8th grades but also served as principal of the school. In addition he was the Sunday School Superintendent and choir leader at the church Dad pastored. Did this give me special status?

If I had any special status or recognition in Campaign it was totally un-recognized when we reached the new church in New Orleans. This town had about 500,000 population (1/2 a million people) at that time. The Francis T. Nichols school which I attended was only one of hundreds of schools in that city. There were as many students in my school as the whole population of Campaign. On registration day I was half scared to death as I sat listening to strangers and trying to fill out my registration cards for each of my 5 (or was it 6?) classes. A strange male teacher took a yardstick in his hand and slammed it down on the desk (flat side down) so that it sounded like a gun-shot. Then he began to give instructions about how to fill out registration cards. “Now! Print!” he barked. “Last name! First Name! Middle initial!” So I printed with trembling hand and ashened face, "Brannen – Fred – A."

So – what’s the big deal? Nothing. Nothing at all. That is until the day I got sick at school and went to the office to ask permission to go home. The secretary asked me for my home phone number. I dutifully gave it to her. She then dialed and said, “Hello, your son Fred is sick and has asked to come home from school. We always check to make sure someone is at home before allowing them to leave school.” I could not hear the other side of the conversation but the secretary soon hung up. Turning to me she said, “Hmmm. Wrong number. Now what did you say your phone number is?” I repeated the number and the secretary dialed and went through the spiel again. This time, Mom repeated what she had said the first time. “I’m sorry, we don’t have a son named Fred – Oh WAIT! I’m sorry. Yes, we do have a son named Fred. He is Fred Alton and you can send him home!”

So still no troubles with Fred Junior here. It was only much later – when one of his daughters and one of my daughters were attending Lee College. We received a letter in the mail from Fred Junior with his personal note inside saying he was happy to receive any mail for our daughter Tabitha – except when they sent him her school bill!

O.K. Now – at the current time there are four living men with the name “Fred” Brannen, and all in our family. There is me, Fred Alton. There is Fred Junior, or Fred Hance Brannen, II. Then there is Fred Junior’s son, Fred Hance Brannen, III, otherwise known as “Son Fred” and there is “Son Fred’s” son, Fred Hance Brannen, IV, who is called “Little Fred”. I’m honored to be just one of those who carry the name of Fred in honor of Fred Hance Brannen the First. Thank’s Uncle Fred!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Delightful Trip!

Grandma's Picture Being Projected
on the wall in the University
Church of God, Tampa, FL
University Church of God
Tampa, Florida

Mom Addresses the Congregation
while Pastor Tony Stewart
looks on

Brannen's and Jones'

At Charlie's Fish House
Crystal River, Florida
A Most Pleasant Trip

Palm Sunday week-end! My sister, Bonita and husband Mike decided that for Mom’s 87th birthday we siblings should all take Mom to the University Church of God in Tampa Florida. This is the church which her mother (Lula Lee Pearce Jones) had organized in 1927 when Mom was just 6 years old.

So – Mike Landrum, Bonita’s husband, was our wonderful chauffeur and I got to play navigator most of the trip. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about their new “Nuvi” model of the Garmin GPS. “Wow! I must get one of those machines!” I thought. Until they told me how much they cost. Well … maybe if they let me take it out at a nickel down and a nickel a week til it’s paid for! J No. Seriously, Lowell, Mother and I were thrilled to ride along together in the same vehicle with Bonita and Mike. We had a barrel of fun. Thanks Mike! You’re a great driver. Donice, I’m sorry you missed this. We have already decided that we must go again when you can be with us.

Our headquarters was the Fred Brannen home in Inverness, Florida. Fred is Fred Jr., but he is not my son. Maybe I’ll make that the subject of my next blog. Fred Jr., is the one who is a weekly columnist for the Citrus County (Florida) Chronicle. What a wonderful reception and wonderful time we had. They insisted that we should stay in their home with them and also insisted on feeding us. Free beer in the fridge, (root beer, of course) was available for the taking plus oranges, bananas, cookies, etc. between meals, plus, Bonita had let the devil talk her into making a huge container of peanut butter fudge to take with us to tempt us to commit the sin of gluttony. [No – contrary to what you think – I did not commit that awful sin.]

On Sunday morning we drove over to the Church where we were joined by two more of the church founder’s grand-children; Terry Jones and Wanda Jones, children of Mom’s brother, T.J. Jones. A video the church had made about Grandmother’s being the founder was shown and then Pastor Tony Stewart invited Mom to the stage to greet the people before they presented Mom with a plaque and a bouquet of flowers. Mother’s words were so appropriate and powerful. The congregation responded with thunderous applause. We kids were all beaming with pride.

Sunday, on our return trip to Fred Juniors, we stopped at the Townsend House Cemetery where Grandma Jones is buried. It was great fun to reminisce as we thought of Uncle Edgar Jones, Uncle Marve Pearce, Aunt Corrine, Uncle T.J. and others. In the evening we all drove to Crystal River to Charlie’s Fish House and had a scrumptious meal together. Mom ordered fried oysters. I had mullet and grits! If you like seafood and ever have an opportunity to go to Crystal River I recommend Charlie’s. When we returned home the next day to Tennessee I was relaxed and as happy as I’ve been in many many moons.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Gruelling Trip

I'm just back from Nigeria and it was my most gruelling trip up to now! The visit was pleasant enough but we found our missionary very sick from having had malaria and taking at least two falls, giving him a mild concussion. "We" being Hugh Carver (director of MWOA), one of his men, Jim Dixon, Ben McGlamery (World Missions Field Representative) and me, had a very good opportunity to see the great needs on the compound of our Church of God headquarters at Abak, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. There is so much that we can do to help in this situation. On Sunday we had a wonderful time in Church. On Monday the missionary decided at the last minute that he should travel with us to the states so we brought him (sick though he was) all the way from Calabar to Lagos, to Amsterdam, to Memphis, to Chattanooga and the next day he was admitted to Sky Ridge hospital with a 104 degree fever, dehydration, exhaustion, kidney infection, and other maladies. Bishop Clifford Spence is much in need of your prayers. I want to solicit your strongest prayers for this whole situation and the future of our project in Nigeria.

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Cleveland, TN, United States
I am Fred Alton Brannen, the son of Louis A. Brannen (deceased) and Bonnie Jones Brannen, Louis was an Ordained Bishop with the Church of God. Bonnie is an Ordained Licensed Minister and at 89 years of age is still actively engaged in speaking and singing engagements. I am married to the former Frances Hildreth. We celebrated 53 years of marriage this past June and we are the parents of 3, grand-parents of 10, and great-grandparents of 10. I pastored in Tennessee for 24 years and served the Church in some capacity in missions for over 23 years. I retired from full-time ministry in August of 2008 but remain active, speaking and singing and teaching whenever opportunity affords itself. In January of 2010 I received a letter of commendation for having been credentialed as a minister in the Church of God for 50 years! My family is very important to me. Our get togethers are always noisy affairs and most times will include family sing-alongs. The children love their Mom's cooking so we have the privilege of seeing them regularly! WE LOVE having them over.

TheCabin on Day One

TheCabin on Day One
Fred Alton